Rugs Through Time (1900 – 1909) – William Morris

You may not spare much thought to it, but throughout the past century (and a bit), the hand knotted rug has undergone some radical transformations.

We’re not just talking about fluctuations in design and style either – from its humble origins as a product of necessity, the rug has risen to signify luxury and beauty.

At Bazaar Velvet, we take a lot of pride in being part of the evolution of rug design. And we think one of the most important parts of continuing to grow and excel is to look back at the milestones that have lead to where we are now.

Over the next few months, we’d like to take a look at some of the landmark events and names that have shaped the modern rug.

How the handmade rug was reclaimed

At the turn of the twentieth century rug styles were about to undergo a radical transformation.

The prior century had seen significant changes in manufacturing capabilities: capabilities that replaced weavers and looms with machines. In this new century, industrial techniques for creating standardised rugs and carpets became a cause for concern for the likes of the Art-Workers’ Guild and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.

Despite not living to see it, textile designer, writer and socialist, William Morris (1834 – 1896) was one of the key figures to influence twentieth century rug design. Championing craft-based and handmade approaches to the production of rugs and textiles, Morris cultivated an idea that industrialisation (which he was vehemently opposed to) could not compete with.

That hand tufted rugs were to be established as important works, belonging at the top end of the market.

William Morris

Morris was inspired by a wide range of different rug making techniques and patterns. He owned examples of sixteenth and seventeenth century Persian rugs, admired medieval and Italian Renaissance textile patterns and would fervently study the application of the loom in the weaving process.

William Morris, Holland Park carpet, 1883

William Morris, Holland Park carpet, 1883

Morris expressed an original and marked resistance to the cluttered compositions that preceded his own rugs. Arguing that the rug was to be walked upon, he believed that there should be no illusionistic effects that created false impressions. Thus, the designs of Morris favoured simple patterns and a less-is-more approach to depth and lines. This has lead to him being credited with the inception of Art Nouveau in rug design.

Indeed, he was so committed to the revolutionising of rug and carpet production that he set up weaving enterprises to challenge the perceptions of what represented contemporary design at the time.

After Morris

The fruits of Morris’s early work were exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. An ideal meeting point for like minded designers from all kinds of craft based enterprises, the ideas and messages on show were carried all the way around the world.

These messages went on to be a driving force behind the recognition of Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau international movements. Thus, William Morris is not so much known as a rug designer, but rather as a visionary artist.

His most famous adage “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” perhaps holds one of the most useful pieces of advice for those seeking outstanding rugs.

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