Michelle Abbott

Portfolio: 17 Under One Roof - New Project

17 Under One Roof - Installation

17 free standing thread wrapped pillars -  contained within the dimensions of 3m x 4m, pink and purple threads.

The 3 x 4 m overall dimensions are taken from the main ground floor room of 24 Tredegar Road, London, E3 3EH. This was once the house of my ancestors, my Great Great Great Grandfather is listed on the census in 1881 along with 16 other residents. I come from a long line of East End tailors and only discovered this fact many years after I started utilising threads in my work. My recent research project (ACE DYCP Award 2022) focused on the historical and social conditions of Victorian East End tailors and their lives. I was fortunate to gain access to his previous dwelling at Tredegar Road and experienced first hand the room dimensions of such common dwellings of that period, a dwelling where 17 people (2 different families) all lived under one roof.

The pillars are different heights – reflecting the age and sex of the dwellers – adult males (4) 169cm, adult females (5) 161cm and children (8) variable heights 64-143 cm. The threads wrapping the pillars are pink and purple – directly corresponding to those colours charted by Charles Booth on his Poverty Maps (1886-1903). Every street in London was colour coded according to its level of poverty, the East End being one of the poorest areas in London :- black was the lowest level, yellow was the richest – pink = fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings; purple = mixed, some comfortable, others poor.

The life of a Victorian East End tailor was extremely harsh – this piece stands as a testament to those 34000 tailors who are thought to have lived in the East End in 1881.