Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day #6&8: William Morris & the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts & Crafts movement was a design movement that arose in the second half of the 1800’s. In response to the aggressive expansion of industry and shoddiness of mass produced items, artists of the movement sought to return to hand produced crafts. William Morris became the leader of the group with the establishment of his business Morris & Co, which produced many handmade textiles, wallpapers, and furniture, as well as his Kelmscott Press printing company.

A very strong underlying theme in our trip was the Arts & Crafts movement, we visited lots of relevant sites and it somehow managed to sneak into unsuspecting places as well. So obviously the first stop on our Arts & Crafts tour had to be the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. This we followed up later with another walk along the Thames past the original home of the Kelmscott Press in Hammersmith and on to the home of Emery Walker, the immaculately preserved Arts & Crafts home of a printer who worked with Morris.

  Along the River Thames in Hammersmith

Read more about the stops on our Arts & Crafts tour after the jump...

The William Morris Gallery may have been my favorite part of the whole trip. The gallery is housed in a family home where Morris lived with his mother and siblings for eight years. The gallery recently reopened after a major redesigned and am I glad they did it. The space is small but well laid out, with different rooms of the house displaying various aspects of his life and business. In addition to housing many original pieces, there were also various interactive aspects to the exhibits. We all crowded around a table playing a short computer game which allowed you to try and run the Morris & Co. business successfully. The whole atmosphere lacked the stuffiness of a normal museum or gallery which I loved.

Pictures from the William Morris Gallery's Website (above)
They also have attached a beautiful tea room that looks out over the gardens of the estate, decorated with plants that featured in William Morris designs. And I could have bought out the whole gift shop but using all my willpower walked away with only a few cards, books and a bag.

Exterior of the Gallery

On the last day of our trip we visited the home of typographer Emery Walker, who assisted Morris in the creation of many publications produced by Kelmscott Press, designing his own typefaces for their works. After his death his daughter Dorothy inherited the house, holding on to and collecting even more Arts & Crafts textiles and furniture. Upon her death her live-in companion Elizabeth De Haas inherited the home, keeping it just as it was, and spent the rest of her life trying to preserve the house as a trust, so future generations could admire the amazing interior. 

 No photographs are permitted so this is from the trust's website.

The only way to go inside the house is on a private tour, which only allows small groups on the weekends. The knowledgeable volunteers showed us around three floors of the house as well as the garden that looks out over the Thames. It is an odd little house, but beautiful in its antiquity. It’s also nice to stand in the rooms without having velvet ropes or a glass wall between you and the furniture. It allows you to feel very involved with the home.
This brings us to the end of our trip, though we did much much more, I tried to keep it brief as well as art and design oriented. Hopefully you enjoyed learning a bit about it.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Arts and Crafts movement, I've only recently discovered your site and I have noticed that some of your art reflects aspects of that movement. It's lovely.