Grandmillennials and Neo-Victorians, rejoice. To celebrate its 160th anniversary and the reintroduction of more than 100 archival designs, Morris & Co. is once again proving why its verdant and intricate creations have been the mainstay of designers for more than a century.
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“William Morris did not follow fashion, so his work – and the broader work of those who designed for Morris & Co. – was informed by a combination of studies of historical examples: the belief in the expression of beauty through the signature of the individual artist and faith in the transformative power of the creative process, ”said Keren Protheroe, Morris & Co. archivist at AD PRO.
High priest of British heritage craftsmanship and design, Morris has evaded trends while remaining at the forefront of technical innovation. “Morris loved the visible print mark of a wooden print block and the textural qualities of the vegetable-dyed fabric,” notes Protheroe. “Pattern meets pigment meets substrate, each element adding a layer of storytelling and resonance to the product.” The original patterns are therefore recolored to adapt to the current generation but otherwise remain unchanged.
Illustrating the timelessness of the creations, the company’s anniversary collection is relaunching 42 fabrics and 67 wallpapers. Owl & Willow debuts, a mural-like wallpaper panel that encompasses many of Morris’s main inspirations, including medieval tapestries, playing animals and natural scenes evoking the gardens and English countryside that it surrounded.
Below, Protheroe shares the eight designs that define Morris & Co., as well as some of the legendary destinations where they can be found.
Strawberry thief (1883)
“Who can’t understand the half-annoyed, half-charmed and visually convincing line of Morris to the playful thrushes he caught stealing strawberries in his Oxfordshire garden?” Before Morris, manufacturers prided themselves on creating increasingly complex chemical colors to create very naturalistic floral designs on fabric. Morris’s hours of working with Macclesfield silk dyer Thomas Wardle to perfect the indigo tank-dyeing process paid off in the production of this tricolor bestseller: Strawberry Thief was Morris’s first textile. to include yellow and red.
“The very first Morris wallpaper to be designed, but not the first to go into production. Inspired by the garden trellis at Red House in Bexleyheath, it is an early and essential example of Morris’s ability to portray the natural world as buzzing with life, organically fluid but never sentimental.
“Tiny chickweed flowers punctuate a pattern of giant flower heads. The colourway blue (as opposed to the yellow alternative) has furnished William Morris’s own dining room at Kelmscott House on the north bank of the Thames in Hammersmith in London. Today, one of Morris & Co.’s best-selling wallpapers is made using a technique that recreates the block-printed mark of the original.
Willow branches (1887)
“A much observed rendering of our willows that has spruced up many living rooms in London,” said May Morris when she described this beloved Morris wallpaper in a 1930s letter to a friend. Said to be influenced by a father and daughter strolling along the banks of the Thames, and now vibrantly recolored as part of the Pentreath collection.
“The large repeat wallpaper that looks great in small rooms. It was first printed in shades of brown and red the year Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. was reconfigured with Morris alone at the helm and renamed Morris & Co. Today it stands in one of the guest rooms at Wightwick Manor. , one of Morris & Co’s most interesting commissions. Built in 1887 for Theodore Mander, an industrialist from Wolverhampton (in paint and varnish) and his Canadian wife Flora, both passionate about the fine arts.