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Tiles from Textiles: Medieval and Morris Designs

William Morris 'The Forest' tile backsplash

Designs from Fabric, Embroidery, Wallpaper, and Tapestries

...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

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Morris & Co. Embroidery / Tapestries          Medieval Tapestries         

William Morris Textile Designs

As this page has become overcrowded, I've moved the Morris tiles from fabric, and wallpaper textiles overview to Morris Tiles from Textiles Gallery. All the colors and sizes are still listed on the individual pages.

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


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

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)

Related Pages

Welcome and Featured Tile

William Morris

The Forest

Tiles from Textiles Gallery

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