Recently, a few boxes arrived at the shop.  We were so excited at Figg Street Co. to open them, since we knew what was inside: new items from Pont Neuf, including gorgeous William Morris print notebooks.  It was a delight and a comfort to see those familiar motifs: seaweed and honeysuckle.  Two centuries later, these classic woodblock prints keep inspiring us. 

The Arts and Crafts movement started in the UK circa 1860, as a reaction to the industrial revolution.  Critics thought the new mechanical style of work, where people were assigned to repeat a specific step within a process rather than seeing the production through from start to finish, as dehumanizing.  

John Ruskin wrote of this, "It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the men: divided into mere segments of men - broken into small fragments and crumbs of life, so that all the little pieces of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail.".

William Morris was very much inspired by the writings of John Ruskin.  When he was unable to find furniture that complemented his Gothic Revival house, he used the services of talented people he knew to create what he needed.  This project eventually developed into a decorative arts cooperative named Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. in 1861. By 1875, Morris took control of the company and it was renamed Morris & Co. 

Morris believed in creating items using artisanal techniques.  His company united design and manufacture, as he didn't believe an object could be produced successfully if its designer didn't understand the process of making it.  Therefore, processes such as woodblock printing were selected instead of the new printing rollers that had been developed. 

Many of us know Morris & Co. for several of the iconic prints created by William Morris.  There's the pattern of little birds nipping strawberries amongst the foliage in 'Strawberry Thief'.  There's also Blackthorn, Tulip, and Pimpernel, to name just a few. 

William Morris used natural dyes and almost all of his designs were inspired by the natural world.  He was particularly obsessed with Indigo blue.


We hope this little bit of background on William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement in the UK inspires you to look at the many beautiful designs created during this period.  We're pleased to offer you some selections at Figg Street Co.

Wishing you joy in your creative endeavors this week!

August 30, 2022 — Antoinette D'Angelo

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