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Delve into the history of the arts and crafts movement at the William Morris Society

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Kelmscott House is the former London home of William Morris and the current base for the William Morris Society

The name William Morris is often associated with home interiors, with some of his iconic patterns still available to buy today. However, the man himself was so much more, with poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist among the many hats he wore. Born to a middle-class family in Walthamstow, William Morris (1834-1896) became influenced by the Medieval world while studying the Classics at Oxford University. The Medieval period appealed to Morris because of its chivalric values and a more organic manufacturing process. He disliked what the Industrial Revolution had done to British people and their homes. He saw people were moving away from nature into the cities and were doing repetitive tasks, while their houses were full of identical, lower quality factory-made products. Morris grew to dislike capitalism and became enamoured with socialism. When he was at Oxford, Morris found a kindred spirit in artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), who went on to become a lifelong friend and collaborator. Following graduation, Morris became an apprentice to Neo-Gothic architect George Edmund Street (1824-1881), where he met fellow apprentice Philip Webb (1831-1915). However, Morris soon tired of architecture and wanted to focus on art. Around this period, he was spending a lot of time with Burne-Jones, who had become an apprentice to Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Morris and Burne-Jones ended up living together in a flat at 17 Red Lion Square in Bloomsbury.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Original William Morris strawberry thief textiles

By the mid 1850s, Morris was writing poetry and designing furniture, manuscripts and hangings in a medieval style. While he hadn’t established a successful career at this point, his personal life appeared to be going well as he married Jane Burden (1839-1914) in 1859. Following his marriage, Morris teamed up with architect Webb to design a family home, The Red House, in Bexleyheath, south-east London. The house was very different from the Victorian and Georgian designs and exists today as a unique example of arts and crafts architecture. After furnishing The Red House in a Medieval style, Morris founded a decorative arts company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co in 1861. They aimed to bring the craftmanship and beauty of the Middle Ages back to British homes. It sold furniture, murals, architectural carvings, metalwork and stained glass windows. With Victorians going nuts for Neo-Gothic architecture, the company’s stained glass in particular was a big hit. It didn’t take long before the wealthy became fans of MMF&Co’s aesthetic. Despite Morris’s socialist values, his products did have higher labour costs, so weren’t as accessible to the lower classes. A year after establishing the company, Morris abandoned painting and started designing wallpaper. Read the rest of this entry

Emery Walker House: A stunning time capsule of the arts and crafts movement

Step back in time at the unique Emery Walker House in Hammersmith.

Emery Walker house © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The Emery Walker House stands on a Georgian terrace in Hammersmith

I must admit not knowing too much about the arts and crafts movement until recently. I had known of William Morris for some years, but had never heard the name Emery Walker until this year. Recently, I was invited along to the Emery Walker House with a group of fellow bloggers to join one of their guided tours.

The Arts and Crafts movement was a response to the Industrial Revolution, which saw objects being mass-produced in factories, losing their originality and connection with the natural world. Figures of the A&C movement wanted to make products with more integrity and higher quality, with the crafter actually enjoying the process of making it. Textile designer, novelist and poet William Morris (1834–1896) was one of the leaders of the movement and believed in creating beautiful objects and interiors, influenced by the past. Morris established his own company Morris & Co, and store on Oxford Street selling his furniture, wallpaper and other interiors.

The Emery Walker House stands on Hammersmith Terrace, a neat row of narrow Georgian terraces with gardens overlooking the Thames. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this small neighbourhood in west London became the hub of the arts and crafts movement. Sir Emery Walker (1851-1933) was a London-born engraver, photographer and printer. He was a self-made man, having left school at 13 and establishing his own business by 30. In the late 1870s, he befriended Morris when he moved to Hammersmith Terrace as they bonded over socialism. The pair became firm friends and saw each other nearly every day. Walker initially lived at No.3 Hammersmith Terrace, before moving to No.7 – the house you can visit today – in 1903 and remained there for the rest of his life. Morris lived a short walk away at Kelmscott House and sowed the seed for the growing arts and crafts community of the area. Artist, bookbinder and sometime business partner of Walker (more on that later!), T.J. Cobden-Sanderson (1840-1922) lived at No.7 before Walker did, while Morris’ daughter May (1862-1938) ended up living next door at No.8 with her husband Henry Halliday Sparling. The playwright George Bernard Shaw lodged with the couple for a time and ended up having an affair with May, causing her divorce. Walker and Morris were firm friends with architect Philip Webb, who made Walker a beneficiary of his will, with some of his furniture now in No.7.

© Anna Kunst for The Emery Walker Trust

A Morris & Co Sussex chair
© Anna Kunst for The Emery Walker Trust

Emery Walker house © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The view of the Thames from the Emery Walker House

One of the most interesting stories about Walker is his business partnership and eventual feud with Cobden-Sanderson. The latter established the Doves Bindery in 1893, eventually becoming the Doves Press in 1900 when he partnered with Walker following the closure of Kelmscott Press in 1898. Cobden-Sanderson’s wife Annie provided funding after Walker admitted he didn’t have enough money to contribute. Their publications, featuring the Doves typeface which was inspired by Italian Renaissance, were a huge success. However, by 1902, their working relationship began to sour with Cobden-Sanderson complaining Walker wasn’t devoting enough time to the business. In 1906, they agreed things weren’t working, but disagreed over the splitting of the assets. Walker was entitled to have the metal letters and castings, but Cobden-Sanderson didn’t want him to have them. Between 1913-1917, the elderly Cobden-Sanderson made around 170 trips from Hammersmith Terrace to Hammersmith Bridge in the middle of the night, lobbing the heavy type, punches and matrices and hurling them into the Thames. Following Cobden-Sanderson’s death in 1922, his widow Annie paid Walker a large sum towards compensating the loss of type. Nearly a century later, designer Robert Green and the Port Authority of London searched the Thames below Hammersmith Bridge and managed to recover 150 types of the Doves Press.  Read the rest of this entry

Lighting up Old Street: The Art Wall installation at The Bower

Demakersvan's Art Wall at The Bower At Old Street

Demakersvan’s Art Wall at The Bower At Old Street

The Old Street roundabout has never been one of the more attractive hubs in London. However, increasing regeneration is breathing new life into the area’s buildings and making EC1 a more attractive place to be.

As part of new office and retail quarter The Bower, a new public art installation is lighting up Old Street for the better. Renowned Dutch artists DeMakersVan have created a facetted stainless steel and glass installation inspired by Shoreditch’s industrial past.

The Art Wall is located at the City Road entrance to The Bower and is visible from the Old Street roundabout. The installation is a 21 metre long, 3-dimensional structure lit up with LED panels. The DeMakersVan brothers were inspired by the Crittal windows commonly found in Shoreditch and warped the shape. Mirrors on the interior of the structure reflect the white haze glass windows and rainbow effect glass panels, resulting in an iridescent light display.

Gerald Kaye, CEO of Helical, developer of The Bower, enthused: ‘The Bower is the perfect location for our Art Wall, which we believe encapsulates both the history of the area and the transformation of materials and aesthetics over time. We are proud to have it positioned in such a public and visible space by Old Street tube station, and hope the public enjoy this fantastic piece of art.’

DeMakersVan commented: ‘We are delighted to unveil our first installation in London, and believe the locations aesthetic complements the work and its philosophy perfectly.’

As well as the Art Wall, The Bower is also home to Bone Daddies, The Draft House, Enoteca da Luca, Honest Burger, Maki sushi bar, Good & Proper Tea and Franze & Evans.

  • The Bower, Old Street roundabout, Shoreditch, EC1V 9NR. Nearest station: Old Street. For more information about The Bower, visit their website.
© Demakersvan

The DeMakersVan brothers were inspired by the Crittal windows commonly found in Shoreditch and warped the shape


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Serpentine summer houses: Explore four very different structures in Kensington Gardens

Celebrate ‘Year Of The Bus’ at the TFL pop-up restaurant at DesignJunction for London Design Festival

© Transport for London

An artist’s impression of the TFL ‘Year Of The Bus’ pop-up bar and restaurant at DesignJunction
© Transport for London

Although the London Design Festival kicked off last Saturday, one of the highlights of the annual event is DesignJunction (18-21 September 2014). Located in the old 1960s Royal Mail Sorting Office in New Oxford Street, DesignJunction is a multi-level showcase featuring the best furniture, lighting and product design from around the world. As well as host of displays and shops, the unique venue also plays host to pop-up eateries.

For the third year in a row, DesignJunction has teamed up with Transport For London to incorporate the latter’s iconic designs into a restaurant. As 2014 is the ‘Year Of The Bus’, TFL will be celebrating the centenary with a themed pop-up bar and restaurant. In conjunction with the East London Liquor Company, the space will feature a huge version of the General Map of Outer London, which was designed in 1921 by MacDonald Gill. With furniture provided by Modus and seating upholstered in familiar TFL-style moquettes by Kirkby Design, the restaurant will feature vintage enamel bus flags and poles by Trueform dotted around as well as archive shots of buses and the people who work on them.

The pop-up will offer ‘urban international’ food with old favourites such as smoked bacon sarnie, scotch egg and sausage roll to continental choices including croissants, pastel de nata and broad bean, pea, mint and feta toast, as well as a range of salads. The East London Liquor Company will be serving special cocktails using their own gin, vodka and rum, as well as locally brewed beer.

There will also be the opportunity to buy 10 limited edition Oyster card holders featuring the bus theme, including a central London bus map and different interpretations of the London bus. All items in the restaurant will be available to buy from the TFL Shop, including the limited edition original Bus Stop flags.

  • The TFL-themed pop-up runs at DesignJunction from 18-21 September 2014. Opening hours: Thurs 18th 11am-9pm, Fri 19th and Sat 20th 11am-8pm, Sun 21st 11am-5pm. Entrance to DesignJunction costs £8 in advance or £10 on the door. DesignJunction is located at The Sorting Office, 21-31 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1BA. Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road or Holborn. For more information, visit the TFL website.
  • The London Design Festival runs from 13-21 September 2014. For more information, visit the LDF website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

For Metro Girl’s review of the 2012 TFL 1950s-themed pop-up restaurant at DesignJunction, click here.

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