Leave No Trace
As jeweller, I explore the narratives created by absent bodies in dress, shedding light on hidden histories. Coming from a family of dressmakers, tailors, wig makers and costumiers, I have spent my life reading about, looking at, and handling, old clothes. Coupled with my fascination with museums, collections and archives, the core of my practice has slowly evolved into one that uses jewellery to investigate dress.
The absent body has a multitude of possibilities, which I aim to uncover through researching and interviewing garments to discover the narratives about their maker or wearer(s). These may be truthful or invented – I decide. Close observation of the garment (particularly if it has visible adjustments or alterations or has been damaged in some way) dictates the questions I ask it about the person(s) who inhabited it. Was it pristine when first worn? Was it, or did it become, a hand-me-down? Was it worn many years later by a different generation as a second-hand (vintage) garment? Are there visible alterations to explain physical changes to the wearers’ body (pregnancy, weight gain or loss)? And what of the person(s) who made the garment; was it home made by the wearer or constructed by other absent, and most probably female, bodies? From these narratives, I create jewellery that sometimes incorporates objects that are associated with dress, such as buttons, beads, thread, fastenings or ribbon, all of which are given a new role and value once re-purposed.
Life on the Outside has encouraged me to think about and use archives more creatively (and confidently), including my visits to the Clothworkers Centre (the V&A’s fashion archive) for my final year essay research. It also helped shape my thoughts about my own archive (accumulated over 35 years) and I have decided to keep only items that I am emotionally attached to or can somehow use within my practice. I understood Helen’s thoughts about burning or leaving her archive in the desert; at 48, I no longer feel the need to keep things just for the sake of it and would be happy to leave no trace of my practice.
In the course of this project, I aim to create jewellery by reusing pieces from a previous project that involved a projection of Walter Sickert’s The Mirror through a series of enamelled necklaces.
The concept involved an invented narrative whereby the model remembered her past life through the embodied memories of a dress. This project marked the start of my ideas around the absent body, and the power of clothing on our memories, and was key to the development of my practice, so it feels right to remake it for Life on the Outskirts.
Claire Batt, 3rd Year, BA (Hons) 3D Design (MMU)
16 February 2018