If you can’t make it to St. Louis or if you’d like a bit of background before you go, here’s what Amelia Calver, licensing research and development manager for the V&A, has to say.
Tell us about the V&A’s holdings of William Morris materials and why his work is important.
It was the talent of the young and unknown architect designer, William Morris (1834–96), which the Museum’s first director, Sir Henry Cole (1808–82), quickly recognized following the International Exhibition in 1862 on seeing the particular success of the firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.
Cole commissioned Morris to create the ‘first class’ dining room in the building that was to become the V&A, which can still be seen today. It was the start of a long and very personal involvement by William Morris in the V&A, with Morris becoming its official Art Advisor contributing his style and personality to the collections.
When William Morris died in 1896, aged 62, his doctor said that Morris had carried out the work of 10 men during his lifetime. The doctor’s diagnosis read: “his disease was simply being William Morris...”
Thanks to Morris’ legacy, the Museum has the world’s most comprehensive collection of his work in virtually every medium, as well as a number of artifacts, including a piece of jewelry containing a lock of his hair. William Morris designs are enduringly popular from one decade to the next whether for homeware, fashion, crafting or stationery.
What about the textiles of William Morris make them apropos for sewing and quilting fabric?
Morris created designs for textiles, stained glass, wallpaper, furnishings and ceramics, though it's his textiles that have become his most famous legacy. Morris designs are easy to recognize and many are still in production, which is a testament to the timelessness of his work.
Concerned with the industrial expansion of late 19th century Britain, and the loss of skills across Britain, Morris led a revival of traditional methods of production, promoting skills otherwise forgotten. This was the birth of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Morris would have highly regarded quilting and needlework and his firm Morris & Co. produced many kits for embroidery and tapestry hangings.
As the design and integrity of a quilt comes from the fabrics you choose, the William Morris collection by Moda lends itself well to quilting. The scale of the fabric designs adds interest from both near and far, whether it’s Morris’ trademark scrolling acanthus design or a resplendent bloom set within an intricate background of intertwined foliage and stems.
What makes the V&A/Moda partnership such a good idea?
Moda and the V&A share a passion for quality and innovation. With the world’s greatest collection of decorative arts and design and a dynamic exhibition program, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a place for discovery and engagement that fuels creativity and inspires arts and crafts enthusiasts of all ages and experiences. This resonates perfectly with Moda, as the new V&A/Moda collaboration brings authenticity, quality, creativity and design to needlecraft projects.
If William Morris had some advice for those who stitch, what might it be?
Morris was a passionate advocate of the handmade. He esteemed craftsmen and women, makers of carpets, furniture and china. Morris had great faith in the hands-on approach, learning by doing. So he’d definitely encourage those who stitch today by reminding them of the great pleasure of learning a skill and pushing them to spread the joy and love to newcomers to the craft.
Photos © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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