William Morris

Within the brief I have been presented with for the certificate stage of my MA, I have been asked to look at the work of William Morris. Morris was many things in the 18th century, he was mainly a textiles designer associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement, he contributed to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of productions. During his lifetime he managed to produce many items in the range of craft, mainly to do with furnishing, including over 600 designs for wallpapers, textiles, and embroideries. He also made over 150 designs for stain glass windows as well as three typefaces, and roughly 650 borders/ornamentations for the Kelmscott Press. Morris used to emphasise the idea that a designer should be able to craft, because he believed that the design and production of an item should not be separated.

bird & pomegranate

It is likely that much of Morris’s preference for medieval textiles was formed – or crystallised – during his brief apprenticeship with G. E. Street. Street had co-written a book on Ecclesiastical Embroidery in 1848, and was a staunch advocate of abandoning faddish woolen work on canvas in favour of more expressive embroidery techniques based on Opus Anglicanum, a surface embroidery technique popular in medieval England.


I have been asked to create a series of design works for a tattoo print based on a combination of Russian prison tattoos and the work of William Morris such as ‘Bird and Pomegranate‘, ‘Strawberry Thief‘ and ‘Acanthus‘. My initial thoughts after studying some of his works are that his work is beautiful, viewing it as wallpaper is even more so. Seeing the way his crafted gardens flourish over walls and furnishings really shows how his ethics enhanced his work. Opting to work with only natural dyes, his work has a fantastic organic element to it and this only enhances the naturalism of his flowers, vines, and leaves. I’m thinking about doing a few variations of designs, incorporating a bit more of Morris in some and a bit more of Russian Prisons in the other. I want to capture the grittyness of prisons in one hand but also capture the innocence of Morris’ garden designs, maybe even juxtapose the two. By playing around with prison imagery, the tattoos with hidden meanings, Morris’ motifs and his innocent gardens, I want to create something that clashes culture.



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