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Jo Tierney

MA work

Designing Taste: a re-examination of British Printed Textiles 1830–1899

Walk through the British Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum and you will see many examples of printed textiles from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Yet, these examples are only the tip of the iceberg. They represent a small and carefully curated selection of objects, considered worthy of the V&A’s approval and there is a distinct absence of one particular genre. Despite the thousands of yards manufactured throughout the nineteenth century, you will find few examples of the mass-produced, mass-market printed textiles created between 1830 and 1899. Their absence tells of their dismissal as cheap novelties for the working classes, devoid of taste and aesthetic quality and of little importance for the discipline of design history.

This research readdresses this bias and counters the common view of nineteenth-century mass-market printed textiles as tasteless. Arguing for a revision of the impact of mechanisation on their design, and the ‘decline’ in quality that is supposed to have followed, it contends that this perception of bad taste was the construction of a powerful group of social and cultural elites, many of who were involved in the institutionalisation of design and taste through the establishment of, for instance, the V&A and the School of Design.

Using a wide range of sources from textile samples, primary documents and literature and nineteenth-century photography, this research reintroduces the voices of the manufacturers and consumers, both at home and abroad, to offer a fresh perspective on the design, production and reception of British printed textiles globally. 


  • Jo Tierney
  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2014

  • Degrees

  • BA History and French, Univeristy of Warwick, 2012
  • Experience

  • Volunteer, V&A Museum, London, 2013; Volunteer, The National Archives, Kew, 2012; Intern, Gallery of Costume, Manchester, 2011; Intern, Musee de la Toile de Jouy, Paris, 2010–2011
  • Exhibitions

  • Awards

  • Second, Felix Dennis History Dissertation Prize, Univeristy of Warwick, 2012
  • Publications

  • 'The devil makes work for idle historians: a nineteenth-century printed-textile sample', Unmaking Things, 2014; 'Fashion, Freud and Foucault: thoughts on immateriality and embodiement of dress in museums', Unmaking Things, 2014