Though the 8 ’till late artist, Lucy Sparrow, has a team of two others to help her sew; all 9,000 pieces were hand-cut and hand-sewn by Sparrow herself in her English countryside home over the course of the past nine months.
With dual rows of futuristic plum couches sitting atop furry maroon rugs in its lobby, the High Line’s Standard Biergarten already suggests a stay that’s far from standard. Recently, it welcomed its newest quirk in the form of an atypical convenience store: 8 ’till late.
Nothing seems out of the ordinary as you approach the entrance of the store and take in the grocery-stocked front window (located on Little W. 12th Street). 8 till Late looks just like local, small-business bodegas that are smattered across every New York neighborhood. It even operates the same way: workers are there to help you find what you need and check you out at the cash register; an ATM sits in the corner if you’re short on cash, and every category of food you might need — including a deli counter with an assortment of all types of meat — are all available to purchase and take home. But take a few steps closer to the Sour Patch Kids, let your eyes adjust, and give your brain a few seconds to catch up — because everything is made entirely of felt.
From start to finish, Sparrow estimates that it takes her about 40 minutes to complete the bigger pieces, and just about 20 minutes for the smaller ones such as the boxes of candy.
Yes, felt — exactly the same flannel-like, craft-store material that can be used to fashion poodle skirts for a fifth-grade sock hop. And yes, everything — from the cash register to the wall paper, from the mop in the corner to the workers’ uniforms, and all the physical grocery and home goods available for purchase — is made of the material.
Turns out, 8 ’till late isn’t a convenience store at all, but an art installation: the rows of goods, both dry and refrigerated, are actually polyester-fiber stuffed mimicries of real things — taking everything New Yorkers thought they knew and turning it on its head.
Just beyond the main bodega is a slightly more formal gallery of Lucy’s work where framed food items going for thousands of dollars are for sale. In the middle of the gallery is a shopping cart filled with stuffed replicas of the items most often shoplifted in convenience stores.
The artist, Britain-based and Bath-born Lucy Sparrow, is in the thick of it. Side-by-side with her fellow 8 ’till late workers, Sparrow is restocking shelves and adjusting the products while donning the same, matching felt-apron-and-hat uniform as the rest of her colleagues. Due to this uniformity, she might initially escape your notice, but exchanging a few words with her is as much as gem as spotting the tiny felt mouse swimming in the felt water bucket in the corner.
Artist Lucy Sparrow holds a piece of fan art that’s just been presented to her: a miniature version of her one of her installations created by fan and New York City artist Nikki Schreier.
But this choice to act on her ordinary humanity as opposed to being the removed creator is exactly to the point of Sparrow’s felt creations (8 ’till late being far from the first of Sparrow’s felt installations with the London equivalent, The Cornershop, and even a sex-shop entitled Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium being among its predecessors). Sparrow wants to create an atmosphere of normalcy with her work and, specifically with these cornerstores, to capitalize on the nostalgia of a friendly neighborhood shop. In the process, she hopes to resurrect the locality she believes adds to the quality of life, and to awaken a sense of child-like wonder in everyone that comes to shop at 8 ’till late.
“We grow up so fast,” says Sparrow. “You’re really only kid for about an eighth of your life, and that’s a shame.”
Speaking to people’s inner child is iterated even in the subtle details seen throughout the shop — one of the most notable additions being faces she’s hand-adorned to the fruits, vegetables and meats. These faces are intended to serve as friendly reminders that all these goods were at one point, living.
These sausage links, which if ones follows down the chain, eventually lead to a black cat– also stuffed– sitting atop the meat counter in the right back corner of 8 till late.
“It’s to represent how children make objects of animals — turn them into inanimate things,” says Sparrow. “It’s all about child-like regression.”
So for those wanting to embrace their own inner-child, visit Sparrow’s 8 ’till late any day of the week between 8 AM and 8 PM until June 30. Visitors can also take home one or maybe even a few of the 9,000 hand-painted items of their choice, ranging in price from $25 (for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes) to $60 for one of the bigger, single bodega items. If you can’t make it to 8 ’till late in person, several items are also available to buy on Sparrow’s website, conveniently separated by section (freezer or otherwise).
“FELT LIFE” in black ink is tattooed across the knuckles of Sparrow’s hands.
As far as Sparrow’s personal favorite? “Probably the mustard,” she says. “It’s reminds me of my dad.”