May Morris steps out of the shadows

Any talk of the British Arts & Crafts movement would have to include William Morris in the conversation.

The textile designer, poet, novelist and activist was an influential figure in the late 19th/early 20th-century movement celebrating traditional craftsmanship in the decorative and fine arts.

His intricate, detailed work is a design staple, interpreted in contemporary products from wallpaper to scarves, while also providing enduring inspiration for new creations.

And now his younger daughter, May (1862-1938), is being recognized for her role in the movement as a pioneer of “art embroidery.”

“May Morris: Arts & Crafts Designer” (Thames & Hudson, $40) is published today, Oct. 24 in association with the exhibition “May Morris: Art and Life,” which continues through Jan. 28 at the William Morris Gallery in London.

May Morris ran the embroidery department of Morris & Co., as well as designing textiles, wallpapers, apparel and jewelry, and this first publication devoted to the full range of her work draws together examples from around the world, led by the collections of both the Morris gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, also in London.

Anna Mason, Jan Marsh, Jenny Lister, Rowan Bain and Hanne Faurby, curators at the gallery and the V&A, have joined together to write this 224-page hardcover book.

And it’s one that’s destined to find an audience that will delight in its well-rounded examination of this talented woman whose work – which comes to vivid life in these pages – may very well provide new inspiration for design lovers everywhere.

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– Mary Shustack

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