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Arts and Crafts Motifs: Understanding the Poppy

Published By: Riley Beltran  -  Friday, August 28, 2015

PoppiesMotifs are a traditional part of the Arts and Crafts design style. These iconic images have many purposes in the Arts and Crafts style: they highlight the natural world, emphasize an important element of the style's philosophy, and serve as a connecting element for a design that could spread throughout the entire house.

Motifs are very important in the Arts and Crafts style, and have appeared in all incarnations of it. While you can use almost any floral or faunal element as an Arts and Crafts motif, a few have become instantly recognizable as hallmarks of the style. The poppy is one that holds high significance in the highly developed California branch of the style.

What is a Poppy?
A poppy is a flowering plant that frequently grows wild, though it is something that can definitely be cultivated. It usually features a pale-green stem and large cupped flowers with four to five petals of equal size. They can come in various colors and sizes, but the species that is most associated with the style is the California poppy, and it tends to be yellow or orange with flowers from 1"-2".

Why are Poppies Used in Arts and Crafts Design?
The poppy's origin as an Arts and Crafts motif is not fully known. Early on in the style, particularly in the United States, it quickly emerged as one of the most popular motifs. Early Arts and Crafts furnishings by Gustav Stickley, as well as contemporary wallpaper and textile designs, all frequently feature the poppy.

The poppy is prized as a motif because of its elegant, elongated shape, which lends itself to the simplified design work that is typical of the Arts and Crafts style, and because of its symbolism. It is seen by many as one of the greatest examples of the entire design style itself due to its slender stem, mix of earthen and jewel tones, and its practicality as both a wild and cultivated plant.

What Does the Poppy Mean?
The relationship and symbolism that the poppy shares with Arts and Crafts is a bit muddled. Traditionally, due to the opiate effect of the poppy's seeds, it was a symbol for sleep, dreams, and even death. It became a symbol for World War I, and is still worn in remembrance of those lost during the war in some countries.

However, many experts feel that the poppy is the defining symbol of the Arts and Crafts style in California. California remains one of the best places for Arts and Crafts design, and this wild state is the place where it truly settled and created most of its defined iconography. Being the state flower of California, the poppy is perfect as a major symbol for the style.

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