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Women in the Arts and Crafts Movement

Friday 27, July 2018  to  Sunday 28, October 2018

In celebration of the 1918 Act which first gave some women the right to vote, we are showcasing the work of three females associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. All three had links with Gloucestershire but very different skills. The best-known, May Morris, was a designer, needlewoman and political activist. Louise Powell was a calligrapher, embroiderer and painter while Nelly Erichsen was an artist and illustrator.

The Arts and Crafts movement offered opportunities for women’s creative and paid employment outside the home. This was particularly the case for middle-class women, providing financial independence, status and fulfilling work.

Most of the work on display is from private lenders, and never been seen by the public before. We are delighted to have discovered a collection of work by Nelly Erichsen, who lived in Chipping Campden for a few years from 1908 – 1912 before moving to Tuscany. On display will be some of her book illustrations and paintings.


Louise Powell persuaded Wedgwood to set up a team of ‘handicraft paintresses’ at the Wedgwood factory from 1914, painting versions of their designs. Some of this domestic ware will be on display including coffee pots, teapots and cups and saucers.

Because women were not allowed to join at Art Workers’ Guild May Morris set up the Women’s Guild of Arts in 1907 which helped raise the professional status of female designers. The group met in her London home and made a major contribution to the 1916 Arts and Crafts Exhibition at the Royal Academy. On display will be some of her needlework, designs for books and a rare screen.

Initially many women became involved in craftwork as daughters, wives or sisters and work was often divided between a male designer and a female maker. After about 1896 the numbers of women contributing to the London shows of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society as designers increased dramatically and May Morris and Louise Powell both contributed designs and executed them. Others women including Nelly Erichsen were admitted for the first time to study at art schools including the Royal Academy.


The curator, Sarah McCormick Healy, “We wanted to celebrate the work by women in the Arts and Crafts movement this year, not only what they produced but their vision and drive which enabled other women to make a living from their work. May Morris in particular was an active member of the Socialist movement and was committed to social equality. I am delighted that we have objects on loan from private collections, as many of these will not have been on public display before”


Related events:

Sat 11 August at 11.30

One-on-One Researcher and author Sarah Harkness on Nelly Erichsen and her links with Chipping Campden


Sat 6 October at 11.30

One-on-One Barbara Alderton on the Life and Art of May Morris.


These informal events are free, however you need to pay to enter the Museum. They last about half an hour.