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W.W.W.M.D.?

(What Would William Morris Do?)

03/03/2016 By Kadie Yale

It’s crazy to imagine what William Morris would think of the year 2016. Of course he’d never give the Lesser Arts speech via a series of Tweets, but inevitably it would end up plastered across social media anyway (and probably donning a clickbait header like “We all know William Morris isn’t a fan of technology, but you’ll never guess what he’s said now!”). And no matter how much he protested, eventually he’d have to come around to the idea that having a cell phone is just necessary (albeit, he’d probably forget to charge the thing and his voicemail box would always be full).

But I think he’d find one aspect of today’s design to be a relief: “…The pleasure of working soundly and without haste at making goods that we could be proud of?… Such a pleasure as, I think, the world has none like it.” The sentiment still rings true, perhaps even more so than we’ve seen in previous decades. It seems as if the more connected and fast-paced we become, the more we yearn for reminders of what it means to craft, make, and be inspired. We’re seeing community gardens pop up in abandoned urban lots, and sites like Etsy become hugely successful. There’s just something about a product that has been made by hand that we still find desirable.

Perhaps it’s as Lori Weitzner said during her profile interview (page 52): “The soul of [the] artisan is in the product, and people love that.” Perhaps part of the allure of Maya Romanoff (Product Dressing Room, page 42) is that each piece of covering holds a bit of the artists’ painstaking placement of every glass orb or splash of paint while Top 40 radio fills the room. Perhaps each hand-knotted rug by Malene B (Product Evolution, page 48) embodies her beaming smile you see to the left, and the pride in her voice as she pulled out samples to show me in her beautiful New York home.

I believe William Morris can rest easy, even in our world of Apple Watches, Google Glass, and self-driving cars—because we continue to desire the handmade, and I just don’t see that going away any time soon.