From pick and mix to pregnancy tests, Lucy Sparrow recreated over 4,000 products in felt to fill disused London store
With the advent of open-all-hours supermarkets and online shopping, cornershops are becoming obsolete. They are a last resort when you don’t have time for Tesco and that’s about it. Artist Lucy Sparrow wanted to remind people of the role these stores once played in British society and to make them the cornerstone of the community once again.
Sparrow tells PSFK:
The cornershop was a place open all hours where the community met and swapped gossip and forged bonds. It’s something that’s disappearing with the growth of supermarkets and the loss of the cornershop has adversely impacted our high streets and communities. I hoped that this project would remind people just how much the cornershop cemented life in local communities.
The artist decided to turn an empty newsstand in London into a meeting place for the neighborhood. To do so, she hit upon the idea of recreating all the products you would typically find in store in felt. From coke cans to Lads Mags, she hand stitched every item and uploaded photos to her website of the process.
A highly successful Kickstarter campaign, alongside grants from Tower Hamlets Council and The Arts Council, enabled Sparrow to restock a cornershop in East London with handmade goods.
One of the goals of The Cornershop was to make art accessible to everyone, Sparrow tells us:
I want people to see art as accessible, fun and whole. I’d really like people to see art as something relevant to their everyday lives that they can enjoy, handle and even buy. All the items are for sale at affordable prices. It’s been a real community event and I think it’s connected a lot of people to art who don’t normally bother with galleries or museums. It’s turned the everyday into a real art installation that anyone regardless of class, gender or race can relate to.
The Cornershop is a month-long installation throughout August which has brought many people together so far, Sparrow explains:
Visitors to The Cornershop have chatted, discussed art and reminisced about their own childhood memories of cornershops. My first job was in a local shop and it’s that memory that inspired me to take eight months to assemble each hand-stitched piece and to create a complete installation.
The store also hosts live sewing events and workshops, which teach people how to make their own fuzzy groceries such as a felt soup can or stitched crisps.
Sparrow wanted to make the workshops inclusive:
I’ve made a special effort to include those who are normally excluded socially from such projects. I’m running workshops on making felt objects, which are directed at local children and those suffering with autism. The bright colors and textures are really popular with people who have disorders on the autism spectrum.
All of the products are available to buy in-store as well as online, Sparrow’s personal favorites are the French fries. She explains:
I think I like the bags of McCain oven chips (French fries). They are very realistic but also soft and squeezable. They fool some people. It’s an everyday object that thousands of people eat each day and yet when constructed from felt and placed in a freezer they take on a whole new identity as a piece of art.
The Cornershop knits the community together with an art form that people can play with and try out themselves in-store. It turns a sad and empty cornershop, a testament to the power of the supermarket, into the heart and soul of the neighborhood once more.
Images: Courtesy of the artist