About C.F.A. Voysey
Charles Francis Annesly Voysey (1857 – 1941) was the eldest son of the Reverend Charles Voysey, a charismatic and unorthodox preacher of the Church of England. Largely educated by his father, Voysey attended college only briefly, and after 18 months, apprenticed with the London ecclesiastical architect JP Seddon. At the age of 25, Voysey set up his own practice, and within a few years was designing small to mid-sized houses for successful middle-class businessmen and their families. It was during these years, the 1890’s, that Voysey also began producing designs for wallpapers and textiles, which he sold to commercial manufacturers such as Jeffrey & Company, Turnbull & Stockdale, and Essex & Co., with whom he had a regular contract.
By the late 1890’s, Voysey’s body of work, and his reputation, had grown considerably. He was now producing houses for the upper class which were far more extensive in scope than his earlier work. The best of these were marked by an aesthetic as well as conceptual rigor. Pared down to their essential components, Voysey’s mature houses reflected his firm belief in the rightness of the Arts & Crafts principles of simplicity of design, honesty in materials, and the integration of all parts into a unified whole. No detail was too small to be unworthy of the architect’s consideration, and no aspect of the building itself, nor of its contents, was left to chance.
Like his contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright, Voysey would, if budget allowed, design every component of his commissions, from furniture and lighting to the wallpapers, textiles and carpets. Incorporating such personal motifs as hearts, stylized birds, animals and flowers, Voysey’s designs had a freshness and vitality about them that was unusual for the time. While based on close observation of the natural world, these motifs were nevertheless simplified and stylized, creating patterns as opposed to any kind of realistic scene. In an 1893 interview for The Studio, a leading architecture and design magazine, Voysey expressed his belief that three-dimensional realism was unsuitable for decoration. While much of Voysey’s work was done for specific residences, he was avidly sought out by the leading commercial manufacturers of the time for his innovative and highly-original design work.
Voysey’s approach to carpet design, for example, was typically innovative. Up to this point, rugs were conceived as a type of painting, with the entire composition designed and sized for the dimensions of the particular carpet being made. In contrast, Voysey separated the interior, or field, from the border, and treated the design of the field as essentially infinite and bounded only by the dimensions of the border. This allowed the carpets to be made in a virtually unlimited number of sizes without having to redesign the carpet for each size produced.
Beginning in 1897, Voysey was contracted by Alexander Morton & Co. to produce designs for a line of hand-knotted carpets in their newly-acquired workshops in Killibegs, County Donegal, Ireland. These rugs would prove to be extremely popular, both in Great Britain and abroad, and no less a figure than Gustav Stickley promoted and sold them in his stores, catalogs and magazine. When found today, original carpets by Voysey sell in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Below, an original period Donnemara; at bottom is GuildCraft Donnemara "Fall" shown with original William Morris fabric.
Lily & Vine
Wilton machine-made carpet made by Tomkinson & Adam for Liberty & Co. Shown at the 5th exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, 1896. Notice that the corners are not properly reconciled – the machined pattern was simply cut and beveled to form the border.
Voysey's original point
papers for “Magnolia” from the Victoria & Albert museum. No surviving carpets are known.
This photograph of CFA
Voysey's bedroom at The Orchard clearly shows the carpet we
have named “Orchard” in his honor. The whereabouts and
colour of the original carpet are unknown.
Tulip & Lily
Voysey's original point
papers for “Tulip & Lily” from the Victoria & Albert museum
in London. No extant carpets are known.
Voysey's original point papers for “Vineyard” from the Victoria & Albert museum. Again, there are no known extant carpets in this design.
The Wykehamist design was originally created as a wallpaper, and later produced as machine-made carpet by Tomkinson & Adam in 1897.