April 22, 2024

William Morris couldn’t paint for toffee

But boy, could he design for practical application.

In his designs for stained glass he found ways to place the leads that hold it all together (shown here by heavy lines) in such a way that they enhanced the message, rather than confusing it.

Here, for example, Gabriel’s cloak is much too large to be a single piece of glass, so Morris has broken it up. He’s placed the horizontal breaks at points where the line of the body changes, so they emphasise the movement – just below the shoulders, where Gabriel’s left leg bends at the hip, where his right leg bends at the knee. Vertical breaks are ‘hidden’ in a fold of the robe, or follow its edges.

It’s all done to help tell the story, while maintaining the integrity necessary for the window to work in practice.

What I like best though, is that when Morris handed over a design to his team, he gave them the freedom to add their own work. Gabriel stands on a ‘flowery mead’ – a carpet of grasses and wildflowers. Morris has indicated where this should be, but he leaves the details of which plants to choose and where to place them to the makers.

Because: “The worker at bench or loom must put something of himself into his work, and as constantly draw upon his work for the renewal of that self.”

Morris didn’t mind teaching his team everything he knew, because he also knew that by enabling his team to work mindfully, within a framework that supported the story, they and their work would be the better for it.

Discipline makes Daring possible.

Ask me how.