The company's respect for traditional exile arts and hand-crafting and medieval-inspired aesthetic had a great influence on house and church decorations during the early 20th century. While historians estimate that its most significant period was between the 1880s and 1890s when the Arts and Crafts Movement was flourishing, Morris & Co., continued operating until 1940. It continued to operate for a short period during World War I before its eventual closure. While the firm may have gone under, its designs are still available even today. They are sold under licenses that were awarded to Sanderson and Sons. This is a company that operates as part of the Walker Greenbank fabrics and wallpaper business. It is the same business that owns and operates the Liberty of London as well as the Morris & Co., brand.
The company Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., was created as a joint venture between Morris, Phillip Webb, P.P. Marshall, Ford Madox Brown, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Charles Faulkner and Edward Burne-Jones in 1861. The founders described themselves as fine art workmen in metals, painting, furniture, and carving. By forming the company, the founders wanted to deal with the creation and eventual sale of handcrafted goods for homes and churches inspired by medieval times. Its prospectus noted that the company would be involved in carpets, carving, printed fabrics (chintzes), stained glass, paper-hangings, and metal-work.
The company was able to showcase its work at the International Exhibition held in 1862. Its work attracted a lot of attention from the exhibition attendees. Within a few years, its work had started to flourish with many of its designs being showcased in homes across the country. In 1864, during the Autumn season, Morris was afflicted by a serious disease. It was a disease that required him to choose between giving up his work in London or his home located at Red House, Kent. He made the decision to give up his house, but with a lot of reluctance, choosing to instead establish himself in the same place where his workshop was located.
This meant moving spaces to a larger building located in Queen Square in the Bloomsbury region. Church decorations had formed an important part of the business since its inception. The Church of England had chosen to undertake an extensive remodeling and church building exercise during the 1840s and 1850s. It is a project that led to an enhanced demand for all types of ecclesiastical decorations, particularly stained glasses. However, this market did not last for long and soon began to shrank when the great depression of the 1860s came about. In order to survive, the business resorted to producing nonspiritual commissions.
This product line, which formed the non-ecclesiastical side of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., was expanded to include mural decorations, painted windows, tapestries, furniture, silk damasks, glass and metal wares, knotted and woven carpets, paper and cloth-wall hangings, jewellery, and embroidery. Morris had started to produce repeating wallpaper patterns by as early as 1862. A few years later, he was able to design the very first pattern he used in printing fabrics. As was the case with all the other areas that had captured his interest, he opted to work with hand woodblock printing, a very ancient printing technique. He chose this technique over roller printing, a newer technique that was now mainly being used in industrial settings.
Expansion and Reorganization
Morris got into a dispute with his co-founders in August 1874. The dispute mainly involved the co-founder's shares returns as Morris was determined to proceed with a restructuring of the company's partnership agreement. This led to the dissolution and eventual reorganization of the company. It was reorganized to become Morris & Co., where Morris was the sole owner. This occurred on 31st March 1875. After the reorganization, Morris went on to take up the art of dying as an attachment of the manufacturing arm of his business. Much of his time was spent at Thomas Wardle dye works located in Staffordshire trying to master this art. Morris also spent a considerable amount of time trying out different experiments using a combination of new and old techniques. His experiments led to the reinstatement of indigo dyeing as well as the use of vegetable dyes.