Sew original: Artist Lucy Sparrow reveals her entirely hand-stitched corner shop stocking all of your daily essentials

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Forget knitted-by-nana, fabulously-felted is the way forward for artist Lucy Sparrow and her all-stitched corner shop, now open in Bethnal Green. That’s right all-stitched, a corner shop comprising of nothing but hand felted products. From lovingly sewn cans of Red Stripe and hand-labelled HobNob’s, to delicately detailed copies of Men’s Health magazine and fantastically fabricated Fab ice lollies – The Corner Shop has it all. Having found funding from KickStarter and The Arts Council, Lucy’s vision of an immersive, disorientating and somewhat triply take on the traditional corner shop has become a reality, one that took seven months in the making. We catch up with Lucy at The Corner Shop to find out more…

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So first of all, what was the initial idea behind the Corner Shop?

Lucy Sparrow: The Corner Shop was so much about making an exhibition that’s really immersive and really overwhelming for people that just happen to come through the door. You know, it does take the words out of your mouth. It’s really kind of disorientating and that was the idea of it. I wanted something that was going to go bonkers and I hope that I have achieved that!

Yeah definitely. Obviously you got the funding through KickStarter

Lucy: Yeah, we started off through KickStarter. We wanted to raise £2,000 to go with our arts council application because they were like: “Oh we don’t know if there’s any interest in a fake corner shop” and I was like “BOOM, ten and a half grand right here”. There was definitely an interest. Then we went back to arts council because the KickStarter campaign went absolutely crazy and there was a lot more pressure to get it absolutely spot on. We went for arts council funding as well and third time lucky we got it!

I was going to about the response but obviously it was brilliant

Lucy:  Well yeah, the first two times it was a bit of a struggle and then the third time it was about two weeks ago when I found out that I got it.

And how long has this taken to put together?

Lucy: Oh about eight months, seven months making it and then about one month getting getting the concept ready.

Have you slept?!

Lucy: I’ve done a lot of napping, like really strategic napping in the afternoon and then going right back to it and working until late. There’s been a few sleepless nights.

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So how did you select which items to stock?

Lucy: I think this corner shop is sort of mid to late nineties because that’s when I remember working in a corner shop. Some of the labels are bit stuck in the past but I think that’s fine! We really just had to have a cross-section of the most well-known brands and products that would usually go into a corner shop and that would be in high demand.

Which are your favourite items?

Lucy: I like the biscuits, I really like the biscuits. I think they look real accurate. I don’t know if it’s the look of the design that looks very aesthetically pleasing or I don’t know if it’s just that they’re easy to make, I’m not sure! I really like the medicines as well, the medicines are really cool come and have a look!

So it’s all felt and then there are other elements?

Lucy: Yeah, we’ve got some Lycra here which is an absolute pain to sew but Ihad to use it as with felt you cannot achieve any kind of shiny appearance at all, so you do need to revert to some other fabric. We’ve also got clear PVC here for the see-through packaging and silver lycra and gold PVC for the Special Brew cans and a bit of fleece here and there, but ninety percent of it is felt.

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So why did you choose this location?

Lucy: I always wanted to do it in Bethnal Green. It’s got that mix of housing estates and then very affluent neighbourhood houses. I wanted to have that real dilemma of having poor areas with quite wealthy areas that bankers would come and buy houses at. I thought that would be a really interesting intersection and this corner shop is where they all come to get their common groceries. That was the idea with the area.

And you’re doing craft workshops as well I understand?

Lucy: I’m doing workshops yeah, they’re specifically for people with autism mainly because we wanted to reach out for people that were socially excluded by the arts. There are not a lot of arts programmes, like very popular art programmes, that don’t cater specifically for that sort of group, I find that a bit of shame but I hope that through these workshops I can include people.

Last question, I know you’re just opening The Corner Shop, but are there any crazy future plans in the pipeline?

Yeah, maybe I’ll have give you a little hint, it involves SoHo, I’ll leave you with that!

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Words: Brooke McCord


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