May Morris, daughter of William and Jane Morris, remains one of the most important figures of the Arts & Crafts movement. Unfortunately, her legacy and achievements continued to be overshadowed by those of her father. So, every so often, we like to dedicate a blog to her – our way of paying tribute to her legacy online. We’re not alone either, with exhibitions and articles focusing on – and celebrating – her work.
We thought in this blog, we’d give you five interesting facts you didn’t know about May.
- May was the most influential for her art embroidery. Along with her sister Jenny, she was taught by her mother and her work and expertise was in demand across the world. Growing up with her father and his friends, she was of course influenced and taught by some of the Victorian era’s most influential and celebrated artists. By 23, she took over the embroidery section of Morris & Co. – overseeing every new design.
- Her work was commissioned and exhibited in Arts & Crafts exhibitions in; the UK, Europe, Australia and America. Impressive in itself, but made especially so since this was the Victorian era and her work didn’t go global from a Tweet or Instagram it was reputation and the natural spreading of influence through word of mouth.
- “I’m a remarkable woman, always was, though none of you seemed to think so.” She wrote this in 1936 to George Bernard Shaw. The words may resonate with women around the world even today, and remains rather sadly true for May. Though her father (quite rightly!) has museums and more in his honour and memory and May is often overlooked when it comes to her contribution to decorative arts and the Arts & Crafts Movement.
- After William Morris died, May dedicated almost a decade editing the 24 volumes of his Collected Works. She worked hard to preserve his legacy to ensure his designs and writings stood the test of time. May also lectured on his life and in his will, safeguarded his and their families culturally significant possessions. Many of these were generously gifted to museums so that the Morris family legacies can live on.
- You may have heard of designs Honeysuckle and Horn Poppy that the firm produced. They’re sometimes assumed to be William Morris’s designs but are in fact, May’s work. Her inspiration did come from her father but the work was her own – so she is known to have taken this misconception as a huge compliment, though through the years she did correct the assumption.
There’s so much more to learn about May; you should really grab a coffee, settle in and give her a long Google, just like lots of the pioneers of the Arts & Crafts movement, Morris’s inner circle, friends and colleagues, she’s really fascinating.