JoMA Contents

« 2006 Cybil Awards | Main | Mythic Art in Marble »

February 16, 2007


Oh I just heard that! sooo interesting, especially since we sell Indigo in all forms at Kremer Pigments and have all of Julie Balfours books on it...
Small world
Thanks :)

Not to be nit-picky (because I love this blog!), but indigo and woad are two different things. (

Now, off to follow all the lovely links you've provided... :-)

Actually, in Fiona MacCarthy's bio "William Morris: A Life For Our Time", the name Topsy "was the name Burne-Jones had given Morris, an in-joke referring to his mop of hair. Topsy was the little slave girl in Harriet Beecher Stowe's recently published 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'" (74).

Morris was obsessed with recreating the recipes of dyes lost decades before his experimentations, especially the color of indigo. MacCarthy writes: "Blue has a special place in Morris' colour spectrum. In his poems and in his novels it is the sign of happiness, of holidays. Blue was the colour of his working shirts" (353). When Morris was in the thick of work, his friends would refer to him as "Blue Topsy": "'Mr. Morris is in roaring health,' wrote Georgie, 'and dined here the other day with two dark blue hands bearing witness that he has plunged into work again'" (ibid.). Morris apparently did not mind being the subject of fun, joining in the joke by signing letters as "Your old Proosian Blue" (ibid.).

Hmmmm. The exhibition notes state that woad is a type of indigo, and that Topsy comes from Blue Topsy. Of course, exbhition curators are not infallible.

I've heard both versions of the Topsy explanation before....both from credible sources, so who knows? Interesting either way.

As usual, I've spent a lot of time following your links. I wondered about woad and discovered that it is a type of indigo. Makes sense.

Hi Terri! I believe that the Topsy name really came from Morris' hair. In "The Life of William Morris" (1899), the bio written just a couple of years after Morris' death by J. W. Mackail, at the request of Edward Burne-Jones (with the assistance of Georgiana Burne-Jones), Mackail quotes Canon Dixon:

"One night," he writes, "Crom Price and I went to Exeter, and found him with Burne-Jones. As soon as we entered the room, Burne-Jones exclaimed wildly, 'He's a big poet.' 'Who is?' asked we. 'Why, Topsy' - the name which he had given him." This name, given from his mass of dark, curly hair, and generally unkempt appearance, stuck to Morris among the circle of his intimate friends all of his life. It was frequently shortened to "Top." (51) Morris had the nickname long before he experimented with the indigo dye.

The comments to this entry are closed.

About this blog

  • The Journal of Mythic Arts was a pioneering online magazine dedicated to Mythic Arts: literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, and fairy tales. Published by The Endicott Studio, co-edited by Terri Windling & Midori Snyder, JoMA ran from 1997 to 2008.

    This blog was active from 2006 - 2008, and is kept online as an archive only. Please note that no new material has been posted since 2008, and links have not been updated.

    For more recent discussions of Mythic Arts, fantasy literature, and related topics, visit Terri Windling's Myth & Moor and Midori Snyder's Into the Labyrinth.

Where you'll find us now

  • Visit The Endicott Studio website here, and our news blog here.

    Visit Terri Windling's Studio here.