Date Day at the William Morris Gallery

My boyfriend, Christian, and I started a fun little tradition in January this year where we take it in turns to organise a fun mystery “date day” for each other every month. Since we started, we’ve done all kinds of crazy activities – everything from Go Ape in Battersea Park to Dim Sum Sunday lunch at Hakkasan, Room Escape in Frankfurt (thankfully it was in English!) to a historical Coffee House Tour of London, and all of them have been really good fun. Well, November’s date was down to Christian and I thought I’d share what we got up to.

One of the most exciting elements of our date days is that the day’s activities should be kept secret from the other person… oooh, mysterious! This meant that last weekend, I didn’t have a clue what we’d be doing on the day, other than that we would have to leave the flat by 10:00am. That’s quite an early start for Christian on the weekend so I had an inkling that we’d have a pretty full-on day ahead of us.

First things first, Christian knows that the way to my heart is through my stomach, so getting some good food into me is a good start to the day. With that in mind, I’m sure, we had brunch in Poco Tapas Bar in Bethnal Green. The cafe is almost too cool for school (man buns, beards and interesting attire in every direction you look) but the food was tasty and surprisingly healthy. I’d highly recommend the Moroccan Scramble if you’re ever in that neck of the woods.

A couple of Harissa Bloody Mary’s down, we made our way to the Crafty Fox Market in Bethnal Green to peruse some handmade pieces from designers all across the UK. Going into the fair, I was on the lookout for Christmas presents for friends and family, but I ended up losing focus and willpower after the first stall and only bought bits and bobs for myself – whoops! Below are a few photos from the fair, including a group shot of the pieces I ended up taking home with me.

Crafty Fox Fair

The venue was packed to the gunnels with independent designers. Not the most beautiful building I’ve ever visited but it certainly had character.

I'm a sucker for a good card and these were beautifully drawn and

I’m a sucker for a good card and these ones from Lucy Bowes Design were cute and funny. I particularly liked the cat cards.

Jess Jos Pottery

My next stop was Jess Jos Pottery where I picked up a couple of little rustic plates. I particularly liked how no two pieces were the same.

Crafty Fox Purcahses

These are the lovely pieces I bought at the Crafty Fox Fair.

As if the day wasn’t already good enough, Christian then broke the news that the day had only just begun and that we were moving onto another mystery destination… ooh la la… where could it be? We jumped on the train at Bethnal Green and headed off on our merry way. After not all that long, we ended up in our final destination… Walthamstow. My first thought, Walthamstow… where on earth is that and what could we be doing here? Well, it turns out that one of my favourite designers of all time, William Morris, was born in Walthamstow and grew up there. In fact, his former house has been turned into a Gallery for all things William Morris – definitely right up my alley. We spent quite a while at the William Morris Gallery and below are some of my highlights and musings.

William Morris Bust

The first room in the Gallery is the old drawing room where you learn about William Morris’ childhood while watched over by his rather stern looking bust.

William Morris House

One of Morris’ friends designed and built this home for him in Bexleyheath, Southeast London. I love how higgeldy piggeldy and creative it looks. William Morris famously said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. Now that’s a motto to live by if ever I heard one.

William Morris First Wallpaper

This is Morris’ first ever wallpaper design, which he made specifically to adorn his new home. It’s so lovely seeing where it all began.

William Morris Wallpaper Chairs

William Morris is mainly known for his fabric and wallpaper designs. I really loved how these wallpapers offset the chairs so well. They’re completely timeless.

William Morris Tiles

As most of you know, I love a good tile (in fact, I hoard them and have even designed rag rugs based on tiles in the past) so I couldn’t resist getting a snap of these beauties.

William Morris Fabric Swatches

As you progress through the gallery you can really see Morris gaining confidence as a designer.

Honeysuckle William Morris

One common theme throughout most of his designs is flowers and foliage.

William Morris Gallery

Until visiting the gallery, I never knew that William Morris worked a lot in restoring churches.

William Morris Fabric Design

I’m still in awe at how detailed Morris’ designs are given the techniques at the time.

William Morris Gallery Workshop

There was a section at the end of the gallery where you could learn about how Morris & Co. went about their design process and how the different crafts were done in the day. The amount of work that went into a tapestry is mind-boggling!

William Morris Gallery

I liked how this section included interactive elements. At the bottom of this picture, you can just about see a little weaving loom which kept me occupied for a while.

William Morris Gallery Education

You could even watch videos showing how the different techniques were done.

Morris & Co. Catalogue

At the very end of the exhibition, there was a small space dressed out exactly as the Morris & Co. shop would have been on Oxford Street. This is a photo of one of the original catalogues of wallpaper designs that people could choose from.

William Morris Gallery Floor

And, finally, in the cafe they had this gorgeous William Morris design floor. Sooo pretty!

Once Christian dragged me away from all the pretty fabrics, we also had a look around the Gallery’s temporary exhibition on Revolutionary Posters. They were from all over the world and had some very powerful imagery.

Revolutionary Posters William Morris Gallery

The revolutionary poster exhibition at the gallery featured posters from all countries and time periods.

So, at this stage, it already seems like we’d got up to a lot (which we had) but a hop and a skip away from the William Morris Gallery is the Ravenswood Industrial Estate where Christian took me next. It was starting to get dark but if anything that just added to the atmosphere when we stopped off at our next destination – God’s Own Junk Yard. They have a cafe inside where we warmed up with some coffees and a cheeky scone but mostly the space is just full of neon signs, neon signs and more neon signs. Extremely trippy and definitely worth a visit.

God's Own Junkyard

The entrance to God’s Own Junkyard glows brighter as you get closer.

God's Own Junkyard Signs

It’s pretty hard to tell what’s going in here but imagine the Las Vegas strip times one thousand. God’s Own Junkyard has signs hanging from every available nook and cranny.

God's Own Junkyard Cafe

This was the view from where we were sitting in the cafe area (which was still amongst the signs).

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After hanging amongst the lights until we were slightly giddy, we headed next door to Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace for a cocktail to round off the day. The thing I love about some of these slightly off the beaten track places is just how creative they are – the painted facade of the bar was so unique and striking.

Mother's Ruin Gin Palace

Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace

So, all in all, what a day! Christian really pulled out all the stops and I can’t sing the praises of a day out in Walthamstow enough. For design inspiration alone, the William Morris Gallery was worth the journey but with all the other little gems we visited, it’s a great place for a day trip too. December’s date day is down to me and I’ve got quite an act to follow… 🙂

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