In Conversation With Charlotte Gibson, Lead Designer at Sanderson Design Group

In Conversation With Charlotte Gibson, Lead Designer at Sanderson Design Group

We speak to Charlotte Gibson, Lead Designer at Sanderson Design Group, on what it means to be working with some of the most iconic designs by William Morris.

charlotte gibson sanderson and co william morris morris and co ettinger collection

Charlotte Gibson, Lead Designer for Sanderson Design Group

“The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make.” William Morris

It is rare, as a heritage brand that takes enormous pride in our craftsmanship, to find another company that truly shares our values. In Morris & Co., we have done just that, and the new collection of accessories incorporating two of the most iconic Arts & Crafts designs by William Morris - Marigold and Blackthorn – is the result of our first collaboration. Like Ettinger, Morris & Co. is committed to advancing its craft, meeting technical challenges with uncompromising integrity, building on history with inventive re-imaginations of iconic designs, while always upholding impeccable standards of workmanship.

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Marigold (left), Blackthorn (right)

While most people recognise the timeless patterns of William Morris’s wallpaper and textiles - and perhaps the wonderful wisdom that one should 'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be beautiful or believe to be useful' – the man and by extension Morris & Co. played a pivotal role in the history of design. Sanderson Design Group has been the owner of the original Morris & Co’s archive and company, preserving the legacy of William Morris, and to this day they curate beautifully crafted fabrics and wallpapers inspired by the originals.

william morris portrait 1884

Portrait of William Morris, 1884

We speak to Charlotte Gibson, Lead Designer for Sanderson Design Group.

When did Sanderson acquire the Morris & Co. archives?

CG: Way back, during the 1940s. As part of the takeover, which allowed Morris & Co. designs to continue production under its own name, we also acquired original copies of nearly all William Morris patterns as well as the wooden printing blocks used to create them. Alive and well, these blocks are now safely kept in our UK factories. So much of our story is about preserving our heritage for use by future craftspeople.

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Images by Sanderson Design Group 

Why do you think the Arts & Crafts look has become so popular in recent years?

CG: Minimalism is out, and Maximalism is back! People are looking to enrich their homes with heritage pattern in a way we haven’t seen for quite a while. Naturally, they’re reaching for pattern that has existed for over 160 years.

I think there’s a craft story here, too. In an age of flat-pack quick fixes, people are deriving comfort from knowing their furnishings are produced slowly, carefully and traditionally. And most of all, by a brand that holds skilful manufacture at a premium.

sanderson and co william morris print display harrods

Morris & Co. store display at Harrods, London (Image by Sanderson Design Group)

What sort of updates have been made to the original designs and why?

CG: Morris & Co. is a living, evolving brand. Like everything else that grows, it moves with changing times. We make considered adaptations of timeless designs in order to reach new audiences, spreading Morris & Co.’s message of lovingly crafted products for the home far and wide.

In what ways are the designs made to complement each other in matching collections?

CG: In a collection, we often think in terms of colour groups and complementing patterns. It's also all about the prints, playing with scale and only developing the very best quality for the setting. William Morris detested blandness, preferring instead to marry patterned repeats with rich tones to fill a room with drama, excitement and comfort. This is something we very much carry forward into our work, testing plains and neutrals against statement patterns.

sanderson morris and co print design william morris ettinger

Image by Sanderson Design Group

What is it about these designs that makes them fit with both historical and contemporary settings?

CG: For Morris & Co., there’s a rich historical tapestry to draw from, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see people engage with our story. I think people love feeling the history within the walls of their homes, no matter the overall style.

Some of our fabric and wallpaper designs date back to 1864, and yet, there’s an almost universal appeal to them. They speak to the drama of nature, the joy of a heady, compelling pattern. We think this lends them an enduringly timeless quality that seamlessly fits within settings of any persuasion, historical or contemporary.

What makes Morris & Co. and Ettinger such a good fit?

CG: It is such a pleasure to find in Ettinger a brand which holds deeply the same values as Morris & Co. As with Morris & Co.’s fabric and wallpaper, Ettinger is one of the few British luxury brands still manufacturing in the UK. The resulting care for craftsmanship and technical innovation mirrors our own, lending to this leather collection a vibrant authenticity and structural quality.

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Pictured: Morris & Co. X Ettinger Small Zipper Purse

William Morris was an early environmentalist, among other things. Are there ways in which Morris & Co continues the legacy of William Morris’s ideals?

CG: Absolutely! The broader family of brands of which Morris & Co. is a member has committed to producing net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Beyond this flagship commitment, we’re working all the time to leverage sustainability wherever possible. That might be through reducing the VOC content in our paint, using recyclable packaging, or emphasising the natural elements in our designs. For us, it’s also about protecting the heritage of Morris & Co. That includes ensuring we retain William Morris’s high regard for craft traditions and using only the very best quality materials.

Morris & Co. store display at Harrods, London

Morris & Co. store display at Harrods, London (Image by Sanderson Design Group)

What is your favourite accessory from the collection and why?

CG: My favourite piece from the collaboration collection is the travel pouch in the Madeira blue leather and Marigold lining. This colour is classic for Morris & Co. but still has that contemporary feel and Marigold in Indigo is one of my favourite prints from Morris & Co. It’s a great size to use on its own as a handheld accessory or to put inside larger bags as luxury storage.

morris and co ettinger collection william morris marigold leather goods jewellery box travel pouch bookmark portfolio case


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