Sarabande Foundation is teaming up with artist Rosa Uddoh to complete the biggest ‘thigh tile’ house to date: an immersive installation built from casts of black and brown female and non-binary bodies. With your help, we can bring this work to London Craft Week 2018 and ensure that the message of Uddoh’s work — creating space to celebrate bodies at the margins — is seen and heard in the city!

Sarabande Foundation was established by the late (Lee) Alexander McQueen and we financially support strong visionary artists, designers, and creators. The support includes generous scholarships in art, fashion and jewelry, as well as offering a wide mentorship program, free or heavily subsidised studios in London for artists to work together in a creative environment, and a wide range of informative and inspirational talks by leaders in the arts.

Rosa Uddoh originally studied architecture and is now an artist at Slade School of Fine Art. She was chosen for a Sarabande scholarship by renowned photographer Nick Knight in 2016 after she presented her recent work ‘thigh house’, which was a small timber frame of a house with a few roof tiles she had cast from friends.

Sarabande wants to bring Rosa’s incredible story and sculpture to Craft Week, hosted in the Sarabande Gallery space. It will start with workshops of invited groups of women casting tiles on their own thighs, representing the story that it was the black slaves in Cuba who created the roof tiles for the colonial and municipal buildings.

We want to invite more than 60 women to participate in the two workshops, making more than 120 new thigh tiles. They will be added to another 40 tiles cast from Rosa’s legs, the clay will naturally dry, and then we will transport them to a large kiln, hopefully, nearby where Rosa will carefully fire each tile.

In the exhibition space, we are building a wooden frame of a house, this will be four times bigger than has previously been built, so big you will be able to both enter and sit inside the house.  Each day Rosa will be adding the finished tiles, eventually forming a new roof to the house, made from the community of women who have shared their experiences and hopefully have become friends during the workshops.

The house is a representation of the strong women who create the community, who give support and stability, showing that how, together and as part of a community, great projects can be built.

Risks and challenges

On a practical level, the weight and structure of the house is a challenge as this is by far the largest thigh house Rosa has attempted to build – the tiles are heavy as they are formed from blocks of clay, and we hope to have over 160 tiles making the roof of the house. The building framework is light, and cannot be secured or bolted to the floor in the exhibition space. We are working with a professional set builder, as we don’t want the building to collapse during the exhibition!

We also hope for dry warm weather, the tiles need to naturally dry and we still need to get a kiln close by the foundation to fire the clay thighs tiles, transportation is expensive and the tiles are fragile.

We believe it’s an achievable challenge to build an unrelated community of women who can comfortably communicate together in a relaxed and informal setting. Even though this may be the first time they have met.

The subject matter is sensitive and heavy in its meaning, but we want the workshops full of laughter.

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