Starting the new year with some design inspiration, I took myself along to the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow to catch their latest exhibition, on the life and work of May Morris, William’s younger daughter. It was a fantastic and comprehensive collection of her work; from the early designs she produced for Morris & co, to her more well known embroidered tapestries, which are remarkable to see up close. Additionally, there were a number of her journals and sketchbooks from a young age which displayed her talent for sketching and watercolours, from trips abroad to the interiors of Kelmscott Manor.
Upstairs they also had many other examples of her embroidery skills but applied to dresses, cloaks, table cloths and sofa backs, none of which I had seen before. Particularly interesting was the final room, detailing her later years, of how she founded the Women’s Guild of Arts with Mary Elizabeth Turner and then set about editing her father’s Collected Works to cement his legacy. Additionally, the photographs and details of the many camping trips and travels she undertook with her companion Mary Lobb in the 1920s.
She was a remarkable artist and designer who, deservedly, should be appreciated in her own right. As much as I have been inspired by William Morris, it was fascinating to see how May, having grown up amongst so many talented individuals, developed her own style and techniques along with her political and socially-minded outlook.
The exhibition is well worth a visit if you haven’t seen it already, but it’s only on until the 28th of January.