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It is argued whether William Morris should be considered an artist or a craftsman because of his focus on vessels. While the creation of vessels in the ancient world was a seen as a craft because of the mass production and use of these vessels, Bill’s vessels were not for mass production nor for consumer purposes. To say that he is a craftsman solely based on his vessels is a weak argument. He is primarily known for his large works. (Creative Nature 19:40) He is an artist because of the context of his subjects made. “It seems like every year; when Bill starts up again, he pushes that envelope a little more. And that is what made him not only the best glass technician and craftsman in the world, but really the best glass artist in the world.” (Creative Nature 1:52)
Is William Morris taking the utilitarian rule of vessels and making them more important by focusing on them? People were actually surprised with this installation. William Morris is known for his large scale pieces, put together as a large scale installation. “many people were shocked that he was working this size.” (Creative Nature 20:15) So specifically speaking of his installation Artifact Panel from 1998, yes and no. Yes he was making them more important because he was able to spend so much time on these small pieces to resemble artifacts from the ancient world. They’re “intimate pieces, they require a certain amount of time spent to just understand the nature of it.” (Creative Nature 20:25) These pieces were created to mimic ancient artifacts, not to be them. He says himself that he is “not interested in replicating anything. It’s more the impressions of things… You cannot do that literally. You do that intuitively.” (Creative Nature 22:43)
Yet, the vessels individually become lost since there are so many. The lighting create double even triple the shadows cased behind each artifact protruding from the wall, making the number of vessels look even more vast. This makes each individual artifact less important, and only so when a part of this composition. Taking the utilitarian rule of vessels and changing how they’re viewed, to me, is something only an artist can do. The strategic planning and mathematics that go into placing each individual vessel on the panel, is something that is nontraditional in the typical ancient world. He is taking the use from them away. Doing such thing gives William Morris the artist title. These vessels were not made for consumer purposes. Perhaps his mass production of these vessels and placing them to be seen all at once, is a comment on how glass making was seen in the ancient world. As a trade rather than an art form.
Resembling the nature of objects is part of what makes William Morris an artist. He does this while making a statement on something. Which is what artists do. Not craftsmen. He becomes inspired by nature, and then creates whatever comes to mind. Once he starts working deeper ideas and meanings come to him. For example, Cache from 1993. At the time he was interested in creating very large pieces of glass. But he was not liking what he was working on at the time. So combining multiple large pieces came to mind. This is where the idea of Cache came about. He threw out all previous ideas for his installation, and started working on this one. (Creative Nature 4:30) His idea grew along with a deeper meaning behind the piece. He explains that these tusk like pieces reflected on “the confiscation that happened in the 60’s and 70’s where huge amounts of ivory and artifacts would be taken and stacked in huge caches and burned. They would also burn the artifacts of the Maasai that were ceremonial objects. By doing so they were also burning huge aspects of their culture because they thought something was too valuable and they were trying to protect it. Ironically they were ending a way of life” (Creative Nature 4:42) What William was trying to accomplish with this piece was make a statement on what happened to this culture by reflecting on what happened. He did so with the tusk-like shapes, resembling the ivory. With the skulls and bone shapes inside, suggests the loss of these people and their culture because of the burnings that happened in the 60’s and 70’s. The overall texture of the pieces were smooth, however the shine of the glass was removed, and the colors were also dull. The overall concept behind the piece is more than enough to classify William Morris as an artist.
Some vessels that he made were from a series called Medicine Jars from 2007 and Fish Traps from 2007. The Medicine Jars he said were inspired by the old culture of Mexico when he went to visit. His vessels resembled the subjects that he was working with while he was there. Such as fruit. He also included “animals that were indigenous” to the area that he was in. This sparked another series called Fish Traps. To me these vessels look like they were inspired by old roman perfume bottles and shapes. The inside has painted pictures of fish, while on the outside was weaved glass made to look like a fish net. (Creative Nature part 2 5:55) Since these objects were made to feed his own satisfaction rather than collectors and critics, is what makes him an artist over a craftsman.
A craftsman is someone who succumbs to the supply and demand of a product. They create to sell to consumers. They also create without meaning, making objects with a substance with no or shallow meaning. Usually for some sort of mass production, or satisfaction of some other party. However, artists feed their own demands. They make what they want to in order to satisfy an idea or concept that other people will understand. Not to sell a product, but to sell an idea in an abstracted way. This is exactly what William Morris does for himself as an artist. “One thing that you’ll see with many glass artists is that they develop a body of work and the collectors virtually dictate that they continue to do that same work over and over. And one of the reasons that I can honestly say that could work this many years with Bill, is that from year to year the work changes. He never goes back to rediscover something. If the collectors didn’t care for it, that’s not why he’s making the art. It’s deeply a personal experience.” (Creative Nature part 2 3:46)
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