A derelict shop in Bethnal Green been has turned into a convenience store with a difference – the shelves are brimming newspapers, sweets and cigarettes all made of felt.
Lucy Sparrow, 28, sought out the abandoned shop on Wellington Row, knowing she would find a traditional space in the area. After seven months of sewing, with blisters and callouses to prove it, Sparrow was able to open her doors, with over 4,000 items on display.
The Cornershop has alcohol, toiletries, frozen food, chewing gum, chocolate bars and even ice lollies and ice creams all fashioned from felt.
Making the oversized every day items is a process Sparrow calls ‘Feltism’ and she now runs community workshops showing how to work in felt to help mental well-being
To achieve her eight month project to create an entire corner shop she has raised money from a Kickstarter campaign and gained funding from the Arts Council and Tower Hamlets Council. The money has enabled her not only to create the space for her work, but also trial her concept of running free workshops to local people, giving them the chance to make all of the items in the shop.
Since launching on August 1, Sparrow has run three workshops a week, with the final on Sunday August 31.
Sparrow explained: “I wanted to enable children with autism to come in and enjoy the Cornershop and posted information on the National Autism Support events page as well as using social media to promote what I was doing”
The workshops have attracted a much broader audience of men and women than Sparrofrom 6 to 60 and Sparrow has had people with downs syndrome to autism all visiting and enjoying the experience. Running them was part of the criteria for Sparrow to gain funding from Tower Hamlets Council.
Alison Denning, Festival and Events Officer, Tower Hamlets Council told East London Lines how impressed she was with The Corner Shop. She said: ‘I think (what Lucy has created) it is amazing, absolutely beautiful and delightful. It sounded almost like an unachievable project. She’s a fantastic example of a solo artist, making things happen, from finding a space to getting funding. It really shows her determination and her focus.
“There’s so much in there and it’s a lovely talking point and has brought people to the borough, who would never have been.”
Denning explained how the council’s small grants funds supports access to arts within the borough. Projects must offer some benefit to local people in order for the grant to be received.
“We spoke to Lucy in January and discussed the workshops. It’s been amazing to see people get so involved and be able to not just visit the shop but learn a skill to take away with them. Sometimes the little extra we can give can help make a project happen.”
Denning was also keen how much of an impact the shop has had on the area, judging by their social media activity. Pictures and tweets about The Corner Shop have been their most retweeted and the shop was very popular on their facebook page.
— Tower Hamlets Events (@thevents) August 22, 2014
The Corner Shop will make a brief stop in West London before it goes to the sea side and sets up shop in Brighton. All items stocked are one of 40 and can be purchased and will be sent to the buyer once the Brighton shop closes. Next summer Sparrow will recreate her shop in Brooklyn with a 7/11 convenience store.
She explained: “I think it will be about 10,000 items and probably take me about 10-11 months to make. Luckily now I have a full time assistant who I found on facebook and my Mum also helps”
Sparrow intends to run the workshops stateside also having had such a great response to what she has launched in Tower Hamlets saying: “I’ll definitely continue the community project in the States as it’s been so wonderful”
To see the full extent of Sparrow’s felt creations visit http://sewyoursoul.co.uk