Morris was a collector of historical carpets from the East and his appreciation for the fine craft inspired him to hang an enormous Persian rug like a canopy across the ceiling of his dining room at Kelmscott House. From the mid 1870’s onwards, in an attempt to revive the art in Britain, Morris designed his own machine-made and hand-knotted carpets. Although Morris felt that hand-knotting carpets produced a work of art, he acknowledged that hard-wearing and functional floor coverings were needed, this led him to pioneer a range of machine-woven carpets. Morris experimented with hand-knotting on his looms in the Coach House of Kelmscott House, often working on the loom himself, in the 1870s when he was already working on printed and woven textiles. The carpet looms were moved in 1881 from Kelmscott House to Merton Abbey, which was more spacious.
The William Morris Society have in their collection a fantastic example of an early Hammersmith rug c.1879, height 113.5cm, width 163cm (see image above). The rug depicts an early Hammersmith mark in which stylised waves (symbolising the Thames) are added to a hammer motif with the letter ‘M’ to indicate that it was produced at Kelmscott House. This rug would have been hand-knotted in the Coach House of Kelmscott House.
By Katy Markham
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