The Arts and Crafts Movement: Are Mutton Chop Whiskers Obligatory?

After the last 'Craft Corner's' foray into the dark side of my marriage it's about time we lightened things up. Who doesn't love a bit of Arts and Crafts design and after inheriting some chairs with these design features I decided to go all William Morris in the bedroom. Sadly it's not as smutty as it sounds, but did involve long evenings online looking for inspiration, but it did give himself plenty of time to do motorbike stuff. It strikes you like a big ole slap in the chops just how massive the influence of this movement remains since its heyday between 1880 and 1910. At its core is the shift away from industrial production to handcrafted work...sound familiar? It also has links to the past, the romantic, and to the rural...blimey, can it sound anymore familiar? Although this was all taking place towards the end of the Victorian period it's just as relevant now, don't you think? One thing I do love about this movement that spread across Europe, America and Japan, is that it can be found in the domestic sphere. There is nothing I love more than interior design and stuff I can create to make my home fabulous. It's a huge bonus that this movement (still relevant to my work today) is all about the beauty of what we make and how the making process affects our lives and the world at large. But this blog isn't about to get too earnest, no siree.

There are a myriad of places to explore the politics and ideas of this movement and I've added some handy links at the bottom of this blog if you fancy a gander. What you will notice if you have a search online is that you see the usual suspects: William Morris, Ruskin, Crane, Voysey and the like. That felt like too many beards on show for me and whilst in my hormonal throes I feel like I'm sporting mutton chop whiskers I haven't yet reached the heights of William Morris, but give me time, give me time. So I began to explore the female contingent. Not surprisingly I found artists, jewellers, interior designers, stained glass artists, illustrators, embroiderers and some suffragettes; a fabulous cornucopia of crafters and artists to explore! I have to hold my hand up and say that I've stuck to UK based women, but I bet there are some amazing crafters and artists who pioneered this movement around the rest of the globe too. Let me know if you do know any. So from here on in I am unashamedly going to show scrumptious images and ideas that might influence your own work or just drool over. So let's get down to looking at some fabulous stuff.

I'm going to start by cheating and including the most drool worthy coat ever. My excuse is that it was made for a woman and part of the Dress Reform Movement that wanted to do away with restrictive clothing which inhibited women's lives. Their aim was to celebrate the natural shape of the body (not sure if I'm fully up to celebrating my shape but I have had shorts on this summer). It was made for Marshall & Snellgrove a store that was bought out by Debenhams in 1919. Just drink this baby in. I'd even go on a diet to get myself into this and swish my way around, well, frankly anywhere.

Now let's have a nosey at some of the women who were part of the Women's Guild of Arts (1907). It was set up as a response to the guilds and groups that often excluded women. May Morris was one of the early pioneers. She took over the Embroidery Department for her father's design company (Morris & Co.). The embroidery on the far left (busy embroidery of orange tree) was designed by William Morris, but it's May's simplified version in the middle that I can really see working on curtains and on fabric. Even more interestingly she designed some wallpaper too (honeysuckle on the left). If you want to find more of her work you can check out the book by Anna Mason (et al), May Morris: Arts & Crafts Designer.

Like May Morris, Agnes and Rhoda Garrett had a wonderful eye for fabric design as seen in this image of laburnum flowers. But these ladies were so much more: they set up a very successful interiors business (one of the first female only companies) in the 1870s and were very heavily involved in the women's suffrage movement too. What's not to love!

The bedspread and print are by Mary J. Newill, and like a lot of Arts and Crafts gals she liked to dip her toes in lots of crafts. I had to include some jewellery as frankly, it's one of my great loves. Georgie Gaskin was the designer of some amazing pieces and I'd be on em like a rash if I found any. She was also an illustrator and I adore this cute little winter scene and I can image it on a cushion in applique.

I'm going to finish off with some artists: The left (image of a girl in traditional dress)and middle works (girl with deer) are by Marianne Stokes who was an Austrian working in the UK . She lived in St Ives and was part of the Newlyn School, which as it's down the road from me I am ashamed to say I don't know more about her. Lastly is Aphrodite (woman on rocks) by Evelyn De Morgan, another activist in the women's suffrage movement. She was also a pacifist and boycotted the Royal Academy. All this fiery political passion seems at odds to me with her rather dreamy work.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this whistle stop tour through just some of the women who were working, making and generally being fabulous in the Arts and Crafts Movement. If you know of any other fabulous women who were part of this movement, then do let me know. It's inspired me think again about the links between what I make and how I make it. It's also made me want to go shopping!

But if you want to explore more about these gals and this movement I have some handy links below. Takes you to a link telling you more about that fabulous coat. A magazine article about women and this movement by Widewalls. A whole section by the V & A museum about Arts and Crafts Article by Homes and Antiques about women in this movement. Great read and fab images. This site will tell you more about the Garrett sisters. This is a direct link to the William Morris Gallery site but it will give you access to loads of their collections that will want to make you get redecorating.

16 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All