The Incredible Arts & Crafts Design of C. F. A. Voysey
One of the designers most commonly associated with the British Arts & Crafts movement is Charles Francis Annesly Voysey. Often referred to as C. F. A. Voysey, he was born in Yorkshire, England in 1857. An architect, textile designer, and furniture designer, he is one of the pioneers of industrial design and modern architecture.
C. F. A. Voysey’s Education
As a young man, Voysey was initially educated at home by his father, a priest, and then for some time at Dulwich College. After his initial education, he studied as an apprentice for five years to J. P. Seddon, an architect. This is where he learned the gothic principles of design that later heavily influenced his architectural work early on (his later works showed no trace of the gothic influence at all.) After his apprenticeship with Seddon, he worked as his chief assistant for one year, before becoming assistant to architect Henry Saxon Snell and then to artist George Devey. After all these ventures, Voysey eventually set up his own practice in London in 1882.
Voysey was a prolific designer, dabbling in everything from furniture, wallpapers, fabrics, carpets, ceramics, and even graphic design. He began designing pieces to use in his own buildings, but as his work progressed, he began to sell his designs to manufacturers. His work early on featured gothic motifs in many of his designs, a nod to his time spent with Seddon.
Textile Design of C. F. A. Voysey
Voysey is perhaps most recognized for his flat textile designs that were used on everything from carpets to wallpapers to upholstery. His work is characterized by contrasting but rhythmic shapes, contrasting but clear colors, and noticeable outlines. One can see how his work evolved over stages of his life, with his work up until 1880 involving historical motifs, and his work beyond that time involving pastel colors and natural motifs like birds and florals.
Inspirations for Voysey’s work came from textile designer William Morris, a leader of the Arts & Crafts movement, as well as from Art Nouveau concepts. He claimed that form and function were the most important part of design, with heavy emphasis on simplicity. His work did not tend to include ornamental intricacy.
During Voysey’s long career, he worked with many well known firms, including the notorious Donegal Carpets. His works, including drawings, carpets, wallpapers, and fabrics, can be viewed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2011, the C. F. A. Voysey Society was established to commemorate such a prominent figure in the world of design.