"People like you and me have to work even harder to create the best art...that we possibly can. And the rest, the children, the country kitchen, the domestic bliss, we leave to others who will have different regrets." --Wendy Wasserstein, The Sisters Rosensweig
We are all living in a really tough time right now. The economy is in trouble, unemployment is rising, and more and more people are looking at ways to cut corners and live on a smaller budget. Here at The Beautiful Necessity, I've tried to create a small sanctuary of beauty, a place to pause and admire those things which are both priceless and free...great works of art...without the outside world intruding too much.
But I cannot help but think of how very applicable to our troubled times William Morris' life and philosophy truly are. The other day, while perusing a file of images I have stored on my computer to share here at the blog, I came across an image from a biography of Morris. The sketch shows a design for a small country cottage decorating scheme William Morris created. (click above to see in detail) I will quote the book the image comes from:
"Morris's second attempt to provide inexpensive ideas for furnishings came with the design of 'a model workman's small house' displayed in the newly opened
I recently watched a British show on decorating with pattern, and the host observed that the reason why the Victorians chose such large-patterned wallpapers and home textiles was because the homes themselves were larger at the time. The host went on to further say that this is why most companies now reproduce these patterns in smaller formats, for the smaller homes we live in now. And granted, in the above image, William Morris chose one of his smallest, simplest patterns for this small country home plan, but his concept of beauty being accessible to people of all classes is aptly remembered. In fact, perhaps one of the biggest tragedies of Morris' life is that even though he accomplished more than ten men could in his lifetime, he never was able to make the beautifully crafted works of art affordable for the working classes, as he desired.
“In 1876, a wealthy industrialist whose house Morris's company was redecorating asked him why he was pacing up and down and muttering to himself. Morris replied "It's only that I spend my life in ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich."
William Morris understood that sometimes the harder life is, the more important it is to have something beautiful to hold on to. I read another article online the other day that marveled at how during this time of recession and economic trouble, handicrafts are enjoying quite a revival. I believe that this is not only because people feel the practical need to create things more affordably, but also because the process of creation is soothing, and also the idea of purchasing, giving, and owning items that were created by someone else's hands creates a link between us that we need during such a difficult time. Beauty is universal.
And boy do we need beauty now.