With women’s inequality ever prevalent in the news, it’s bemusing and shocking that in 2018 equal representation is a continued fight. Why is this? There have been many significant female figures throughout time that have made lasting positive impressions and influenced directions and change. So why are women still having to prove themselves?
It was when visiting this landmark exhibition that this struck a cord. May Morris, born in 1862, is one of those historical influential women.
She was one of the most significant figures of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. She was a pioneer of art embroidery, textiles, wallpaper and jewellery, and an influential writer and lecturer in Britain and America.
She was also politically active within the emerging socialist movement, and supported the fight for women to achieve the vote. Shocked by the lack of professional art organisations willing to admit women, she also founded The Women’s Guild of Art in 1907.
May was committed to protecting and promoting her father, William Morris, legacy, which was to the detriment of her own achievements being recognised. She was a talented designer-maker initially following the Morris & Co style for whom she was chief designer. But she soon developed her own style and was recognised for elevating domestic craft embroidery to a more sophisticated and serious art form.
The main focus of the exhibition was her art embroidery, with the use of subtle colour and flowing arrangements of birds, foliage and lettering all worked by hand. I was obviously attracted to the collection of jewellery where flowing lines and floral motifs are also evident.
May Morris, Hair ornament c.1905. Silver, pearls, opals garnet. Inspired by wreaths and the natural forms of foliage and berries.
May Morris. Brooch c.1903-16. Gold, almandine, garnets,emeralds,water opal
May died in October, aged 76. She lived a full creative life. Her inventiveness, skill and knowledge as a designer and craftswoman made her an authority of her craft. This exhibition re-establishes May as a revolutionary and one of this country’s most important designer craftswomen.
Well worth a visit.
William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow. London
Exhibition ends: 28 January 2018
For more details visit the William Morris Gallery