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Lucy Sparrow’s ’80s Style Supermarket Offers 31,000 Handmade Felt Items


All images by Michael Anthony Hernandez

After setting up shop in a London corner store and NYC-style bodega, Lucy Sparrow (previously) has grown her unusual art showing/selling technique into a full-blown ’80s-style supermarket. Taking up 2,800 square feet of the Standard Hotel in Downtown LA, the British artist’s fifth large-scale installation is quite literally stuffed with replicas of common, everyday products, each handmade from felt. The shelves are packed with different ramen and instant noodle soups, Reese’s Puffs, Frosted Flakes and other popular cereals, three different brands of peanut butter along with Smucker’s grape or strawberry jelly, a whole range of favorite snacks, chips, pasta or rice, and all the essential personal hygiene products.

In 2014 Sparrow successfully used Kickstarter to fund her first major project in London called The Corner Shop, which offered 4,000 hand-sewn felt products. Three years later she hopped across the pond to open 8 ‘Til Late, a bodega located in Manhattan at The Standard, High Line with 9,000 items that sold out a couple of days before the official closing date. Challenged by the demand for her plush groceries, the artist locked herself inside her Felt Cave studio for a year and produced her largest and most elaborate project to date — Sparrow Mart.

The retro shop has all the familiar selections of American comforts, including a videotape rental section with ’80s classics like Footloose, Dirty Dancing, and Short Circuit. She also has fresh hand-sewn seafood on ice, sushi, fruits and vegetables, a variety of meat cuts and other animal products, popular snacks, canned goods, cereals, candies, sodas, liquor and cleaning products. Each item is meticulously cloned from felt, a material that evokes childhood and play. The fact that the store offers 27 different types of sushi (each produced in 300 pieces), plus chopsticks, wasabi, pickled ginger, and even soy sauce packed inside iconic plastic fish containers, says a great deal about the amount of detail and determination that went into creating this overwhelming installation. Working alone until very recently, the artist ended up hiring four full-time assistants in her studio and outsourcing fifteen professionals to complete this immersive project.

Offering a felt ATM in between the isles, an exclusive gallery section in the back, and ending with three felt checkout stations, each of the 31,000 products on view is available for purchase with prices ranging from $5 for bubblegum to $73 for a kimchi Michelada. Sparrow Mart is open through the end of August 2018 from 11am-9pm (closed Mondays). The installation is accompanied with Sparrow To Go, a 24/7 restaurant in the lobby of the hotel, offering dishes inspired by the items in Sparrow Mart and prepared by the hotel’s executive chef Julio Palma. After this, the artist is considering creating a similar installation in Chicago, Dallas, Melbourne, or somewhere in Asia, like Hong Kong or Tokyo. You can see more from Sparrow on Instagram.

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