Claire Miller's project

This project began by looking at the history of the Millbank penitentiary, which is now the site of Chelsea, Tate Britain and Burberry HQ.

Focusing on a time near the closure of the Prison, circa, 1880,at the height of the Victorian era which was also the time Burberry was establishing itself as a great British outdoors brand. With the great outdoors comes a need for protection from the elements, and Burberry did this in the form of their creation of ‘gabadine’, a woollen fabric that was waxed before it was woven.

I also looked to the fashions of that time, this came about in the form of my great-grandmothers’ post card collection, cards depicting frozen sepia actresses and models in corsets, their dresses nipped in at the waste revealing ‘perfect’ 20’’waists- their bodies imprisoned by stiff structures that distorted a natural frame.

I took some photographs of the remaining cells in the basement of the Morpeth Arms pub, a couple of streets away from Chelsea. It was an eerie place to be, seeped with history and I felt a little uneasy being there.

Both of these ideas (protection and imprisonment), serve as a kind of second skin, an extension of the body in some way or another, although their concepts are fundamentally very different and contradictory; one is a form of protection, and the other a form of imprisonment- they are however both inclosing, inward.

I want to play with these ideas perhaps trying to combine them to reveal a contradiction, tension or oddity. I would also like to play with a slight feeling of unease, a feeling of something being not quite right. I plan to take some more photographs, perhaps double exposures on a lomography camera, allowing my bleeding colour palette to seep in to the images themselves, these will perhaps be the basis for my digital prints that I could then work into…
I would like look to ideas of waterproofing: varnishing, latex, plastics, ways of finishing: bonding, foiling, darning, mending, embroidering,
Idea’s of tension, how are things joined, peeling, stiffened
Idea’s of contradiction, heavy duty things:leathers,wools edged beautifully, or combined with more delicate things, papers, silks etc

I might physically construct my samples, giving an implication of detail or a suggestion of an accessory.

I intend to use recycled fabrics wherever possible within this project. I have collected old prison blankets from Brixton Prison, which once offered a form of protection and I have second hand leather off-cuts to play with.

Colour Palette
My colour palette finds its inspiration within the photographs of the old cells, my great-grandmothers postcards and some of my own drawings.

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