Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Visit to William Morris & Company

If I had a time machine there are lots of places I'd go, mostly involving shopping expeditions.
One stop on the itinerary would be 449 Oxford Street, London
about 1880
I'd drop by Morris and Co. to buy some wallpaper,
 fabric and a few rugs.
I would not set the dial for June 1, 1873 because Clover Adams from America would be in the store, shopping for the same things. She was not pleased with what she saw and wrote her father:
"Morris rather bores me; is getting affected in style."

Clover (Marian) Adams and her dog
Then she asked about the wallpaper's reputation for poison green or some coloring agent with a little arsenic in it.

"I said 'arsenic' and the salesman coolly replied, 'If you wish them without arsenic you must pay more for them!'

Nice comeback.
Eden in Sage Green
 We do not use poison greens in our reproduction prints!

Then she tells her father:

"I've asked Bumstead who is here to blow up the poet."


By the poet we can assume she means William Morris. Her reaction seems a bit overblown.

I am never going ANYWHERE with Clover Adams. We would undoubtedly get into a heated discussion about interior design.

Six years later she and husband Henry are back in London, invited to a reception at the Royal Academy where
 "every art rag-bag seems to have been ransacked to adorn the women....

Pre-Raphaelite style by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
"Art Rag Bag" Style
according to Clover.
"...They look like illustrations in Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market---fat fugues in pea-green; lean symphonies in chewing gum color; all in a rusty minor key."

Clover is referring to poet Christina Rosetti's 1862 poem Goblin Market, about two sisters and their goblins, illustrated by Christina's brother Dante Gabriel Rosetti in Pre-Raphaelite style.

And just who is she calling fat?

Well, each to her own taste. I'd trade my best Fiestaware bowls for a chance to go to a Pre-Raphaelite
party in 1879. And I like pea-green.

3 colors from my new Morris Apprentice line
called Fennel Green, Red House Red and Cocoa Brown
If you---unlike Clover Adams---appreciate William Morris style, you will want to be buying yardage from my Moda Morris Apprentice collection when it comes into the shops this month. It never lasts long.

But some things do last. I believe you can still shop at
449 Oxford Street, same building.
They just don't sell the same things anymore.
And while you are in London you must visit the Tate Britain gallery
where an exhibit Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde is up until January 12, 2013.

More about Marian Hooper Adams:
Actually, Clover Adams was a very interesting woman, smart, talented---iconoclastic as you can see by her attitude towards Morris design---but cursed by family depression (she and several other family members were suicides).

See a portfolio of her photographs at the Massachusetts Historical Society here:

And read her letters
The Letters of Mrs. Henry Adams. 1865-1883. Edited by Ward Thoron. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1936.
The letters quoted here are on pages 116 and 151.


  1. My, Clover is a little frightening, but LOVE the old photo of her and her dog.

  2. I'm excited about more Morris on the way. Thanks for bringing us beautiful fabric.

  3. Fun post and history about Morris and the fabrics.
    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


  4. I picked up a charm pack and am stilling fondling it.....can't cut into it yet! Can't wait for the yardage to be out!