Felt Experiences: a tale of two supermarkets


U.K. artist Lucy Sparrow spent a year creating 31,000 handmade felt food items to stock her supermarket at the Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. 2800 sq. feet of the hotel have been transformed into a market where the handmade items are for sale. It looks like a typical market stocked with everything from soft drinks to pizza slices, the only difference is that all these items are essentially works of art. Sparrow has been working with felt for many years, utilizing its nostalgic and child-like quality. Her first major installation was in 2014 when she created a typical British 'corner-shop' and followed that up with an all-felt sex shop in London's Soho district. 




While her work feels fun and light-hearted there is often a deeper intention behind the work, which generally aims to bring attention to cultural issues that have largely been overlooked. her sex-shop was created with the intention of getting people to think about the suppression of certain sexual practices in British law. Her market and bodega installations often focus on the price of gentrification and the use of the felt is to evoke a nostalgia for what has been lost.

There is an entirely different supermarket experience being experimented with in the U.K. This one is not an art installation but an attempt to help people with autism. Morrisons, The U.K.'s number four ranked national supermarket chain recently announced the launch of 'Quieter Hour' to help shoppers who suffer with Autism. The project was launched in consultation with the National Autistic Society. They estimate that around 700,000 britons are on the autism spectrum. Recognizing that the experience of shopping could be difficult for autistic sufferers Morrisons said it would dim the lights, turn music and the radio off, avoid making tannoy announcements, reduce movement of trolleys and baskets and turn checkout beeps and other electrical noises down during the quieter hours.

Morrisons are not the only retailers addressing autism, other retailers have been experimenting with special opening hours and different business practices and the U.K. retailer Marks+Spencer recently launched an autism-friendly school uniform which reduces things like labels, buttons, closures etc, all of which can be troubling for those with sensory sensitivities.



This retail focus is part of a larger drive on the part of the NAS to not only raise public awareness about autism but to bring concrete change in public life for autism sufferers. In 2009 the Autism Act became the first disability-specific law in England and since then more and more public action on behalf of autism sufferers has taken place. In a world that not too long ago barely made room for anyone with disability of any kind, this represents transformative change-there's a long way to go, but ventures like these demonstrate what can be done with a little bit of goodwill, creativty and determination to make the world a better place for all.