7 Hammersmith Terrace

Hammersmith Terrace is a pretty, quiet street of handsome Georgian properties. It’s so pretty and so quiet, you’d imagine that behind each and every glossy front door there was an oligarch not living there. Not so for number seven – or at least the last occupier was no oligarch, and won’t be returning, even for the occasional weekend.

IMG_1089With this in mind, it’s odd how, when stepping inside the house, it seems particularly lived in, to the point of feeling as though you’re intruding into someone’s private home. The decor is harmonious but not obsessively matchy-matchy, it’s clean and tidy but trinkets and everyday objects lie on tables and mantlepieces, and on the walls, photos and pictures seem like old neighbours, leaning against their frames as they exchange gossip.

As you might have guessed, Seven Hammersmith Terrace is a museum, albeit an unusual, little-known one. Formerly owned by Emery Walker (1851 – 1933), printmaker and friend of William Morris (1834 – 1896), its Arts & Crafts decor and contents were passed down to and preserved first by Walker’s daughter, Dorothy (1878 – 1933), then her friend Elizabeth de Haas (? – 1999), and finally the Emery Walker Trust, set up in 1999.

IMG_1092In this museum, there are no teasels on chairs, and the only labels were written by the owners themselves, shrewdly aware of the future importance of the objects.

Many are of little value and seem insignificant until combined with other objects or documents – such as the mended jug bought by Walker on holiday in Rome, and the photo capturing him in the act.

Some introduced me to a side of the Arts & Crafts movement I’d never known before – for example, the patterned lino flooring in the front hallway printed by Morris & Co. Initially called ‘Kampticon’, lino was first manufactured in 1864 (not the 1940s as I’d assumed), eleven years before Morris designed his flooring. Despite his tendency towards the archaic and traditional, it shows that Morris was clearly interested in new materials too.

IMG_1098Others are even more precious and unique, such as the sturdy seventeenth century chair used by William Morris in his study down the road at Kelmscott House and passed on to Walker when he died, and the wool and camel hair bedspread embroidered by May Morris (1862 – 1938, William’s daughter) for Emery’s frail wife Mary Grace. On Mary Grace’s death in 1920, it was used as a shroud to cover her coffin, then in 1933 it was used to cover Emery’s. Thirty years after that, it was used for Dorothy’s, then 36 years on for Elizabeth de Haas in 1999.

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In the life of this one object, much of the history of the house and its owners is encompassed. If it hadn’t been saved from the flames of the crematorium in time, an important Arts & Crafts object and piece of history would be lost forever. If separated from the house and the rest of its contents, the full value and meaning of both would be lost. The same goes for the entire house and its contents, described by John Betjeman as “a kingdom that can never be created again”. I highly recommend visiting at least once.

7 Hammersmith Terrace is viewable by appointment only, Saturdays (and some Sundays) from April to October. Bookings can be made via their website, £10 full price and some concessions available.

For a better look at Morris’s lino, there’s a piece on the V&A’s collections website here.

Photos with kind permission from the Emery Walker Trust.

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More lino cuts at the William Morris Society

On Wednesday I got round to the exciting activity of testing out the lino cuts Alice and I made last week for the William Morris Society. I keenly/ naively decided to test them out on my nice Belarusian linen, with which I’ve been learning quite a few things about fabric printing lately, and the extra challenges it throws in.

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Ink

I used pots of Dylon fabric here, because I happened to have some different colours at home. Permaset printing ink gives a clearer, easier print, I think because the consistency is thicker, but since I only have black – not very common in Morris’s designs – I opted for the Dylon today.

 

Roller

It took me a long time to realise that a hard roller is the wrong tool for the job when it comes to printing on fabric. A foam roller is best  – art shops supply dinky versions of the DIY ones.

 

Technique

Put a blob of ink on a flat tray, then lightly spread it out using the roller, lifting the roller up a few times to make sure it has a layer of ink all over. Then, and this is crucial, roll it very lightly over the surface of the print, trying to cover the surface evenly and avoiding the background. If you press the roller into the print, as you would with a hard roller, then the ink will just get pushed into the lines and negative space of the design, accumulating and causing a ‘bleeding’ effect. And swearing. Press the lino quite hard onto the fabric for about 30 seconds or so.

 

Re cutting

As you can see from the test strip, a lot of ink was picked up by incidental cutting lines in the background. I really liked the ‘radiating’ effect this gave, but, for our purposes, they had to go. So, I used the initial test print as a guide to tidying up the lino cuts.

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Admittedly, Morris probably would have thought these initial attempts pretty shoddy – the prints are inconsistent and have a few background marks. But then, I quite like the telltale signs that tell you something’s handmade.

IMG_1320By the way, I’ve written this post from Kiev, where I’m on a three-day holiday before I’m off to Donetsk. Pictures to follow!

Lino cuts at the William Morris Society

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.

IMG_1115I 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.

Detail from original design drawing ‘Bird’ by William Morris

Detail from original design drawing ‘Bird’ by William Morris

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.

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IMG_1082 Detail from original design drawing ‘Grafton’ by William Morris

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… IMG_1117…and second lino cutting sessions. IMG_1269

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Cartoon by Edward Burne-Jones, showing Morris carving a woodblock

Photos of Grafton and Bird by kind permission of the William Morris Society.

 

Lino printing adventures

Having bought some lovely white Belarusian linen in Ukraine, I’ve decided to try printing on it, this time using lino instead of potato. Here are my first, pleasing, if not entirely successful attempts. I’m using Dylon fabric paint and lino from an arts supply shop, but have a feeling one or both of them is causing the prints to come out too weak. The lino seems a little bit hard and brittle, and the paint doesn’t seem as sticky as it should be for printing.

In a recent post, I started to put my thoughts about the garment industry and its problems into words. It’s made me want to look more closely at clothing and fabric, so my first lino cut was inspired by this – literally looking closely at, or ‘zooming in’ on the fabric on which it’s printed.

My second print was borrowed from a blackwork embroidery design in Rosemary Drysdale’s The Art of Blackwork Embroidery. Blackwork is a type of embroidery used in England from the time of Henry VIII, often seen poking from collars and cuffs in Tudor portraits, as in this painting by Holbein, and sometimes for more largescale decoration, such as in this portrait of Elizabeth I. After I made the prints I came across other blackwork embroidery designs resembling fabric weave, so I’ll take the happy coincidence of the two designs being related as an encouraging sign!

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