Business in the creative life of William Morris

Charles Harvey, Jon Press, Mairi Maclean

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Business is perhaps the least studied and, for many, least interesting facet of the multi-faceted career of William Morris. Wikipedia (2018) is typical in describing him as “an English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist”, omitting from this litany one of the most salient facts of his life: that for 35 years he was an entrepreneur, the ‘managing director’ of a socially prominent and commercially successful business venture. It is wrong to conceive the business dimension of Morris’s career simply as a means of earning a living. His firm was a pioneering vehicle for creative expression in the decorative arts, whose products and practices continue to inspire designers, craft workers, consumers and art lovers across the world. In this chapter, we suggest that business, contrary to the impression conveyed in much of the literature, was fundamental to the creative life of William Morris. It was through business that Morris, an entrepreneur of unusual creativity, imparted his most important messages with respect to the decorative arts, simultaneously shaping tastes and professional practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to William Morris
EditorsFlorence Boos
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2020


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