Live in London? You might have seen Project Pattern around the city this summer. We speak to set designer Rachel Thomas about her Propercorn installations.
Rachel Thomas’ previous works reside with the likes of Anya Hindmarch, Cartier and Mulberry but this summer she took on Propercorn to create mammoth artwork. Creating two huge installations in London, Thomas played with popcorn and pink to find her final designs. Things got a little surreal in Shoreditch and Brixton. Popcorn falling out the sky? Check. Optical illusions? Check. And all complete with food, drink and music pop-ups, you were sure to have snacks on the brain after a trip.
We spoke to the artist about watching her designs come to life, their interactive edge and creating her very own wonderland of popcorn.
What attracted you to the brand and this project?
Propercorn’s sensibility is very design orientated and they wanted to create something that was visually engaging first and foremost. It was a great opportunity for me to work on a very huge scale and to engage with a very large and varied audience.
Your most recognisable work in the past has been for fashion brands, how did this project differ?
It was actually quite similar, as Propercorn are an extremely design led brand who want to be relevant to an audience of youthful fashion people, their peers!
Propercorn gave you their own pattern, what was the next step form there, can you talk us through the process?
I did quite a lot of experimentation with the house (gridded popcorn) pattern, manipulating it to quite an extreme. But having gone quite far away from the original, I quickly realised that this approach wouldn’t work as it rendered the pattern unrecognisable. Having got this out of the way I began to work with ideas that played with the pattern without distorting it. These ended up being quite subtle but still enough of an intervention to feel like a progression from the posters and buses.
What was your favourite aspect of the design of the installations?
Both sites were different and as I wanted to use the particular features of the sites as a starting point, they offered up different ideas. Brixton was on the side of a 19th century brick building. The walls were unusually black – it felt as if there must have been windows there at some point. There, I decided to illustrate a window with popcorn ‘falling’ out of it on one of the walls. I enjoyed this idea as it was pretty subtle in that it was just about a slight interruption/reordering of the grid that gave the illusion that the popcorn was falling.
Can you describe the interactive features of the installations, did anything prove difficult to put into action?
I collaborated with a mechanical engineer to create a kind of Willy Wonka, fantastical popcorn dispensing machine. The machine projected packets of Propercorn out of the side of a large dispensing box covered in the pattern. It was fantastic but we had a lot of teething problems with the mechanical aspects of the machine and trying to perfect this was incredibly challenging.
Cassandra Stavrou, Propercorn’s cofounder, said of the installations, “It says more about our popcorn, than words ever could”. What do you think your work expresses about the brand?
Their love of and desire to take part in and contribute to the world of design in general. That they see their business as an opportunity to communicate with the public in a fun and positive way.
How important do you think this type of free interaction is for London, both for the public to enjoy and for brands to advertise? Where should the focus be placed?
The feedback I had from people on the street when I was onsite was really positive. People were genuinely curious and excited to see something happening on their doorstep and as the sites were practically unbranded, people were free to create their own meaning and uses for the spaces. Not everyone is going to have the time of inclination to engage with art and design and these space hopefully brought a little piece of that directly to them.