Textile Information

Caroline Arscott

What type of textile is this?
Indigo-discharge printed cotton
Was it produced for a specific use?
Furnishing fabric
What material(s) is it comprised of?
Woven cotton dyed with indigo and block-printed with bleach (in the blue colorway)
What are its dimensions?
64 x 92 cm
What year (or date range) was it made?
This pattern was first printed at Merton Abbey Works in 1882. This sample was printed between 1882 and 1904. Date of accession to the V&A 1919 (V&A inventory number written onto the paper label). The source of this sample was the gift of items from Morris & Co. Items were given by Morris & Co. in 1912 and 1919.
Where was it made (geographical location)?
Morris & Co., Merton Abbey Works, south-west London, not far from Wimbledon.
Was the textile handmade or mass-produced?
The undyed woven cotton was machine produced. As far as I know Morris & Co.’s supplier for the cotton fabric has not been identified. The printing techniques employed by Morris & Co. depended on hand-work. William Morris was responsible for the design, with possible collaboration from Philip Webb for the drawing of rabbits and birds. The printing blocks, made of pear wood, were hand-cut for Morris, off-site, by Alfred Barrett and his associates at Bethnal Green, London. Different operatives played lead roles in the various stages of manufacture: dyeing, printing, soaping, washing, drying etc.; for instance, initial printing of Brother Rabbit was undertaken by the Morris & Co. printer William Hillier. (Linda Parry, William Morris Textiles, London: V&A Publishing, 2013, 42–64; 228–9. See also previous edition London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983, 43–54; 154; 175. Parry’s publication is the most complete guide to Morris & Co. textiles and I am indebted to her book for most of the information in this entry.)
Can the textile be attributed to a specific designer, craftsperson or artist or a company that produced the item?
Within the company Morris & Co., production was undertaken by a team. William Morris had prime responsibility for the design and for the techniques employed. He supervised textile production personally until 1885 when Henry Dearle took over supervision within the workshops.
How did you come to own this particular textile?
This sample is held by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
How would you describe the status of this textile in your lived environment (i.e. do you wear it, store it, display it, use it, etc.)?
I study it and write about it.
Do you recall what drew you to this textile initially?
I was drawn to it by the political connotations of the theme of brotherhood in the design and the technical achievement in the printing. The Brother Rabbit design is sometimes known as Brer Rabbit and has distinct allusions to the Brer Rabbit stories popularized in the nineteenth century by the American writer Joel Chandler Harris.
What further information (if any) would you feel important to add about this textile, either in relation to your interview or more generally?