Long time readers will know that I'm long-standing fan of felt-based artist Lucy Sparrow. I first met her in 2013 at an art street party outside my house in London, where her felt portrait of Rose West was being greeted with suspicion and mild hostility. I thought it (and her) were neat. I was soon joined in my appreciation by the rest of London.
In the intervening years her profile has risen considerably; from her hugely popular felt cornershop in 2014 to what I consider her magnum opus to date, 2015's dazzling Madame Roxy's Erotic Emporium felt sex shop. Now she's set to break America; her next project a recreation of a classic American convenience store in felt 'Eight Till Late', located right in the beating heart of New York City. And all it takes to bring this to life is a couple of quid thrown into a Kickstarter pot (with very neat backer rewards).
I asked her a couple of questions about the project:
How are you not sick of felt by now? How is your relationship to the material developing over time?
"Definitely not sick of it. The art is getting more in depth over time - I might be more obsessed with it than before!"
What are the differences between American convenience stories and UK corner shops that've you've noticed while researching?
"American convenience stores sell more fresh foods. They're also a lot more disorganised and there's more oddities in the stock on offer. I think convenience stores are what our cornershops used to be before they were replaced by mini supermarkets. But I might just be looking at the differences this way as a newbie to American stores. But in a lot of ways they are pretty similar, in the way they are cornerstones of the community."
Are there any pop culture US convenience stores that lodge in the mind - I always think of The Simpsons Kwik-E-Mart or Clerks' Quick Stop.
Definitely influenced by Clerks and also Ghost World. The same rite of passage in America exists in the UK. Popping to the convenience store for your mum or dad to top up the cupboard, or getting your first job there. The first sniff of freedom either in the form of going out alone or having your own money to spend by stocking shelves.
How's location hunting in New York compared to London? Do the New Yorkers you've spoken to 'get' the project?
"They totally get it, probably more so than the UK before the Cornershop was open. The Americans have more of an idea what it is about I think because the convenience store is still a big fixture in US daily life than the corner shop is over here. Their supermarkets are a lot more spread out than ours we have Tesco Metros and the like on almost every corner whereas small supermarkets aren't really a thing over there.
As for the location hunting I have a lot more help this time. We are using a company because of the space and the fact it is a much bigger undertaking."
Given that you've been on the road a bit lately, have you had any interesting reactions to the work from people of various nationalities?
"I had some interesting reactions from the Canadians in Montreal when I took the sex shop over there. They really embraced the concept. Montreal is a very open minded city and it was the best possible location for it, outside of London. And when I went to Basel, ArtBasel was on. It's probably the most prestigious art fair, so it was good to get recognition and comments from critics."
Finally. If space, time and money were no object, what felt based installation would you create?
"Probably an entire felt spaceship, maybe a replica of Apollo 11. Or a whole space-station or an aeroplane! My mind is already wandering into all the possibilities..."
If you think 'Eight Till Late' sounds awesome (and come on, it totally does) then please contribute to the Kickstarter. My only regret is that I (probably) won't be able to make the trip over. Then again who knows? I've always wanted to do a very special New York City Nights...