Lucy Sparrow Talks

Art & Culture

Few people decide to put together something quite so fluffy as Lucy Sparrow has done with The Cornershop. With giant felt replicas of some of everyone's childhood favourites, The Cornershop will be unlike anything you've ever seen. We caught up with Lucy Sparrow to find out a bit more about her project;

Tell us a little bit about the exhibition – what can visitors expect to see and where can they see it?

The Cornershop is a unique installation of mimicry, parody and all out enthusiasm for all things colourful and edible. It’s a stitched replica of a British newsagents that you can go into like a normal shop and see everything that it has to offer. It’s not particularly old or traditional, I like to think it’s set and stuck circa 1995 when sweets wrappers were still simply designed and Kinder Egg toys were good.

What was your idea behind the concept? Was it a spur of the moment decision of what to do or had you been mulling it over for some time?

I wanted to make an installation that would get people to feel sick with sheer wonderment and excitement. I’ve always tried to capture that feeling when you’re really excited about something and you want to flap your arms about. The Cornershop, to me, is that. it’s the possibility that anything can be achieved and that no matter how mad or silly an idea is, there’s someone out there doing it. I want people to question my sanity and wonder why on earth someone would devote the best part of a year to making something so zany. Before production of the project started, I’d been planning it for about eight months. The idea actually came about on the Oxford Tube bus going out of London, around about Marble Arch. My partner and I were scribbling crazy ideas down in the back of a notebook and now here we are…it almost doesn’t seem real.

Who or what are your greatest artistic inspirations?

I love Grayson Perry for his playfulness and his confidence to make work that he likes, not what other people like. I also really love the Chapman Brothers and their dark subject matter and pure evil sense of humour. I want to make people uncomfortable and a bit weirded out when they see my work.

Is there a certain item that you're particularly proud of or like a personal favourite?

I like the Nurofen and the custard and the Spam Fritters. Not everything translates well into felt but they do for some reason.

Why knitting? Is it something you've found yourself technically gifted at or is there a more personal reason?

It’s more sewing than knitting but I do knit a hell of a lot too. I’m a natural stitched, I remember doing it for the first time when I was four years old. I made a felt star to hang on the Christmas tree and my mum has still got it. Knitting didn’t come naturally, I still hold my needles wrong and it took me years to learn. i used to leave my knitting around my mum and my gran in the hope that they’d get bored and do it for me. I used to go to school with some very holly homemade scarfs that used to drive some of my teachers bonkers.

I love your felt Oyster cards, where did the idea come from?

Well, I think anything looks better when it’s made of felt and is a comedy size. It’s the scale that really makes them. TfL love them, other passengers just stare or scowl when they don’t scan so well. I use mine as my travel card all the time and sometimes it’s a bit crunky and temperamental .

How long did this exhibition take to put together? It looks like a lot of work has gone into it – with the renovation of the building surely matching the actual exhibit for workload.

Oh my goodness, the making of all the work was by far the easy bit of the whole project. Convincing people to rent out their space and generally getting everything up and running was the hardest. Up until about a month before the exhibition was due to open, I still didn’t have a definite location. It was a pretty scary time.

I saw that Swizzels have supported your work, did they take much convincing to get on board? Have you been offered any free sweets as a benefit?

Swizzel’s are amazing, they totally got what The Cornershop was about right from the start. They loved the idea and it just went from there. Their packaging lends itself so well to the felt because of its bold and simple designs and they’ve made some such iconic sweets. Who doesn’t remember giving someone they fancied some Love Hearts. I think they’ve helped out a lot of shy kids over the years. I have indeed been offered free sweets! They’ve provided a huge selection for the opening night for everyone to enjoy….I’ve obviously had to sample a few first though…..*ahem*

Your Kickstarter claims that people can buy some of the items in The Cornershop, how much would a pack of Love Hearts set me back?

You can buy all the items in Th Cornershop, even the shop fittings! If you can’t make it to the actual shop, you can also get stuff online here too! Love hearts are only available in giant packs and they’re going to Swizzel’s I’m afraid. I’m tempted to do a limited run though as people seem to really love them.

Probably my favourite idea of the lot is the felt porn mag (not in a perverse way, of course), do you feel that your attention to detail is key in making items like this stand out?

The porn mags are one of my favourites too. It’s just so wrong on so many levels but it works. it’s an innocent, childlike medium which has been taken to the extreme and made into something naughty and beautiful. I love including details in these things, there’s a lot of in jokes and hidden meanings in my work and the porn mags are some of the best opportunities for this.

What's next for you? Are there any more felt projects in the pipeline?

Oh soooo many! My next project will be a huge tapestry and then there will be a similar project to this but in Soho….watch this space 😉

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Just stay fluffy and never grow up.

Visit The Cornershop at 19 Wellington Row, London, E2 7BB until 31st August. For more information, check out the official website.