Designer Biography

William Morris

Born: 1834

Died: 1896

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Born into a wealthy family in Walthamstow and educated at Marlborough School and Exeter College, Oxford, where he met his life-long friend Edward Burne-]ones, Morris entered G. E. Street's architectural office in 1856 where Philip Webb was senior clerk. In 1861 he founded the co-operative firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co: the first modern workshop for artistic handicrafts which was to produce everything for the home; furniture, stained glass, embroidery, textiles, wallpaper, tapestries and ultimately books. Morris gathered around him a group of highly talented designers and craftsmen, including Philip Webb for architecture and furniture, Edward Burne-Jones for stained glass and tapestry, William De Morgan for ceramics and William Arthur Smith Benson for metalwork and lighting.  Morris himself was a legendry colourist and designer of flat pattern.  The firm remained a partnership until Morris took sole proprietorship in 1875 changing the name to Morris & Co. In 1878 he moved his family to Kelmscott House in Hammersmith where he began the manufacture of hand-knotted carpets. In the search for space to improve the quality of the firm's manufactures Morris moved his works from London to Merton Abbey Mills in 1881. Here there was now room to manufacture carpets and tapestries that had previously only been possible on an experimental scale. From 1870 Morris had been interested in illuminating manuscripts and planned publications of his own poems, but it was not until 1891 that he set up the Kelmscott Press for which he designed three typefaces. It produced 53 books before closing in 1898. Morris was a founder member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877. During the 1870s Morris became involved with politics and from 1883 with the Socialist movement as a member of the Social Democratic Federation. He was a founder member of the Socialist League and editor and financier of the weekly Commonweal. Morris died in Hammersmith after a prolonged illness.

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