Fabric Designs that Stand the Test of Time

Artists and designers from the past continue to inspire textile artists today. Industry professional and Quilting Arts TV guest Luana Rubin from eQuilter.com shared her perspective of how the quilt world is influenced even to this day by the 19th-century textile designer and Renaissance Man William Morris.

A modern quilt by Jen Carlton Bailly featuring fabric designed by William Morris.

“Owl Eyes” by Jen Carlton Bailly featuring fabric designed by William Morris featured in the March/April 2018 issue of Modern Patchwork.

William Morris was an English Renaissance man, dabbling in many different genres, from textile design and poetry to politics and painting. He created murals, studied the classics, and was trained as an architect. It was from this deep understanding of the arts that he and his associates founded a British decorative arts firm that we now know as Morris & Co. in addition to starting the Arts & Crafts movement.

Morris’ central tenet of design was that everything in a home – from the wallpaper to the furniture to everyday tools– should be beautiful, useful, or both. This belief guided his actions and informed his work in the decorative arts and beyond. From the standpoint of Victorian England where manufactured goods were prized, he and his followers maintained that functional pieces made by hand were of great value – a radical opinion at the time. His influence extended to the very heart of the textile industry, from learning about dyeing, weaving, and textile production thoroughly, and taking an interest improving the lives of the textile workers.

Detail of “Owl Eyes” by Jen Carlton Bailly featuring fabrics designed by William Morris

The extensive influence that this great thinker and prolific artist had on his own lifetime is still being felt today. His interest in seeing the hand of the maker in the goods his firm designed and created (from woodcut wallpaper designs to hand embroidered cushions) is reflected in today’s “maker movement”. The Arts & Crafts movement is still going strong, and his textile designs continue to resonate with today’s artists and designers who value Morris’ design aesthetic.

Fabric designed by William Morris in a contemporary quilt.

Fabric designed by William Morris in the Morris Star Block of the Month kit.

“The most remarkable thing about William Morris is that he dared to dream that everyday folk could live with aesthetically beautiful surroundings, and spent his life making that dream possible. I have taken his immense creative energy and inspired output as a jumping off point for my own humble efforts. He fills me with the desire to achieve a similar dream every time I view his designs.” –Kaffe Fassett

Thankfully, the fabrics designed by Morris are once again available and we can use them in our quilts. Their evergreen appeal is because of timeless elegance and a continued interest in the Arts & Crafts movement.  And interestingly enough, these fabrics can also be featured in modern designs, such as Jen Carlton Bailly’s Drunkard’s path. While Jen’s personal esthetics lean more towards modern, she was smitten with the beauty of the fabric design and how well it worked in the quilt design

So what makes Morris and his prolific output stand the test of time? Good design.

And good design makes our hearts sing.

*Quilting Arts TV Series 2100 is brought to you by BERNINA, eQuilter and Free Spirit Fabrics

Discover more inspiration from William Morris!

Leave a Reply