A while back I visited two shows of a crafty nature. Lucy Sparrow’s felt creation, ‘The Cornershop’ and community knitting and crochet project, ‘Blooming Marvelous’.
Both shows have been popular spectacles for the public to get involved with and excited about.
My first visit was to Blooming Marvelous, a lavish knitted garden on display at the Arts Depot in Finchley, that’s been on tour for two years now.
Entering the show I was amazed to read the collaborative project had 3,500 and counting contributors! People of all ages, of varying abilities, WI group members, those with learning disabilities, mental health problems, physical disabilities and visual impairments all took part.
With such a wealth of contributions the garden’s brimming with more life than any I’ve ever seen in real life! It’s over flowing with flora, fauna, woodland creatures, insects, trees, vegetables, a greenhouse, a picnic, and scarecrows. There’s even a solar system in the sky hanging from the ceiling!
Some contributions are large-scale creations, with lots of detail, whilst others are small, like a flower or leaf and put together they build something impressive. My favourite pieces had to be the knitted puddle with muddy footprints and the washing line with big pants hanging across the room!
It’s clear that the project’s ambition is not just to create something huge and impressive, but for the participants and visitors to enjoy themselves.
Walking around, I felt like child, fighting the urge to play with everything and bring it to life!
The Blooming Marvelous blog says discussions have recently begun for a second project and a jungle theme could be on the cards so if you’re interested in getting involved, keep an ear out for news about that!
Even though I’m not a crafty person particularly, the show was uplifting and made me smile.
So I felt very prepared to visit Lucy Sparrow’s hand made creation after that, as it has a similar playful feel. Sparrow is well known for working with felt and using stitching as an expressive tool in her art work. She has grown to be a friend of Sweet ‘Art following her involvement in our Show #1 where she exhibited some stunningly executed but also incredibly moving works surrounding an issue close to her heart. These pieces explored the destructive nature of anorexia for those who suffer. What feels to be in some contrast, her latest creation is a fully stocked cornershop! She has made the items herself with the help of an assistant and made the work over an 8 month period of total dedication. It’s her most ambitious project and for the London show, she refurbished an old dry cleaners on the corner of Wellington Row, Bethnal Green, to give her shop a fitting location.
As I approached the felt local, it felt like a great alternative to a usual gallery experience. The shop was busy and everybody seemed to be laughing at what they saw, recognizing the familiar brands we regularly rely on. There was real satisfaction in seeing these products that we consume endlessly, being stitched and stuffed so they’re everlasting! In this sense the project feels rebellious and a way to poke fun and amuse ourselves with the banality of the everyday.
Similarly to ‘Blooming Marvelous’, there’s a lot of work here, nothing’s been left out in Sparrow’s fake shop. There’s everything you’d ever need from sweets to booze, crisps to newspapers, lads mags to tampons, shampoo to ketchup, marmite to oven chips and cigarettes to milk , it’s all here! My favourite had to be the rack of newspapers with amusing headlines, like ‘MAN EATS GIRLFRIEND’ and the dirty mags looming on the top shelf !
The meaning of the project is something the artist has kept quiet about, leaving us to make our own interpretations. To me if felt like a tongue in cheek response to the economic crisis. A shop made by the people, for the people who can no longer afford the real thing after all the cuts and rise in unemployment!
It also made me think about all the thousands of products we must consume every week, every year without even giving it a second thought.
Mostly though, it was a fun experience. There was a childlike abandon to the whole thing, a sense of not caring about being different, of stepping on corporate brands toes, or of defining what it all means or doesn’t mean and a real eccentricity that makes you proud of Sparrow.
Obviously the popularity of making things by hand and DIY culture has been growing for many years now and both these shows prove that. They feel like a comforting relief and a backlash to the techno wizardry of our times. It’s great to see such labour intensive work and to see art that has community spirit.
We urge you to check them out and be inspired as they continue to tour the UK.
Lucy Sparrow’s The Cornershop – next on at No Walls Gallery, Brighton, October 2014
Blooming Marvelous – next on at Poole’s Lighthouse from Friday 2nd Sept – Saturday 16th Oct