I have had a really busy couple of weeks, planning for a Craft Fair I will be doing in Devon on Saturday.
It involves a long drive and a very early start, but hopefully then an evening in a nice Devon pub and a glass or two of tipple to warm me ol’ cockles!
In the meantime I spent a lovely weekend with Mum and Dad over Easter, we had lots of fun and I was thrilled to see Mum knitting, she has developed quite a taste for it! We are going to Spain again soon so hopefully will take some projects with us…
We visited a National Trust property – Standen – which is absolutely wonderful, and well worth a visit. Sadly I hadn’t charged my camera so I couldn’t get any pictures. Standen is a beautiful arts and crafts house, built in the 1890s and is filled to the brim with the most wonderful arts and crafts architecture, furnishings and art.
Most of the textile furnishings are from the unspeakably talented William Morris & Co, which are still running today, now owned by Sanderson. Some of their wallpapers on sale today bear the name Standen. The rich greens, russets and golds are a joy to behold.
William Morris was a designer, artist, writer and activist and was a dominant force in the Arts & Crafts movement – closely linked to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – whose works are also dotted around the house.
Both groups had a huge social conscience and were concerned about the rise of industrialism and wanted beauty and purpose from items, reflecting a return to the handiwork of previous ages. There is a very famous quote attributed to William Morris – “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
How true that is, this is something that has always inspired me – I am yet to fully achieve it I think, but this is certainly the dream for most of us!
Some of the textiles at Standen were made as kits by William Morgan and the family themselves (well, I am rather assuming, the ladies of the family) completed them. The design was pressed onto the fabric almost like painting by numbers, not dissimilar from the tapestry kits you can buy today in any haberdashery! You can see the differences in the quality and individuality of the work between different family members and some pieces must have taken several people many months or perhaps years to complete.
Another artist and prolific ceramics maker was William de Morgan, who became friendly with William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His name was not so well known to me, but his tiles, vases and other ceramics were so beautiful and evocative of the Persian style and colour palette which he loved so well. This is one from the de Morgan collection, but there were many similar at Standen. Rich opulent colours which always hold me in rapture…
There is much further evidence of these two social / art movements in William Morris’s house – the Red House in Bexleyheath – on the South London / Kent borders, again an inspirational National Trust property well worth a visit.
My favourite of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is Dante Gabriel Rossetti – mainly because of his work, but also the rich stories you hear of his excesses, including a love of exotic animals, which he rather took to the extreme by having a Toucan riding a Llama around his dining room as a party trick. This is one of his most famous paintings, ‘The Day Dream’. And who was the muse and lover employed here as a model? None other than William Morris’s wife, Jane.
And if you fancy delving more into their stories, albeit slightly embellished, the BBC series Desperate Romantics, with the gorgeous (and now rather famous) Aidan Turner plays the dashing and delicious Dante…
Happy (arts and) crafting!