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The Women of Morris & Co. Past and Present

The Morris & Co. of The Past

To mark International Women’s Day 2022, we at Morris & Co. want to celebrate the inspiring and creative women who have helped shape Morris & Co. into the brand that it is today. You’ll meet four women, two from the past and two from the present, whose work pushed Morris & Co. forward during its earliest days and secure its future at the centre of tomorrow’s world of design.

You can read about Rebecca Craig and Emma Coles at the Morris & Co. of today here, but now let’s take a journey to the past and learn about May Morris and Kate Faulkner.

MAY MORRIS 1862-1938

Feminist, socialist, and versatile designer, May Morris was one of the brightest lights of the Arts & Crafts movement. Promoted to the head of the embroidery department at Morris & Co. at the age of just 23, May oversaw important commissions for altar cloths, fire screens and bedcovers. Across all her embroidery, May drew from medieval free-hand techniques for needlework, emphasising the importance of individual makers obtaining a sense of creative freedom in their work. Seasons By May is a contemporary Morris & Co. design which pays tribute to May’s exceptional gifts.

Besides embroidery, May contributed an impressive raft of now-iconic Morris & Co. fabric and wallpaper designs, many of which have been frequently misattributed to her father, William. These include the gloriously winding Honeysuckle, 1883, and the delicate Horn Poppy, 1885.

In an age where skilled artisans railed against the advent of the machine age and cheaply mass-produced goods, May Morris was a skilled and forceful opponent. Revulsion at the lack of women craftspeople, coupled with the radical socialism her father helped establish, encouraged May to establish the Women’s Guild of Arts in 1907, developing craft into ever new and exciting ways.

KATE FAULKNER 1841-1898

The sister of Charles Faulkner, one of the original partners of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., Kate Faulkner capitalised upon her unusual access to the foremost creative circles in 19th century interior design. In something like a freelance capacity, Kate Faulkner designed and collaborated with other firms besides Morris & Co., including the wallpaper printers Jeffrey & Co.

Her designs demonstrate an undeniable talent, full in rich variety and with an impressive regard for colour. Perfectly, Kate seems to have apprehended the Morris & Co. ethic of drawing deeply from nature for the intrinsic mystery and charm of their design ethos. Her designs were often characterised by a lofty airiness, achieved with a restrained use of colour and the rendering of fine and delicate vegetal forms.

In a world where female design practitioners were not widely encouraged, Kate managed to compile an impressive portfolio of creations which remain in print and popular to this day, just some of which include; Blossom 1885, Bramble 1879 and Mallow 1879.

READ ABOUT THE WOMEN OF MORRIS & CO. TODAY

posted on 01 Jan 0001

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