Outside-in project at Red House
Join us to celebrate the installation of a set of vases & vessels for cut flowers at Red House. Designed and hand crafted by local ceramicist Alexei Hartley at The Exchange Erith.
Inspired by Red House
Red House was built by architect Philip Webb with and for William Morris – writer, designer, craftsman, and thinker. This ‘palace of art’ was the first and only house that Morris ever created, and in which he lived with his wife Jane and two daughters from 1860 – 1865. When Red House was built, the garden and house were conceived as one, carefully planned together. The Outside-in project aims to re-establish the link between the house and the garden by creating a series of vessels in which to display cut flowers.
A garden like no other
Notes on the planting scheme can be seen on the original architectural plans, showing us the importance of this connection for William Morris and architect Philip Webb. They wanted to ‘clothe’ the house in greenery and blur the lines between man-made and natural. Both the house and garden have undergone substantial changes since Morris and his family were in residence and as a result has lost the deep connection between outside and in.
The commissioned vessels will re-unite the gardens of Red House with the interiors of the house. A new cut flower garden was created in 2020 by the Red House garden team to grow some of Morris’ favourite flowers including sunflowers, cornflower and columbine. A team of volunteer flower arrangers will create weekly displays through the summer months to decorate the house and fill the new vessels.
Bringing the Outside-In with the Exchange Erith
The vessels have been designed in partnership with The Exchange Erith and local ceramicist Alexei Hartley. As a contemporary craft and community organisation based in a craft heritage space, The Exchange is concerned with how the principles of the Arts & Crafts movement can be applied and sustained today. The story of Red House demonstrates the spirit and ethos of the movement, and our aim through the commission is to explore themes of process and materials, access to art and heritage, and championing makers.
" Red House is a complex fusion of Morris’ romantic utopianism and Webb’s practical common sense."
Alexei’s response to the Outside-In brief was to create something that upholds the spirit of the Arts & Crafts movement, rather than its motifs. He has created a set of vessels that sit comfortably in Red House’s carefully curated spaces without replicating or posing as ‘originals.’ The vessels instead echo forms that repeat themselves in rooms of the house, but which belong to today in the design and making process.
Join us to celebrate
The vessels will be finished in late September, with the first in-situ viewing at the Outside-In celebration at Red House on Wednesday 6 October at 7pm. If you would like to join us for the celebration, ask some questions of Alexei, The Exchange Erith or the Red House team, and a get a first look at the finished vessels, you can book your tickets below.
The Exchange is a community-owned organisation that uses the heritage of Erith’s Old Library - as a space that was designed and built by local people - to inspire new community-led programmes and activities. This includes craft production workshops, markets and events, concerts and performances, history tours and trails, and conversations about what we would like Erith to be.
Alexei has a love of making things; he makes pots, sketches, whittles wooden spoons and has recently learnt to sew. For the last five years he has focused on making functional wheel-thrown pottery, and has been supporting the ceramics workshop at The Exchange through teaching, research and advice. The vessels he has created reflect a fusion where natural form meets architectural precision.