Imogen Houldsworth's project

My project illustrates the fictional story “A Prison Princess: A Romance of Millbank Penitentiary,” written by Arthur Griffiths in 1893. ‘Mary Walgate’ is deceived by her thieving husband and is thrown into prison for his offences. It is here she embarks on the journey to discover hidden jewels that she must smuggle outside the prison…

“With her scissor blade she quickly and deftly cut the strings, then unripped the cover, only to find a second and third envelope of rags within… beyond all question she had obtained possession of the jewels… the little bag she concealed carefully inside the knot of her luxuriant hair.” (Griffiths, 1893)

I have used descriptions within the story to build a visual mood, taking note of colours, textures and fabrics within, “faded finery, ragged ribbons…” words such as ripped, shredded; those of destruction and also construction; re-plaited, rearranged; concealing, revealing and hiding. These will feed into my design process with regard to inside/outside.

From here, I have researched craft techniques of the time that invoke the feeling of these descriptions. These include simple stitches and decorative seaming to attach fabric together, and more decorative ideas like ‘open-work’ where threads are removed. Knotting techniques used in sailing correspond to the hidden jewels in Mary’s hair. Spatial drawings in ropes by Patrick Ireland confess the tension she must have felt held in her cell with only knitting and needlework for entertainment.

The fabrics inspired from Griffiths story are natural fabrics such as cottons, linens and muslins; that I may join using wool/linen/cotton threads and yarns, built cords, ties, knots, fastenings. Also in the story are ideas of finery, silk and satin, suede, patent/leather, silk stocking; joined by silk cords and fastened with metals.

I hope to construct my own fabrics by joining and building a technique of knotting, adding, erasing, pushing and pulling tapes and strips of fabrics together. I intend these fabrics to be sometimes transparent/opaque; conceal/reveal; are strong and contain tension in their construction. In response to sustainability, I hope to design a fabric that values hand-craft, quality and lasting value.

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