William Morris Fabric Designs

Original William Morris Fabrics And The Wooden Blocks Used To Print Them

Today I had the pleasure of getting up-close to a piece of original William Morris printed fabric, along with the engraved wooden blocks used to print the design. Woot!

The photo to the left shows the actual piece of fabric, a pretty bird and flower design, typical of Morris.

This beautiful fabric is easy to spot, it has a definite style and classic color theme which runs through each design, each is different, yet each is familiar...you know instantly if a design is by Morris, and that is the proof of a true master.

One of my earliest fashion memories was of my mothers Liberty print bag, it had a scrolling, floral design by William Morris, and it captivated me. I used to trace the leaves and stems around the bag with my finger, kind of like like a floral maze... it was with this same sense of captivation that I viewed these items today.

Fabric Printing Block Or Work Of Art?

What struck me was that the piece of engraved wood used to print this design, was infinitely more beautiful than the fabric itself, which is gorgeous anyway. The block is made out of 'fruit wood'. I soooo want to own it, like desperately! 

The wooden printing block has suede or felt (I forget which :0) filling in the parts of the design that are not to be printed. I took a macro shot of the engraving to show this detail. (below)

I have to apologize for the weird angles in my photos, the curator was only allowed to open the box containing the printing block and fabric for a certain amount of time, I had to get quick shots, and of course I wasn't supposed to start moving it here and there...Though I did have a strong urge to grab it and run away, lol!

Vintage Morris & Co Floral Fabric 

This is another piece of original vintage Morris fabric, this one was behind glass, and kept behind a curtain to protect it from the light. 

As I took the shot of this beautiful design I two ladies were holding up the curtains on either side! I didn't have a polarizing filter on my camera unfortunately, so you can see my reflection in the glass, and also some of the other exhibits are reflected.

The Blocks used to print this design were mounted on the wall above the fabric piece, unlike the previous wood engraving these ones have less details in the carving and more blocks were used to build up the design.

You can see the carving marks on the wood in this shot.

William Morris was a leader in the Arts and Crafts Movement, a group who strove to bring nature and natural form back into art and design, which was becoming bland and 'industrialized'. The arts and crafts movement was a serious movement with many artisans, architects, and other designers around the world working to the Arts and Crafts ideals. These were a mixture of beauty and practicality.

Good quality, fine workmanship, practical designs, natural form, and nature, were all components of this movement. All of these aspects are equally important today. Fashions in these times changed too, clothes for women became more free. The Arts and Crafts movement paved the way for those beautiful Downton Abbey style dresses.

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