williammorris (ThoughtStorms)

Part of short collection of pages on my ArtisticInfluences adapted from a short article I wrote at GoldSmiths for my MA

To turn from JohnRuskin to Morris is obvious.

As with Ruskin, I am surprised how contemporary he appears. Accounts of the beginnings of Morris and friends' design company echo my experiences in startups of the internet era. And even photographs of the Pre-Raphaelites seem less “stiff” than typical Victorian portraiture1.

Morris appeals as entrepreneur and institutional innovator[1], as pragmatist in questions of architecture and automation[2], and as passionate revolutionary Socialist.

He also illustrates the great challenge of a craft-oriented politics - despite utopian and egalitarian ideals, his production was only available to the wealthy - appealing to and reinforcing their tastes. This problem continues to afflict idealist companies and social enterprises today that seek to balance better work with commercial success. And Morris's own proposed solution - a socialist revolution - seems implausible in the 21st century.

[1] In this he is arguably a precursor to another of my heroes : StewartBrand, who Fred Turner calls a “Comprehensive Designer” borrowing the terminology of BuckminsterFuller.

[2] Morris was not as Luddite as many of his followers. In “Art and its Producers”, 1881, he writes “I do not [believe] we should aim at abolishing all machinery; I would do some things with machinery which are now done by hand, and other things by hand which are now done by machinery; in short, we would be the masters of our machines and not their slaves, as we are now.”