5th May 2020
“I was a great deal at Merton last week… anxiously superintending the first printing of the Strawberry thief” – William Morris
Strawberry Thief is one of William Morris’s most popular textile designs. It’s actually been one of our most loved print for years. The story behind the design is a charming one as Morris used to watch the thrushes in the garden stealing his strawberries from under the fruitlets at his home Kelmscott Manor. It was when we were talking to our friends at Kelmscott Manor that they told us he was actually sat on the Privvy when he saw the birds do this!
Kelmscott Manor was, of course, his beloved home in the Cotswolds. It was the retreat for his family, friends and colleagues. Upon first seeing the Manor in 1871, Morris stated it was the, ‘loveliest haunt of ancient peace.’ He signed a joint least with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a fellow Pre-Raphaelite artist and friend. The house is a true arts and crafts house and Morris loved the fact it was unspoilt and unaltered. It resided in perfect harmony with the countryside and village. He described it as looking as if it had, “grown up out of the soil,” with “quaint garrets amongst great timbers of the roof where of old times the tillers and herdsmen slept.”
Strawberry Thief marked the first time he perfected the Indigo- Discharge method of printing. An ancient technique that was a painstaking way to print but achieved unparalleled beauty and intricacies within the design. The printing took him years to perfect. Starting in 1875 and achieving his goal in 1881 after moving into Merton Abbey Mills near Wimbledon. It was in May of 1883 Morris wrote to his daughter, ” was a great deal at Merton last week … anxiously superintending the first printing of the Strawberry thief, which I think we shall manage this time.”
At the time, Strawberry Thief had a high price tag. This was due to the expensive cotton and the fact it took days to print. Despite this, it was one of Morris’s company, Morris & Co.’s most commercially successful patterns.