"Mythic Master" - published in The World & I (March 2002), written by the editor

Since he began his renowned glasswork career in 1979, William Morris has increasingly delved into mythological expressions of man's behavior and role in contemporary society. Of special interest to the artist has been our connectedness to a long and complex cultural evolution, which has been impossible for us to grasp save for a dim historic memory.

By creating fantastic artifacts that could belong to any era, but seemingly to none, Morris challenges our sensibilities and assumptions about our origins. In these compelling works, he confronts us with evocative universal symbols in magnificent blown glass. They are as intriguing to the cultural anthropologist as they are to the serious collector.

His new series "Man Adorned" is no exception. "The subject matter of my work comes from a deeper human unconsciousness, although no one sees it. It is from a timeless historical place," says Morris, who adds that he has "dreams about the things I create. It is all in the collective conscience of man. I am coming up with old metaphors that go way back.

"Man's origins in nature are expressed through our physical structure. Adornment illuminates ourselves to one another and enhances our distinctions," notes the Washington State-based artist, who explains that he "starts and stops my work by my seasons.

"I blow glass seven months a year, a process which sets me up physically to do my work. My mind is always filled with things to create," he says, adding that, "An idea is just the nucleus of the creative process.

"Any conscious idea is secondary to deeper inspirations. Ideas are pointers or signposts to a deeper understanding of things," Morris reveals.

Writing in the series-accompanying volume William Morris: Man Adorned (Marquand Books, 2001), University of California Press editor Blake Edgar concurs. "'Man Adorned' marks a natural, logical step in Morris's artistic evolution. He continues his exploration of the themes of origin and myth that permeate all his work," Edgar notes.

"He has always interpreted episodes of the human saga, and each of these new figures stands as if ready to share his or her story - part of our collective story," he finds. "Morris presents us with a multicultural mirror to probe our curiosity and expose our prejudices as we ponder who we are and where we are from."

In the same volume, Portland Art Museum curator Bruce Guenther suggests that the artist's new body of work shows that his ability to "mix disparate elements and sources, both temporal and mythic, in his exquisite glass sculptures has now imagined the heroics of another age as talismanic figures across world culture.

"Through these provocative objects, Morris once again awakens in our collective unconscious a welter of associations that suggest both forgotten mystic rituals and the immediacy of the street culture of the new megalopolis," Guenther concludes. The depth of Morris's subject matter has attracted believers. "There are all kinds of people who are deeply moved by my work, including those who want a well-rounded contemporary glass collection," notes Morris, who at age 19 began work at Dale Chihuly's famed Pilchuk glass studio in Washington State. "I have had an awareness that came to me that my faith would bring things through my effort."

Indeed it has, but Morris is somehow able to "block out any recognition" that he has achieved in his stellar career. "To me, it is illusionism, just a period in my life which will fade away," he insists. "I try not to buy into it. But it is a struggle dealing with the overwhelming demands for my work," says Morris, who breaks routine by motorcycling, mountain climbing, and scuba diving in shark-infested waters.

As for what the accomplished artist would tell budding glassworkers, "I would tell them, by all means, follow your passion about your work and try to develop faith in your process," he exclaims, concluding: "Above all, keep your goals modest and realistic."

 

ANNOUNCES HIS RETIREMENT As published in "American Craft" magazine (June/July 2007)

William Morris sent an upbeat, gracious letter to his various dealers this spring, announcing his retirement. This was startling news for the glass world, coming as it did from a critically acclaimed sculptor at the peak of his career. What's more, he'd gotten famous so young, in his 20s, that the thought of a wunderkind retiring, even one who had outgrown the label, seemed incongruous. Was anything wrong? Not at all, according to Morris, who turns 50 on July 25: he simply finds himself in the happy position of being ready and able to change direction, having blown glass full time for 30 years. "It's something I've been thinking about for a long time," he said, reached at his home in Hawaii (he also has cabins in Washington State, near his son, a violinist, and daughter, a dancer.) "It didn't happen through any trauma, or injury, or depression, or anything. I didn't want to have a reason. That was the reason." After decades of 'Type A' work and lifestyle, he's enjoying "being away from the structure and discipline of making work, running a shop, being 'on.' Right now I have no plan, and it feels pretty good. I've got to figure out a new way to live - and what fun that'll be." He's been surfing, diving, paddling and paragliding; he's carved wood for fun, and images he'll always make things, just not for sale. Success was "absolutely amazing, a complete blessing. It's a strange thing to walk away from, I'll tell you," said Morris. He was a 'dumpster-diving' art student when he took a job driving a truck at the Pilchuck Glass School in 1977; soon he was working as chief gaffer for its founder, Dale Chihuly (who became a mentor and close friend), and from then on Pilchuck was his creative base. His advice to young artists? "If you love it, let it drive and direct you. And be disciplined about it. Show up." Parting words? Just that he's "tremendously grateful" to the art world in general and glass community in particular for their support over the years: "It has given me a confidence and freedom that's unbelievable."
 
 

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