Jo Horton is a textile designer, maker and materials historian. She started her career studying surface design for tableware and soft material table top product at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (UK), graduating in 1985, working in the surface pattern industry and academia. She went on to study at the University of Central England in Birmingham specialising in mixed media textiles, earning an MA in Fashion and Textiles in 1993. Her PhD was awarded by De Montfort University in 2018, and part of this research was published by Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd in the edited volume Surface and Apparition: The Immateriality of Modern Surface (2021).
Jo’s practice-based research explores electrodeposition and the metallisation of cloth as a creative opportunity in embellishment and surface design. She has exhibited her work in Europe and the Middle East, with exhibitions in the UK at the Festival of Textiles 2016, the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, the Vittoria Street Gallery, Birmingham (2019) and in the UK Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020. Her industry research projects include working with the metal finishing and electronic product industries in the UK and the USA.
Jo has presented her research at conferences hosted by the British Association of Victorian Studies, The Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry and the International Council of Museums-Costume Collections. She convened the online symposium Adventures in Chemistry and Technology: Exploring the Legacy of 19th Century Innovation in Textiles, Jewellery and Materials in 2020, at De Montfort University- attracting nine speakers and over sixty delegates from twelve different countries.
Jo appeared as artist-consultant on the BBC4 series Art, Passion and Power: The Story of the Royal Collection-Palaces and Pleasure-domes, demonstrating the magic of a Birmingham based innovation from the 19th century, electro-forming, coating real rosebuds in copper in a tank using metal salts and electricity (2018).
Jo is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of The Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice (Taylor & Francis) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is Honorary Research Fellow, formerly Senior Lecturer in Textile Design, at De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom and Director of the Lunar Society of Birmingham.
Influenced by her passion for metallic embroidery, material culture and women's history Jo is currently Caird Research Fellow 2021-2022 at the National Maritime Museum, Royal Museums Greenwich. The aim of her research is to understand how personal adaptation of uniforms may have influenced a) perception of WRNS appearance and b) uniform functionality in increasingly diverse and demanding roles for women during wartime, in the context of changing society and experiences.
She is interrogating individual experiences of wearing uniforms during wartime, and how public, private, and personal-physical responses to uniform, may potentially have shaped the fashion and/or clothing identities of Wrens post-service, their ambitions, and attitudes, and ultimately the rest of their lives.
A part of this research is oral histories, so Jo has invited contributions from individuals and/or their families to garner private perspectives on WRNS uniform (from dress to specialist workwear) worn by Wrens of different cultures, backgrounds, physicality, interests, and occupations. All types of WRNS uniform are relevant from officer and ratings uniforms (at home and overseas) and mess dress, to those associated with mechanical and outdoor roles such as overalls, boiler suits, bell-bottomed trousers, despatch riders and mail boat uniforms.