As you can probably tell, lino printing has become a bit of an obsession lately. I’ve been making lino cuts both at home and at the William Morris Society in Hammersmith with my friend Alice, assistant curator there.
We’re making linos based on motifs in Morris designs from the Society’s collection, to use in printing workshops for school groups. Our linos are mainly based on two of Morris’s lesser-known designs, Bird from 1878, and Grafton from 1883.
I had the privilege of taking a good look (and some bad photos) of the two original designs, both housed in the Society’s collection. Bird and Grafton were both made well into Morris’s career as a wallpaper and textile designer. You can see this in his precise and confident drawing of Bird, which contrasts with the rubbings out and alterations apparent in his first wallpaper design, Trellis, of 1864, for which he employed the help of his friend Philip Webb. Bird is a symmetrical design, so Morris only needed to colour in half of it, giving us an insight into his working process and drawing style.
Grafton is an unusual Morris design, being the only one resembling a stencil design. Most of Morris’ designs are much more complex, employing interwoven elements and many more colours. His most complex wallpaper and textile designs could need over twenty woodblocks (one for each colour) to print.
Perhaps I’ll try a more ambitious two-colour (not twenty-colour) design next, but for now, we’re quite happy with the results of our first… …and second lino cutting sessions.
Photos of Grafton and Bird by kind permission of the William Morris Society.