In the 1880’s, Britain saw the birth of the Arts & Crafts movement, pioneering radical new approaches to design, the decorative arts and traditional craft in the face of mass production and industrialisation.
A key figure in this movement, and one of the most influential designers of this time was William Morris (1834-1896), who actively promoted the joy of craftsmanship and the beauty of nature. During his career, using hand-cut woodblocks loaded with natural, mineral-based dyes, he crafted over 50 wallpaper designs, his iconic patterns instantly recognisable by perfectly symmetrical, elegant swirls of vines, flowers, thieving birds, rose-filled trellises and delicate leaves.
By 1884, ‘Morrisonian’ had become a known term as other creatives such as architects, painters, sculptors and designers began to take up his ideas, both in Britain and internationally.
Morris’ designs have achieved acclaim as some of the most recognisable and notable textile patterns from the 19th century and can still be found all over the world, printed for furniture upholstery, curtains and even fashion accessories. Permanent collections in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum hold a huge amount of his work – not only wallpapers and textiles but also carpets, embroideries, tapestries, tiles and book designs.
Michele Hill – keeping the “genius of William Morris alive”
Michele Hill was introduced to the wonderful world of quilting in the late 1980’s when she was looking for a diversion from motherhood and part-time nursing. She soon became an addicted quilter.
A raffle prize of airfares to Europe in 1997 resulted in a life-changing event for Michele – at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, she came across the designs of William Morris. When she returned to her home in Adelaide, she started designing her own quilts with William Morris and architecture being her greatest inspirations.
In 2009, she retired from 35 years of nursing and took up a ‘new career’ – to keep the “genius of Morris alive”.
Since then, her passion has resulted in the publishing of two William Morris Applique books; four ranges of Morris-inspired fabrics with “In the Beginning” fabrics; and seven sold out William Morris tours in the UK in collaboration with Whitecroft Tours.
In 2014, she was awarded the highest accolade an Australian quilter can receive – The Rajah Award in recognition of services to Australia through quilting. This award “acknowledges an outstanding contribution to quilting in Australia, whether it be a contribution as a quilting teacher, designer, author, historian, guild worker, retailer, etc or a combination of work in several of these areas”.
Now, Michele is a multi-award winning quilter, an author, a tutor of design and machine appliqué around Australia and in the UK, US and New Zealand.
Michele has a huge international following, both for her work and for her delightful personality, and has also led a series of very popular William Morris tours in Australia and abroad, in collaboration with Renaissance Tours. The tours are sell-outs, people travelling from far and wide, from interstate and overseas, to “experience William Morris”.
Her publications include “William Morris in Appliqué”, “More William Morris in Appliqué” “Afternoon Tea with May Morris” exploring the designs of May Morris (the eldest daughter of William Morris) and “Stitching with Beatrix Potter” which was launched in Australia and in the UK.
Michele is bringing a collection of her Morris-inspired quilts for a special showcase at the 2021 Gympie Rotary Quilt & Craft Spectacular – keeping “the genius of Morris alive”.