For every exhibition the Gallery holds, we put together a range of products, gifts and books to accompany the exhibition in the Gallery Shops. The way we create these ranges varies depending on the size of the exhibition, what time of year it’s going to be on, and what sort of visitors the Gallery is expecting to attend. To give you a little insight into how our Buying and product development team works, here’s a look behind-the-scenes at how we put together the William Morris: Anarchy & Beauty range and created a ‘Morris Christmas’ for the Gallery Shops.
Nine months ago, our Buying Manager, Rachael Tate and Buyer, Ana Perez de Rada met with the exhibition catalogue’s editor, Sarah Ruddick, to go through all the images that were going to be included in the exhibition and what the themes and motifs that ran through it were. They needed to find the key images from which to draw inspiration and colour palettes : which ones would be most commercial, and which were being used on the front of the catalogue and for the exhibition posters.
Rachael and Ana also went to Walthamstow to visit the William Morris Gallery and meet with the team there to see what products worked well for them in their gift shop and what sort of visitors they had and found that homewares were, fittingly, the most popular things visitors bought.
The main Morris pattern that the team decided to match the range with was the ‘Strawberry Thief’ that can be found throughout the range – from the Christmas decorations to umbrellas, and most importantly the star piece in the range, the bespoke upholstered chair by the British heritage textile manufacturer, Sanderson. Ana and Rachael’s task was a bit more challenging as the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition was going to contain a wide range of objects that described legacy of Morris’s thinking, and less focused on the much-loved patterns that adorn the majority of Morris products.
The themes Ana and Rachael used for inspiration in the end to tie in more closely with the exhibition were the Festival of Britain and its iconic emblem designed by Abram Games and the 'Votes for Women' designs from the Suffragette movement. From these designs came whole sets of products including scarves, boxes and coasters all of which have been hugely popular with the visitors.
Altogether, the combined range of bought-in William Morris patterned homewares, Christmas decorations and the products developed exclusively for the exhibition made up over eighty different products to support the exhibition and a beautiful array in the Gallery Shops for the whole of the Christmas period!