William Morris tapestries are probably our favourite designs so it seems strange not to have written about them before.
William Morris was remarkably diverse in his talents, greatly aiding the effective growth of the Arts and Crafts Movement and providing a rich inheritance for us today. Soon after the centenary of his death (1896) I read a marvellous biography I simply must commend to you: “William Morris” by Fiona MacCarthy published by Faber and Faber.
The most recognizable William Morris tapestry designs are probably The Woodpecker (right) of 1885 and his Tree of Life tapestry (above). To appreciate The Woodpecker tapestry one must realise several points. Firstly, that it was based on a poem by Morris himself about a fabled Italian king “I once a king and chief, now am the tree-barks thief; ever twixt trunk and leaf, chasing the prey”. He was a very prolific poet and was nominated to be Poet Laureate. He created his own engraved typefaces and woodcuts. Morris created his own natural dyes to emulate those of medieval times. Finally, he found an old French crafts manual with the design for a high-warp loom which he had built in his bedroom. All these elements combine to make The Woodpecker tapestry and others distinctively “William Morris”.
You will find a full selection of all the William Morris tapestries today in the Arts and Crafts section of our website. This includes tapestries by his friend Sir Edward Burne-Jones. All are woven in either France or Belgium and all are lined, with a rod pocket for easy hanging – we supply hanging information with each order.