Why the English polymath William Morris is so important to us.
Morris famously said "have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." My father has said this to me often and I know it as well as if it were a Bible verse, and practice it religiously. Here follow five lessons from the gospel of Morris...
1. He believed in the people
"I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few" - Morris firmly believed art and good design should be available to all. His socialist beliefs and his egalitarian approach to design are incredibly influential to this day.
2. He never goes out of fashion
Morris created designs for textiles, stained glass, wallpaper, furnishings and more, though it's his textiles which have become his most famous legacy. Morris textiles are easy to recognise and many are still in production - a testament to the timelessness of his work.
3. He was a veritable polymath
It is an achievement to excel in one field, whatever it may be, but Morris excelled, even pioneered in fields many and varied, from architecture and translation to textiles and activism, not to mention poetry and art. What a guy.
4. He valued traditional methods of production
Concerned with the effects of the industrial revolution of the Victorian period he lived in, 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.
5. He worked his socks off
Morris died relatively young, at 62, and the doctor’s diagnosis read: “his disease was simply being William Morris, and having done more work than most 10 men."