Morris & Co Textiles and The Red House

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The Red House is an important Arts and Crafts building in Bexleyheath, Southeast London. Designed in 1859 by architect Philip Webb as a home for William Morris it was completed in 1860. Although Webb was the architect it was known as Morris’s ‘brainchild’


photo by Ethan Doyle White

Unable to find suitable textiles and furnishings that were to his taste, William Morris got together a  group of artists and craftsmen friends  to produce furnishings for The Red House. This became the furnishings and decorative arts manufacturers and retailers  Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co in 1861, later Morris & Co. The other members of ‘the firm’ were Ford Madox Brown, Rossetti, Webb, and Burne-Jones


Edward Burne Jones (standing, left), William Morris (standing, right), and their families. 

Morris was keen to provide affordable ‘art for all’ and driven by his boundless enthusiasm and surrounded by like-minded artists and craftsmen the output of the company was prolific.  Morris & Co produced more than 100 block-print wallpapers, William Morris designed more than half of them.


tile detail

The willow was one of Morris’s favourite motifs and he used it in several of his designs for wallpaper and for textiles seen in several rooms in the Red House.


a room in the red house, with willow wallpaper above the panelling

The most popular William Morris design of all is ‘Willow Bough’ which was designed by him in 1887 and has never been out of production.

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‘willow bough’

Sadly Morris had to leave the house for financial reasons in 1865, apparently so heartbroken at departing that he could never bear to set foot on the property again.

Although only living at Red House for 5 years, Morris decorated the walls, ceilings and furniture with his bespoke designs, various stained glass and wall murals remain.


entrance hall at the Red House

Morris & Co. finally went into voluntary liquidation in 1940 but the design archives and remaining wallpaper stock were purchased by Arthur Sanderson & Sons for £400. Morris & Co. has remained a part of the Sanderson family ever since, however, they didn’t secure the rights to the textile designs which is why other companies, such as Liberty, have produced Morris fabrics over the years.


The Red House was acquired by the National Trust in 2003,  enabling the general public to visit a place that many would call ‘the birthplace of Arts and Crafts’.


Birds and Animals in William Morris Designs

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William Morris (1834-1896) is regarded by some as the greatest designer and one of the most outstanding figures of the Arts and Crafts Movement, this group of artists and craftsmen set up to provide beautiful, handcrafted products and furnishings for the home. Morris is much quoted as saying “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

He loved nature and his designs often featured birds, animals, plants and leaves. The examples below are his designs used on wallpapers, tapestries and interiors fabric by quality textile companies such as Liberty and Sanderson.



‘Bird’ 1877-1888



‘bird and rose’ 1883


birds & roses

‘trellis’ 1862


strawberry thief

‘the strawberry thief’ 1883


bird & pomegranate

‘bird & pomegranate’


brother rabbit

brother rabbit / brer rabbit 1880



‘greenery’ roe deer under an oak tree.

Part of a tapestry in the Museum of fine arts in Boston


the brook

‘the brook’



 ‘hare and peacock’

The Art of John Piper in Fabric and Textiles.

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John Piper (1903–1992) is one of the most significant British artists of the twentieth-century.   An official war artist during the 2nd world war, he came to prominence soon after, known for paintings, tapestries and designing large scale glass windows, such as those in Liverpool and Coventry Cathedrals.


The ‘rerados’ tapestry in Chichester Cathedral 1966


Many of his bold designs were printed on textiles making his work more accessible to ordinary people by bringing his art in the home for a relatively cheap price.



Chiesa della Salute (1959) one of Piper’s Venice scenes produced as furnishing fabric, the curtain below showing how well the repeat blocks of his design work.



He designed fabric for many well know textile companies, this is ‘stones of bath’ for Arthur Sanderson, 1960.


foliate heads

‘Foliate Head’s produced by David Whitehead in  1954


In an exhibition in 2016 at Pallant House Chichester,  Piper’s ‘Abstract Painting’ of 1935,  shows the original oil painting  alongside the screen print fabric made by the textile manufacturer, David Whitehead Ltd. in 1955

Interesting article in The Independent in 2016 by Claudia Pritchard, ‘How John Piper ..changed post war Britain’

Tate Liverpool have a John Piper exhibition from 17th November 2017 – 18th March 2018




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Indian Influence in 1960’s Fabric Design

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In the late 1960’s and early 70’s there was a great fascination for Eastern cultures. The Beatles especially were very interested in Indian music and were influential in spreading the word widely. Music, art and fabric designed for clothing and interiors all showed this trend.

It was a fashionable, especially with the hippy movement to wear kaftans, paisley designs and batik printed clothing from India.  The style was reflect in much of the fashion of the time.


Zandra Rhodes 1969 circle dress now in the V&A museum, in an Indian influenced print.


 Mick Jagger in 1967 wearing a paisley print jacket.


Indian fabrics were also widely used in interiors, for bed spreads and curtains.


The curtains above in a fabric called ‘indian summer’ designed by Jyoti Bhomik for Heals in 1966. Jyoti Bhomik a young designer born in India worked exclusively for Heal’s during the 1960’s,  his fabric is still sought after today.




British designers of the era such as Collier Campbell also showed their interest in eastern culture in fabric designs such as ‘Zebak’ and ‘kasbah’.




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Barkcloth, Birds and Cherry Trees

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A sunny April morning in our Gloucestershire orchard. The bird cherry is full of blossom and the birds are singing, you can pick out a chiff chaff amongst others in the video below.



The fabric on the washing line is mid century barkcloth cotton, the two on the right are Heal’s ‘cherry orchard’ ( appropriately) by Irmgard Krebs and blue ‘counters’ by Richard Jarvis.


Where has the time gone? It is mid June now and the cherries are on the trees, the grass has grown lots and I have sold most of the fabric on the washing line.

I really should post more often but life has been so busy.




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Grautex. Mid-Century Danish Textiles



Grautex fabrics were a leading textile company  in the 1950’s through to the 1970’s. They were based in Copenhagen, Denmark and used many well known artists and designers of the time such as  Joan Nicola Wood,  Kirtsen Romer and Ronald Hansen who produced art prints such as pine trees ( below) and beech trees panels.


Ronald Hansen –  pine trees


Arne Emil Jacobsen, meadow. 1951

‘Hyacinth Glasses’ Printed Cotton Panel Designed
by Arne Jacobsen for Grautex Fabrics  1950



‘continental flower squares’ 1951


Joan Nicola Wood ‘carnival’


Kirsten Romer ‘skrapper’




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Toile de Jouy Fabric

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Toile prints were originally produced in Ireland in the mid-18th Century and quickly became popular in Britain and France. The name Toile de Jouy originated in France in the late 18th century and means “cloth from Jouy”, a town near Paris.

Christophe-Phillipe Oberkampf set up business in Jouy-en-Josas outside Paris in 1759, where he joined with engraver and designer Jean Baptiste Huet to design idyllic pastoral scenes for their fabrics.

The designs on toile de jouy vary greatly, but they all have detailed scenes scattered over the fabric. Originally the scenes were carved on woodblocks or engraved on copper then printed in only one colour (often red, black, or blue) on to a white or cream background.


Les Traveaux de la Manufacture (The Activities of the Factory), 1783–84, designed by Jean-Baptiste Huet



Toile fabrics are a fascinating record of the times both past and present, often depicted historical events, such as the pattern above c. 1784 based on two etching made shorly after the Montgolfier brothers successful ascent in hydrogen-filled hot air balloons


Detail from a more modern toile fabric  by Ashley Wilde.



Even more recently, Mike Diamond from the Beastie Boys designed Brooklyn Toile (above) as a wallpaper. Together with designer Vincent J. Ficarra he created a toile depicting his favorite Brooklyn scenes.

toile de jouy ALL

 Toile has come to be used for interiors, both wallpaper and soft furnishings in this vibrant room.


Here Toile de Jouy is being used for clothing  in this 1950’s style Bernie Dexter dress.




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