Windows like blankets: CFA Voysey

This window.

A couple of weeks ago I opened a library book on CFA Voysey and saw THIS WINDOW. An immediate feeling of familiarity flooded me. This interesting, textured, window frame looks exactly like a blanket layout—all staggered and brickwork-like. I felt as though I had stumbled upon kin.

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey was a British architect and designer during the Arts & Crafts Movement. Although I can’t remember the exact trigger that sent me exploring at the library, I know it was one of his wallpaper or textile prints.

What do I love about his work? His drawings, full of motion, come alive on the page. His creatures exude personality. His pastoral colors walk me out the front door to the living world. And all this happens right in my head.

I’ve written previously about my undercurrent of obsession with design from that time period here and here and here. (I once unintentionally posted an uncredited photo of Voysey’s fabric—oops!) Other names you might recognize from Britain were William Morris, Philip Webb, C.R. Ashbee; in the U.S. there was Frank Lloyd Wright, Gustav Stickley, Greene & Greene. But there were many more! Influencers in the movement, in reaction against industrialization and the loss of human touch in the process of making things, advocated beautiful, simple design and craftmanship, generally with natural materials.

Voysey, though, was an independent thinker and something of a loner. He actually did not appreciate being connected to the movement. His background is interesting. He descended (by a couple of centuries) from Samuel and Susanna Wesley who also begat John and Charles Wesley, the brothers (and hymn-writers!) whose ideas led to what became the Methodist church. Voysey’s own dad was a reverend as well, but he broke with key standard doctrine and became an outcast in many circles. Voysey stood by his father. This apparently shaped a lot of his life.

I will leave more history either for another time or for your own research. But I’m delighted here to share some of his works that charm and inspire me.

More windows:

Magnificent homes and floor plans, in the English countryside, no less:

Wallpaper and fabric designs:

A sweet didactic puzzle-note for his grandchildren. It’s tricky, with his drawings of items we no longer use. His message, though, is appropriate for us all, whatever our age. (Translation below):

“My dear grandchildren, I hope you are busy working at something nice for someone. Service is the safest road to happiness. You will delight in realizing the pleasure you give to others. I would like to know what things you most delight in, and do something that adds to your well being.”

A sketch for an inlaid work-box. I love this! The man appears to be drawing and the woman knitting. To me, the little tree speaks of the organic nature of handwork. And when “head” and “hand” and “heart” meet—well, can we get any closer to Csikszentmihalyi’s flow?!

Finally a whimsical MAP! In watercolor! What is not to love about this?? (See full map below.)

So there you have it: Some visual goodness to wander through.

Who or what inspires you? Please share with the rest of us and leave a comment so we can keep our library cards in action this summer!

Credits:
Window photos from Arts & Crafts Houses II; C.F.A. Voysey
Wallpaper and fabric photos from C.F.A. Voysey; Design in the Age of Darwin
Map photo from Design in the Age of Darwin
Architectural drawings, letter puzzle and work-box sketch from C.F.A. Voysey

“Terra-Cotta Red”

[Please visit my Etsy shop, The Green Sheep Studio, for purchasing information.]

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In the back of my mind, I always have an idea for “the next” Arts & Crafts style-inspired blanket I want to do. Two that have come to fruition are That 70s Throw and Ginkgo Leaves. And the same influence is visible in Life is a Gift (the poppies blanket)The Spruce Tree, and even in the flowers on Night Garden.

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This blanket is a little different. Terra-Cotta Red was prompted by a photo I have of an old terra-cotta wall with a fountain set into it.  It’s from a book about Craftsman-style homes.

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The  connection here to Arts & Crafts style is less about motif and more about the materials — particularly the earthenware tiles.

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The photo — and now this blanket — mentally transports me between Italy and California and back again. The reds make me feel the absorbed heat of the tiles and the dry Mediterranean air. The greens hint at the shade of towering trees to tame the heat. The sound of trickling water sweetens the setting. I imagine a worn wooden bench nearby where I can relax with a friend over coffees and conversation.

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It’s a bit of an anachronism to have this hanging on a picket fence in the Midwest’s thin spring sunlight. But hey. We do the best we can.

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“Terra-Cotta Red” (60″ x 75″)

“Ginkgo Leaves”

I have a little obsession with design from the Arts and Crafts era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s the mix of wood, fabric and pottery, the nature themes, the importance of hearth, home, and handmade-ness that all appeal to me.

So, in making this fall blanket, I decided to use ginkgo leaves. It was the influence of Asia that brought the leaf into a little prominence during the Arts and Crafts period.

The ginkgo biloba tree (“biloba” = bi-lobed: the two halves of the leaf) has a reputation in Chinese and Japanese culture as a symbol of resilience, longevity, and hope.

My bit of internet research says that it’s one of the oldest living trees still on the earth. Apparently there are ginkgo leaf fossils over 270 million years old. Plus the sap has fire-retardant qualities that allow ginkgos to survive fires which destroy other trees.

And there it is: the resilience that leads to longevity that leads to hope.

These are great qualities!  But mostly I just like how graceful the leaf is.

And the fact that I got my daughter to model it :)

Ginkgo Leaves, 60″ wide x 84″ long

[This blanket has gone to a Craftsman home in California and is no longer available.]

Tuesday Treat

As a birthday gift to myself, I did something I often do: buy a new book.  This time, browsing for design inspiration, I ended up ordering Textiles of the Arts & Crafts Movement, by Linda Parry.   It’s interesting and beautiful.  And here’s a little tidbit worth sharing, just for the smile.  This watercolor, called “The House that Jack Built,” was designed in 1929 for a child’s nursery.  It’s charming.  But — whoa! — wait a minute!  Does anything about it grab your attention?!

The text under the photo put my mind at ease: “When Morton Sundour produced the printed fabric the rats were left out of the pattern.”  Resulting in far better nights of sleep for the babies, I’m sure.

“That 70s Throw”

The 1870s, that is. For months I have been returning to a picture of a chair designed that decade by William Morris, an originator of the Arts and Crafts design movement. (See his lovely chair here.)  I’ve fallen in love with the chair’s blues, greens, and hint of orange in the tapestry, all set off by black wood. In Morris’ chair the colors are lively yet their small print keeps them subtle. In this blanket, however, they are just plain playful.

When I told my older daughter — currently an intern at a publishing house — about my fascination with this particular Morris chair, she told me that Morris is the guy we have to thank for the refreshing concept of “white space” on the printed page.  You don’t even need to leave this blog to see his influence — just look at all that breathing room down the edges!

“That 70s Throw” (Size: 64″ x 78″)

“That 70s Throw” has already gone to a good home.