Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Week in Morris

~ The William Morris Gallery has a LOT going on. Check out their activities right here.

~ Liberty and Co. have partnered with Nike to produce some very attractive athletic shoes and clothing, featuring Liberty prints, including William Morris's Willow pattern. Gorgeous!

~ Here's a feature on the University of Delaware's Special Collections site, about Edward Burne-Jones' stunning Flower Book. Their copy is a loan from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection.
~ We started following the Ruskin Literary and Debating Society! They're welcoming Lucinda Hawksley on May 12 at 7 p.m. to talk on Ruskin, Dickens and the Pre-Raphaelites... In CASE you're in the area!

~ Red House was recently presented with the original building contract for Red House, and they tweeted some great pictures here. (Click on each of the four images to see them expand).

~ And the Association of Art Historians held their 40th Anniversary Conference and Book Fair. From all the tweets, it sounded like a very stimulating time!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Week in Morris

As we in Canada limp towards spring, it's been mouth-watering to see wonderful pictures tweeted by Red House and Kelmscott Manor of all the lovely blossoms and greenery they have been enjoying. We'll catch up soon! In the meantime, here's what's been happening online:

~ This week the ROM's symposium for their "Around 1914: Design in a New Age" exhibit takes place. Are you going? Wish I was!

~ On the night of the 1861 census, here's the list of people residing at Red House, including house guest Algernon Swinburne. Check out how young they all were!

~ The new show by WMSC member Elaine Waisglass opened at the Roberts Gallery and runs til April 25. Click here for an article in the Toronto Star about Elaine's inspirations.

~ More here on University of College London's Publishing Project, in which students work "with the William Morris Society. Together they will produce a physical publication that highlights some aspects of the Society’s collections and history – focussing in particular on Morris’s belief in books as objects of beauty.  Students will receive training in key production skills by staff at UCL, and in object handling, selecting and curating content, with support and expertise from the staff at the Society.  It is hoped that this partnership will result in a product for the Society’s use and dissemination, as well as giving the students an amazing opportunity to engage with one of the most important aesthetic movements of book production there has ever been – the works of Morris and the Kelmscott Press."

~ @nouveaudigital suggests helping to spread the word on your favourite museums or galleries that feature Pre-Raphaelite works by placing a review on Trip Advisor. Check one out here!

~ Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery is featuring the OTHER Pre-Raphaelite stunners, in an exhibition on how the Pre-Raphaelites treated the male form.

~ You can explore Ruskin's drawing techniques as the Watts Gallery is hosting a Ruskin Techniques Workshop on April 26.

That's it for now! Feel free to send in news and other items of interest by e-mailing us.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Two Weeks in Morris

So what's been flying around the Twitterverse the last two weeks?

It was very busy last week, with museums celebrating Museum Week and featuring a different angle each day. There was lots of interesting news to read, including the following:

 ~ Kelmscott Manor tweeted that Jan Marsh's 2012 lecture on May Morris for the Society of Antiquaries is up on YouTube! Another Society of Antiquaries video is Nigel Bamforth talking about the Morris bed at Kelmscott.

~ Our friends at Red House featured last week's WMSC Symposium cake on their Facebook page and it was viewed by 26,000 people at last count. Amazing! Many thanks to them for the feature. On this website, our post on all our previous cakes got over 500 views.

~ WMSC members may remember the 2008 trip to Chicago and Wisconsin and the visit to the SC Johnson factory in Racine. The tower there was closed to the public and now it's opening for tours for the first time.

~ William Morris's birthday was marked by many comments on Twitter on his remarkble legacy. We tweeted thusly: Happy 180th Birthday to #WilliamMorris... Great thinker and doer, whose vigorous and passionate ideals resonate timelessly. David Leopold wrote a delightful post on the Oxford University Press blog about how Morris may have celebrated his birthdays.

~ WMSC member Elaine Waisglass generously donated one of her stunning photographs to OCAD's Project 31 Auction, in support of students. Elaine's own show at the Roberts Gallery runs April 5 to 25.

~ Let the sighing commence: Delaware Art Museum has got their Pre-Raphaelite collection online for you to peruse. WMSC has taken some trips there in the past - always such a pleasure.

~ Kelmscott Manor is on the shortlist of five museums vying for Most Inspiring Museum or Heritage Visitor Attraction over the last year. This is run by the Guardian and Museum & Heritage Awards. You can vote here for your choice, up until April 11.

~ The William Morris Gallery's occasional Long Table took place last week. The description of the planned dessert was mouth-watering: Rhubarb, Pecan & Buttermilk Pudding with Clotted Cream & Granola Crumble. The next Long Table is June 12... in case you're in London. Book ahead!

~ Tony Pinkney created a "tokens and passwords" quiz on his blog, for those of you keen to test your knowledge on Morris's romances and tales. Let us know how you fared!

The WMSC board met and there will be great future events announced shortly. Keep up to date by following us here, and if you're on Twitter, please follow us at @wmsc_ca.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

It's Over, and the Inspiration Lingers

Another great William Morris Birthday Symposium has come and gone. On Saturday, March 22, sixty members came out to University College on the University of Toronto campus and enjoyed an excellently programmed event, all in honour of the man himself, William Morris, on his 180th birthday. Five lecturers - Florence Boos, Veronica Alfano, Letitia Henville, Victor Shea and Christine Bolus-Reichert - made us think, wonder and question. Bill Whitla provided an illustrated treat (regarding The Water of the Wondrous Isles). Congratulations to the WMSC board and the program committee for all their hard work.

And... in exciting news, just before the afternoon session began, members heard from David Lillico on the initial plans for our trip to California next year. I don't think some of us can bear to wait, but we'll have to! The dates are roughly mid-April to early May, 2015. A reminder that WMSC members will get priority to sign up (click on "Become a Member" if you'd like to join us). WMSC trips (which have included Iceland, Britain, France and the U.S.) are always excellent, and always fill up quickly.

And... of course, to end the day in tribute to Morris, Florence Boos gave a lovely toast and cut the cake. This year's offering was based on Strawberry Thief, and the flavour was chocolate. Thanks to member Lera Kotsyuba for tweeting pics of the cake!

For those of you interested in the cake-making process, visit this blog to read about how the cake was made.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Week in Morris (and More)

It's been a really busy week here at the William Morris Society of Canada. The board is hard at work pulling together the final details for our symposium, and planning future events. Meanwhile, news from across the city and around the world:

~ It's still so very bitterly cold here in Toronto, but this is a warming thought: the Long Table at the William Morris Gallery is a regular happening, which the gallery describes as:

"An alternative dining experience that brings William Morris' ideas of fellowship to life. Enjoy great British food, carefully selected craft beers and excellent company in a communal atmosphere. Say hello, find common ground and tuck in."

~ There's lots of excitement around the excellent John Ruskin exhibit at the National Gallery in Ottawa. Thanks for the heads up, WMSC member Lera Kotsyuba. Who's going?

~ Toronto is busting with great art shows to explore. Here are some.

~ In 1859, the Hogarth Club boasted some intriguing members!

~ One of our favourite bloggers, Kirsty Stonell Walker is giving a talk on Alexa Wilding in May in Bournemouth, in case you're in the area.

~ @WMorrisArtistry is digitizing the Kelmscott Press archives for a forthcoming book!

~ If you feel like adding something very special to your home, check out Project31, an auction of faculty art in support of OCAD students.

~ If you're in Connecticut, the Connecticut Repertory Theater is premiering a puppet stage version of Christina Rossetti's sensual and eerie poem Goblin Market. you can read more here.

~ The quote of the day has to be this one, by Morris: "Last night I dreamed I had to draw a sausage; somehow I had to eat it first, which made me anxious about my digestion."

~ And, from Ayla Lepine (teaches art history at U of Nottingham) of @heartchitecture, here's a Sunday smile: "art historians curating loo graffiti"

We hope to see you at next week's symposium, Saturday, March 22!

Friday, 14 March 2014

WMSC Likes its Cake

If the great line up of speakers and topics wasn't enough to get you excited about attending this year's symposium, here's another reason: cake.

Each March the WMSC holds a lecture or symposium to coincide with William Morris's birthday (March 24, 1834), and it always concludes with a birthday toast, including cake. Since 2002, three members, Laura Bright, Gianna Wichelow and James Bailey have created eleven of those cakes.

All our cakes are made from scratch and then covered either in cooked buttercream, or fondant. Decorations are made with fondant, royal icing colour flow or chocolate. For lettering, we used the Kelmscott font produced in colour flow. Every element has to be edible!

Here they are.

Fresh from cake decorating courses, Laura and I (Gianna) bit off a big challenge with the William Morris pattern, Trellis. We were so spent after working almost all night to finish it, that once we got it in the box for transportation, we were too nervous to remove it for pictures, so there it stayed until it was safely onsite. Later James constructed a much sturdier box that we re-use each year. You can see here the delicate work that Laura did with the lovely birds of this, one of Morris's most popular patterns.


 William Morris's Daisy pattern was next. This is the only photograph we have of it. I think we were all about to go digital!


William Morris's Fruit pattern was used for this cake, and it tasted as lemony as it looked. We made a rich lemon curd which was sandwiched between each cake layer.

Edward Burne-Jones' Viking Ship stained glass was the inspiration in 2007. We practiced with different sugars and candies until we found an edible sugar glass we could paint on with coloured piping gel. Laura is an artist so it was her steady hand that painted the main image. I love how the royal icing "leading" dried with a matte finish, giving it a very realistic look.


Things got very busy for both of us and being able to make these Morris & Co. Longden tiles by  Philip Webb was useful as the sugar tiles could be made in advance but were still very edible. People often ask how we can bear to cut into our cakes. Oh, we're so ready to taste it by the time we cut in to it. We're excited to see how it tastes and share it with our fellow members and guests at the event. Sometimes there's a bit of a battle over who gets what piece of decoration. These tiles were like very thin, edible porcelain. And the longer they sat on the buttercream, the more fragile they became, so it was actually quite easy to cut through them.


Our symposium this year celebrated the art of the book... so we made an edible book! We had the least time available to do the cake, just a day, so we kept things simple, printing the page design on edible rice paper. The embossing on the fondant covering the board gave it a sort of leathery feel.


My personal favourite pattern, Willow Boughs, came to cakey life here. The colours were so soft and only one other person and I thought our willow leaves looked a little like green beans!

This was a sort of double bill, and a real labour of love. A full cake was baked and constructed and then our gingerbread Red House (gingerRED house we called it... heh heh) was built on top. Laura and James sourced the floor plans of Morris's iconic home online and then built a cardboard mock up before we even began baking the gingerbread. This was so much fun, especially making the small fondant figures of Morris and his little family (only one baby at that stage). The grass was coloured coconut flakes and the brown earth was ground-up gingerbread. Again, all edible.


The Motawi Tile Works in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a favourite destination for all of us, and many other members of the WMSC. Chocolate is another favourite, so we combined these two into our tastiest cake yet. Rich, moist devil's foodcake was sandwiched with frosting, coated with ganache and then set with chocolate tiles. All in all, 15 pounds of excellent dark chocolate were used, mostly Callebaut 72%.


It was another hectic year and we needed a change, so we decided to make cupcakes. Using the same rich cake recipe from the previous year, we created 120 chocolate cupcakes that were then coated in ganache and topped with chocolate frosting. On top of each cupcake went a carefully constructed royal icing ornament, a detail of one of three Morris patterns: Acanthus, Marigold, and Willow Boughs. Each set of cupcakes sat atop a display that James and Laura made, featuring that wallpaper pattern. They also made all the little individual cupcake boxes using the wallpaper patterns again, and these were gorgeous keepsakes in themselves. With those horizontal elements setting off the wallpaper patterns, I remember thinking the display looked a bit like Morris and Frank Lloyd Wright opened a bakery together. Or maybe I was high on chocolate fumes.


For those of you who are interested, here's a link to see the process of the Red House cake.

So what's in store for this year? Well that's still a secret until March 22. Plans are in place and work is underway. Can't wait to do a taste test as well, on the big day itself.

Watch this space! And book now for our full-day symposium. It features great speakers and topics in a delightful location, lunch and... cake!

Pictured: The edible William Morris from 2011. Just one inch tall and 100% fondant!

Meet the Speakers: Christine Bolus-Reichert

In preparation for our March 22 symposium, Morris and History: historical transformations in William Morris's poetry, prose and design, meet the last of our five speakers, Christine Bolus-Reichert.

Christine Bolus-Reichert teaches a variety of courses in nineteenth-century British literature and intellectual history. While earning her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature at Indiana University, she worked for two years as the book review editor of Victorian Studies and currently maintains her relationship with this flagship journal as reviewer and bibliographer. She cares deeply about and writes on issues of aesthetics in everyday life; her articles have appeared in Romanticism, Nineteenth Century Prose, Studies in the Novel, and ELT: English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920. Her book, The Age of Eclecticism: Literature and Culture in Britain, 1815-1885, was published in 2009 by the Ohio State University Press. She is currently writing about the relationship between romance and aestheticism in the 1890s, and the persistence of the forms of Victorian romance in the twentieth century and after.

Christine talk will end the main part of the day, and her topic is Romance and History in The Water of the Wondrous Isles.