Curious Minds: Tableware Tales

The humblest of objects tells a glorious tale

Domestic tableware provides fascinating stories about the historical experience of making, choosing, cherishing everyday objects. Two plates made in Victorian Staffordshire tell us tales of creativity, industry, international trade, good housekeeping and young love, revealed by researching the history of design.

In this illustrated lecture, Dr Claire O’Mahony teaches us to 'study the things around you, see how they define who you are and what identity they project to the world. The humblest of objects tells a glorious tale.'

About the speaker                   

Claire O’Mahony, PhD joined the Department for Continuing Education in 2006, where she founded and directs the MSt in the History of Design. Claire is an Associate Professor in History of Art and Design, an Associate of the History Faculty and a Slade Elector for the University.

In 2019, she began her service as Chair of the Design History Society and as an editor for the Journal of Design History published by Oxford University Press.

Her teaching and research explores how we understand materials sensorially, historically and ecologically, as well as examining how the design and craft of making everyday objects and environments embodied local and transnational identities, politics and ethics between 1870 and 1968.

Read more

Primary sources

  • Periodicals and newspapers: The Art Journal; Birmingham Daily Post; The New York Herald; La construction moderne. Available through The British Library.
  • Jewitt, L. Frederick William (1883). The ceramic art of Great Britain. New ed., rev. London: J.S. Virtue. Available through the Hathi Trust.

Secondary sources  

  • Lees-Maffei, G., (2009). 'The Production-Consumption-Mediation Paradigm'. Journal of Design History, 22(4), pp. 351-376.