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William Morris and The Arts and Crafts Movement

William Morris was the towering figure in late 19th-century design and the main influence on the Arts and Crafts movement. The aesthetic and social vision of the movement grew out of ideas that he developed in the 1850s with the Birmingham Set – a group of students at the University of Oxford including Edward Burne-Jones, who combined a love of Romantic literature with a commitment to social reform.  By 1855, they had discovered Ruskin.

Morris began experimenting with various crafts and designing furniture and interiors.  He was personally involved in manufacture as well as design, which was the hallmark of the Arts and Crafts movement. Ruskin had argued that the separation of the intellectual act of design from the manual act of physical creation was both socially and aesthetically damaging. Morris further developed this idea, insisting that no work should be carried out in his workshops before he had personally mastered the appropriate techniques and materials, arguing that “without dignified, creative human occupation people became disconnected from life.”

In 1861, Morris began making furniture and decorative objects commercially, modelling his designs on medieval styles and using bold forms and strong colours.  His patterns were based on flora and fauna, and his products were inspired by the vernacular or domestic traditions of the British countryside.  Some were deliberately left unfinished in order to display the beauty of the materials and the work of the craftsman, thus creating a rustic appearance.  Morris strove to unite all the arts within the decoration of the home, emphasizing nature and simplicity of form.

Morris’s designs quickly became popular, attracting interest when his company’s work was exhibited at the 1862 International Exhibition in London. Much of Morris’s early work was for churches and he won important interior design commissions at St James’s Palace and the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum).  Later his work became popular with the middle and upper classes, despite his wish to create a democratic art, and by the end of the 19th century, Arts and Crafts design in houses and domestic interiors was the dominant style in Britain, copied in products made by conventional industrial methods.  The spread of Arts and Crafts ideas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in the establishment of many associations and craft communities – 130 Arts and Crafts organisations were formed in Britain, most between 1895 and 1905.  The London department store Liberty & Co., founded in 1875, was a prominent retailer of goods in the style and of the “artistic dress” favoured by followers of the Arts and Crafts movement and it continues to sell these type of products to this day.

We hope that you found this brief history of interest and also that you will find a place in your home for one or more of William Morris’s beautiful designs – the fact that his patterns have stood the test of time for over 150 years speaks volume for his vision and we expect consumer desire to only get stronger over the coming years.

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About Surrey Linen Company

Established in 2010, Surrey Linen Company is a small, online family business. We pride ourselves on the quality of our products, and excellent customer service is of the utmost importance to us too.  The home of fine linens, we offer a wide range of home textiles including classic and timeless William Morris textiles in curtains, cushions, table linen and kitchen coordinates.

Our full product range features curtains, bedding, throws, cushions, kitchen coordinates, tea towels, table linen (cotton and wipe-clean), bath mats, handkerchiefs, bandanas and accessories.

William Morris lined curtains are made in the UK with an ivory poly/cotton lining and 3” header tape resulting in classic pencil pleat curtains.  All stock items are ready made curtains and available in 7 sizes plus tie-backs. Our William Morris printed curtains are supplied in 8 beautiful design options.

We also offer William Morris cushions with a removable feather pad, all UK-made.  In addition, William Morris cushion covers are available if you already have a suitable pad/inner at home.

Kitchen coordinates are a core part of our Morris range and we have many options in his most iconic designs, including aprons, oven gloves and tea cosies.

If you’re looking for classic and timeless table linen, our William Morris table cloths are just the thing in cotton and wipe-clean options, in 4 popular sizes.

We stock various accessories – why not experiment with a bandana or handkerchief to finish off your outfit? Or, browse our range of cosmetic bags and tote bags.

Although Surrey Linen Company is an online business, we don’t hide behind forms and emails – you can call us on the number at the top of the page if you need any help!  Or you can of course use our web form or email if you prefer.  Whichever way you need to contact us, we will be happy to help.