The bed. A place in which to rest, sleep and dream. A place for love. It is also a place for thoughts to come, evolve and take shape.
As I wandered through the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, taking in the many beautiful paintings, I was genuinely taken by surprise to find a bed on display. Of course it’s not just any old bed but the carved oak bed of William Morris, on loan to Tate Britain from Kelmscott Manor in Gloucestershire, where he spent the last 25 years of his life. It seemed only fitting, that as a maker of Doll’s house furnishings, I should choose this wonderful exhibit to write about.
The bed is an object of beauty, a culmination of several crafts. The structure, carved from one ofBritain’s fine oaks, forms the foundation. The bed hangings, cover and valance were designed in 1891 by Morris’s daughter, May. May also stitched the design along with William’s wife, Jane and two other female members of the team. The colours, natural dyes of the period, are vibrant yet earthy. The design is bold, yet perfectly in keeping with nature. The stitching in silk and wool on linen is exquisite. The opening lines of Morris’s poem, titled ‘For the Bed at Kelmscott’, are actually stitched into the valance. Along the top edge of the floral bedspread is a quotation from his poem ‘A Garden by the Sea’. This was worked by Jane following Morris’s death. Each perfect stitch is a tribute to the ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement, reacting against the inevitability of mass production bought about by the Industrial Revolution.
Tapestry was very important to William. With Jane’s help, he designed and stitched many beautiful wall hangings to embellish his surroundings rather than surrender to mass production. Like me, he took inspiration from history. In his desire to be surrounded by beautiful objects, it was no doubt a huge pleasure for him to retire each night to this wonderful bed.
When I work my intricate designs, intended for collectors and connoisseurs of miniatures, every tiny stitch is created with passion. Every shade is carefully considered to culminate in a finished design which is both pleasing to the eye and to the touch. As with William Morris and his associates, I am creating ‘Art’ in needlework.
A hand made item of any description is a treasure, a keepsake, a little piece of history preserved for future generations to enjoy.
William Morris will always be an inspiration to me.