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William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Morris wrote and published poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts throughout his life.

 

As a designer he was a remarkable influence, closley observing nature. He was also a major contributor to the resurgence of traditional textile arts and methods of production.  Morris's first repeating pattern for wallpaper is dated 1862, but was not manufactured until 1864. All his wallpaper designs were manufactured for him by Jeffrey & Co, a commercial wallpaper maker. In 1868 he designed his first pattern specifically for fabric printing. As in so many other areas that interested him, Morris chose to work with the ancient technique of hand woodblock printing in preference to the roller printing which had almost completely replaced it for commercial uses.

 

Morris's patterns for woven textiles, some of which were also machine made under ordinary commercial conditions, included intricate double-woven furnishing fabrics in which two sets of warps and wefts are interlinked to create complex gradations of colour and texture.  In September, 1879 Morris created his first solo tapestry in the medieval manner,  called Cabbage and Vine.

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Morris taught himself embroidery, working with wool on a frame custom-built from an old example, and once he had mastered the technique he trained his wife Jane and her sister Bessie Burden and others to execute designs to his specifications.

 

The style and treatment of Morris's designs are reproduced today, and replicated.  His work provided extraordinary inspiration to a generation of designers and helped re-shape the industry.

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