Tempe campus lecture focuses on life, impact of art entrepreneur

Founded in 1861 by William Morris, Morris and Co. quickly became one of the best-known names in the arts and crafts movement of the late 19thand early 20th centuries.

Between 1880 and 1920 during the heart of the movement, Boston served as one of the biggest hives of involvement, with merchants from the area creating innovative goods that would spread throughout the northwestern states as well as overseas. On Monday, award-winning design professor Beverly Brandt spoke in Hayden Library about Morris’s impact on the movement, as well as some loose ties he had to the Phoenix area.

Brandt, who teaches subjects including History of Interior Design II and Textiles in Historic Interiors, spoke for just less than an hour about Morris’s involvement in helping spread the arts and crafts movement throughout the northeastern U.S.



“Boston was a hotbed of design reform as well as an influential American center for both the Aesthetic and the arts and crafts movements,” Brandt said.

Because of the inspiration and ideas Morris helped introduce, designers, architects, craft workers and artists all cultivated an idea of the “atmosphere” they wanted in their workplaces, homes, churches and elsewhere.

Bostonians needed a place to get their goods, and Morris and Co. quickly became the frontrunner in getting “design produce” to those who needed it. Stores began selling the company’s products in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and they introduced a new ideal for craft makers in Boston to strive toward.

Morris and Co.’s name was found near the front of every trade catalogue, and it quickly helped set the standard as to what did and did not make successful designs.

Morris’s best-known work were his outstanding tapestries, embroideries and textiles, specifically wallpaper.

Morris also dabbled in architecture, and his style influenced some buildings in the Phoenix and Southwest areas, Brandt said.

In 1859, the British native designed what has become known as the Red House with architect Philip Webb. Morris built the home as a place to live with his wife Jane and designed it the be a “Palace of Art,” where he and his friend could go to create more art.

Besides being known as an artist, Morris was also a writer, known for both his poetry and prose. His published works include “The Wood Beyond the World,” which is said to have inspired “Chronicles of Narnia” author C.S. Lewis, as well as “The House of the Wolflings,” which is said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien.

Morris passed away in 1896. Several monuments in Bexleyheath, England, have been dedicated in his honor.


Contact this reporter at seweinst@asu.edu or on Twitter @S_Weinstein95

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.