diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 03, 2014

Possibly the best thing in London this August is this cornershop in Bethnal Green.

The special thing isn't that it's a cornershop on the corner of a street, reopened specially for one month only. It's not even an especially special street, indeed highly typical for Tower Hamlets, with a run of Victorian terraces on one side and a row of renovated council blocks on the other. No, the special thing is what the shop sells, all the groceries laid out on the shelves within, because the whole lot has been hand-sewn. [10 photos]

The Cornershop is the brainchild of Lucy Sparrow, an urban textile artist, who creates over-sized soft fabric versions of existing objects. She's sewn hamburgers, ZX Spectrums and Molotov Cocktails, but this time she's set her sights on the retail grocery agenda. Lucy started sewing around New Year, and seven months later she has enough stuff to stock a shop. An entire corner shop.

Just inside the door are a few racks of vegetables, these the least accurate copies in the shop because they appear to have faces. Far more convincing are the packs of digestives and Rich Teas on the adjacent shelves, and the cans of beer and bags of cat litter underneath. It's all made of stuffed felt, even the KY Jelly and Tampax alongside, and that's just a few of the non-perishables.

Up the back is a rack of newspapers, each of these hand-stitched too, and each with a slightly tongue-in-cheek cover story to match the masthead. The top shelf magazines have sewn breasts, naturally, or there are some fishing magazines if that's too hardcore. The freezers contain oven chips and ice lollies, in convincing bags and packets. A selection of chocolate bars and sweets in jars are lined up by the till. And no, you're not supposed to touch, but yes, the whole lot is purchasable.

Everything in the shop has its price, from can of Heinz beans to tin of Spam. The prices are a lot more than you'd expect if the contents were normal, but then this is art, and each item took Lucy some time to craft. Head up to the till (yes, that's fabric too) and you can tell her what you'd like to buy. Nothing's for takeaway now, else the shop would empty out, but the idea is that you come back in a few weeks and pick up your shopping before the end of the month.

Alternatively an online despatch service operates, and you don't even need to turn up at the shop for that. Prices are higher this way, so I'm glad I live sort-of locally and can go grab my selected item without postage and packing. But never forget that the whole installation is a social comment on branding and consumerism, obviously, rather than an actual shop. And how messed up are we for wanting to buy what are essentially pincushions at inflated prices simply because they have our favourite brand sewn on?

Lucy has another retail outlet plan up her sleeve, this time in Soho, so you'll probably be able to guess what reproductions she'll be selling there. In October the Cornershop moves on to Brighton, so presumably Lucy has some spare stock up her sleeve. But if you want to see the only all-felt cornershop in the East End, you only have until the end of the month before the shelves are emptied.

The Cornershop
Every day, including Sundays, 10am-7pm, until 31st August.
19 Wellington Row, London E2 7BB

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