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The Arts and Crafts Movement

The Story

Before the age of machines in the 18th and 19th centuries, everything was handmade. But mass production changed all that - something English poet William Morris found dehumanizing. Morris was founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the Victorian age. He was best known for the natural themes of his wallpaper, tapestries and vases, which he believed should be handmade by skilled craftspeople. As this CBC documentary explains, Morris brought a socialist philosophy to design. 

Medium: Television
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: July 5, 1993
Guests: Joseph Dunlop, Janice McDuffy, David Rago, Douglas Shanner, Carol Silver, Kitty Turgeon
Host: Wendy Mesley
Reporter: Susan Harada
Duration: 19:14

Did You know?

• Born in England in 1834, William Morris attended the University of Oxford and began his working life at an architect's office.
• Morris became deeply interested in medieval art and became friends with painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
• In 1858, Morris published his first book of poems and in 1861 started a design firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company, with a group of friends. Their earliest work included stained glass, furniture, and wallpaper designs.

• The Arts and Crafts Movement, of which Morris was a leading proponent, deplored the mass production of cheap, poor-quality goods made possible by the Industrial Revolution. Instead, the movement emphasized a return to craftsmanship in which everything was made by hand.
• The movement also sought to erase the difference between fine art, such as painting and sculpture, and decorative arts such as textiles, furniture, and metalwork.

• Morris's socialist beliefs flourished in the 1880s, when he founded the Socialist League. Its journal, The Commonweal, published works extolling Morris' vision of a socialist utopia.
• Morris himself acknowledged that his firm's goods were largely "toys of rich folk." The cost of producing them was such that they were unattainable for poor people.
• In 1896, having reached fame in his own time as a designer and poet, Morris died. His wallpaper patterns are still commercially available.

• "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris



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