At Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum Arts and Crafts Museum

Surprise Boxes

The Kelmscott 'Chaucer' cabinet designed by C F A Voysey, 1899Many of the ArtsĀ and Crafts designers liked this style of furniture. It is based on a Spanish vargueno, which was an elaborately decorated cabinet on an open stand.

This cabinet was made to hold one special book, which had been specially printed by William Morris's publishing company the Kelmscott Press and was called the 'Kelmscott Chaucer', although the cabinet turned out to be far too big for the book. The designer, C F A Voysey, has thought about the lettering and hinges on the front of the cabinet so look closely at the details.

ArtsĀ and Crafts designers liked to make surprises in their furniture and this is a lovely surprise box. The outside is fairly plain and boxy but when you open it up the inside is painted bright red. The cabinet is made of oak, which has become much darker in age so when it was first made the wood would have been much lighter. Think of the contrast between the light outside and the bright inside.

Could you create a surprise box? Think about what surprises people when they open boxes up, it is usually because something was unexpected!

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