|May Morris, 1909|
From the age of just 23, May was in charge of the embroidery department at Morris & Co and I guess one could argue that she was the 'brains and talent' behind many, if not most of the embroideries released by Morris & Co from 1885 onward.
When I feel I need a bit of 'eye-candy' or ideas for a new project, I will often flick through two of my favourite books: 'Morris & Co, Designs & Patterns, Art Gallery of South Australia' and 'Morris & Co, Art Gallery of South Australia', devouring the stunning images.
You may wonder what the Art Gallery of South Australia has got to do with one of Britain's best known design companies of all times. We are fortunate that the gallery holds the largest collection of Morris & Co items outside of Britain. Why and how? It is all thanks to a ridiculously wealthy Adelaide couple, Robert and Joanna Barr Smith who were one of Morris & Co's largest international clients. They decorated several of their estates with furniture, carpets, curtains and embroideries from Morris & CO.
The women in the family were all skilled embroiderers so the collection includes numerous embroidered screens, pillows and table toppers. At least two of these embroideries were designed specifically for the family by May. One of these is a square panel named 'Adelaide' - I guess as a tribute to this important client and their home town.
I have always admired this relatively simple design of a large centre open flower with buds, surrounded by a heart-shape daisy-chain. The original design was embroidered by one of the family's daughters, Erlistourn Mitchell in c. 1890. It is stitched in two colour variations of coral and yellows onto a blue-grey fabric and set into a folded screen.
Having looked at May's 'Adelaide' I am sure you can see it was my inspiration when I stitched my silk shaded tulip. I named my tulip 'May' as a tribute to this incredibly talented embroiderer and designer who's work will continue to inspire what I do. I just hope she would have approved of my interpretation...
It is not a large piece, and once I had the shading and colours sorted I had a really nice time stitching it before popping it into a box lid.
After teaching the design in Bangkok in December I have been busy this week packing kits for the shop.
Now back to those thread cards.....
Enjoy the rest of your week.