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William Morris Tiles

Tiles from Textiles

...everything made by man's hands has a form, which must be either beautiful or ugly; beautiful if it is in accord with Nature, and helps her; ugly if it is discordant with Nature, and thwarts her; it cannot be indifferent.. ~William Morris

William Morris Tiles from Textils Collage

From top left: Willow, Medway (Tulip Vine), Yellow Peony (retired), Hunt for the Unicorn, Anemone, Heart of the Rose (detail), The Forest tapstry, Strawberry Thief, Willow on black, Strawberry Thief detail, Strawberry Thief (blue on cream), Jasmine (blue), Lodden (blue), Strawberry Thief (red), Golden Lily (blue), Strawberry Thief (green), Anemone (tangerine), Golden Lily, Lady and the Unicorn.

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Tiles from Morris Designs for Textiles, Embroidery and Tapestries

This page is an article overview of Morris tiles from textiles, embroidery, and tapestries. Links to some of the tiles are listed above. The complete list of available William Morris Tiles from Textiles is available in the Tiles from Textiles catalog and William Morris Designs for Textiles section overview.

Wall Coverings

Nothing should be made by man's labour which is not worth making, or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers ~William Morris

The Decoration of Red House

William Morris would have no wallpaper in Red House, his first married, that he designed with the assistance of architect Philip Webb in a medieval style. Rather he had had tapestries and embroidered wall hangings, and murals household articles handpainted by friends who we call second-wave Pre-Raphaelites and still admire their work today.

Then one evening, after dinner with some friends, and looking around at how successful they had been at decorating Red House, they struck upon an idea: To form a company to do for others what they had done at Red House.

The Business of Decorative Arts

At Red House and at Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, designs were adapted for multiple media: tile, wallpaper, fabric, tapestries, and stained glass. Architect Phillip Webb designed furniture and stained glass. Pre-Raphaelite painters Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti designed tile, painted frescoes and furniture. William De Morgan started with stained glass and moved to ceramics. Morris himself did it all, as well as being a popular poet and writer, a political activist, and establishing Kelmscott Press.

Initially, work was done on commission but it was not long until a catalog was needed. Morris's nascent socialist leanings were taking form. The beautiful things created were available only to the wealthy. This was not what he had in mind:

I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few; or freedom for a few... ~William Morris

But the impersonal, mass-produced products of an industrial nineteenth century was not a compromise he was willing to make. Morris & Co.'s workers were well treated and earned a high wage, compared to other companies of the day. Some critics faulted him for the high cost of his products relative to Minton Co. and others. Morris would not compromise on quality.

The Move to Wallpaper and Fabric

Tapestries and hand-embroidered designs could not be made widely available. And so Morris, lover of tapestry and hand embroidery, took to putting his love of nature to designs for wallpaper and fabric. These were produced in-house, most famously at his Merton Abbey works. Morris took a hand in every detail -- seeking out dyes with depth of color, finding quarters with the large looms he would need for rugs and carpets.

Available tiles from textiles:

Tiles from Textiles, Tapestries, and Embroidery

Tapestries

Morris himself preferred tapestries, but the cost put them out of reach for all but the wealthy class.

William Morris Forest Tapestry tile panel
The Forest
(William Morris and Philip Webb)

Edward Burne-Jones Heart of the Rose tapestry tile mural
Heart of the Rose
(Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle)

Victorian Medievalism

Although William Morris is considered the the father of the Arts & Crafts movement, he is no less a Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite. The elements in his designs are carefully chosen for their meaning, and his goal was to elevate the decorative arts to the quality of fine art.

Dance of teh Wodehouse tapestry

Dance of the Wode House medieval tapestry, inspiration for Red House Daisies

Unicorn Tapestries

Morris's love for medieval crafts was apparent in both the design and furnishing of Red House.

The unicorn tiles are based on the Hunt for the Unicorn and The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.He was strongly influenced by John Ruskin and advocated a return to medieval craft value. His Daisy pattern is based on a medieval wall-hanging (The Evolution of Daisies).

Morris's interest in tapestries was evident as early as his trip through France with Edward Burne-Jones while they were still students at Oxford. He also brought back a number of tapestries and worked textiles from his trips to Iceland in the 1870s. He would have been familiar with such works as the unicorn tapestries. Unicorn Tapestries tiles
The Lady and the Unicorn and The Hunt for the Unicorn
(Medieval tapestries)

Tiles to Textiles and Back Again

Left: Burne-Jones, tapestry design, unknown date,	Center: Burne-Jones tile panel, Medea, 1862. Right: Burne-Jones, Morgan Le Fay, 1862

Left: Burne-Jones, tapestry design, unknown date
Center: Burne-Jones tile panel, Medea, 1862.
Right: Burne-Jones, Morgan Le Fay, 1862

Tiles were an early product for Morris & Co., and actually Morris & Co. tiles were not produced for much more than a decade. Many William Morris textile designs were also implemented in tile and stained glass. William De Morgan, originally in charge of stained glass at Morris & Co., found his own interests moving in the direction of tile, and eventually started his own tile works.

Related Designs

  • Early textiles designed by William Morris and implemented by Jane Morris and the other ladies in their circle of friends. The first daisy pattern was designed by Morris and hand embroidered by Jane Morris on a blue serge material that she had found in a London shop. (1862-1865). (see Red House daisy patterns).

  • Early Morris, Marshall and Faulkner offerings primarily designed by William Morris. A later version of the daisy pattern (1864) was produced during this period. (1865-1868)

  • Later Morris, Marshall and Faulkner offerings created at based on William Morris designs but created by Kate Faulkner and others. These designs tended to be smaller and often more intricate than Morris's early designs. William Morris designed Jasmine in this time frame. Bramble, designed by Kate Faulkner, was also produced during this period. (1868-1875)

  • Tiles from Pre-Raphaelite tapestries (The Forest), Morris-love medieval themes (Heart of the Rose), that are reminiscent of actual medieval tapestries (The Lady and the Unicorn, The Hunt for the Unicorn).

  • Early Morris & Co. designs by William Morris and others at Queen Square. Morris designed Acanthus at this time. (1875-1881)

  • Merton Abby textiles designed first by William Morris and later by John Henry Dearle, May Morris, and others. Morris designed Brother Rabbit during this period.

  • Morris and Co. textiles textiles designed after Morris's attention had shifted to Kelmscott Press and Socialist issues, as well as after his death in 1896. During these years, the Firm was under the direction of John Henry Dearle for wallpaper and textiles and May Morris for embroidery. The new designs still showed a strong Morris influence. Blackthorn was designed during this period.

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