Whiteread was devastated by her mother's death, which happened to coincide with other major upheavals in her life: moving house, moving studio, the arrival of a son. 'My mother's house was still full up with stuff. And my house was still full up of stuff from having moved and still having the builders in. So I was in this place of literally not being able to unpack my life, my mum's life - my parent's lives.'
The realisation that the cardboard boxes, where much of her past and present life were stored, could be turned into sculpture, crept up on her slowly. She started to become more interested in what had once been in the boxes-cans of soup, bolts of materials - than what they currently contained.
She has been looking for an object that she could build with and use as a standardised unit, much as Carl Andre had used bricks. She went into what she describes as a "casting frenzy" as soon as she realised cardboard boxes were it. 'I became fixated. Looking for boxes, finding very specific ones, working with them, crunching them up.'
-G. Burn, "So Rachel Whiteread, what's with the boxes?," The Guardian, October 11, 2005, pp. 40-46.