Art | Need To Now

Welcome to a unique piece of ‘retail theatre’

How Heal’s is turning shopping into an art form

Welcome to a unique piece of ‘retail theatre’

Image: Alex Springer

January 23 2011
Nicole Swengley

For one week, visitors to Heal’s flagship store on Tottenham Court Road, London, can bring out their inner artist by watching and working alongside students from UCL Slade School of Fine Art during their in-store residency (January 31 to February 6) on imaginative artwork projects and installations.

Student artist Haruka Ono will invite customers to help add to a large-scale treasure map of Heal’s showing the locations of their favourite homewares. And anyone who fancies designing furniture could create a miniature model on site at Poppy Whatmore’s fantasy furniture-making workshop.

Sharp-shooters can wield six working cameras handmade by Alex Springer from kitchen products (including a Brabantia bin) to photograph themselves or an in-store product. Alex will develop the photographs on site for customers to keep. Alternatively, you can join student Cansu Aladag’s how-to-knit workshop during the project’s final two days and help her complete a giant hand-knitted structure using walking sticks as knitting needles.

Meanwhile, other students will be hard at art within Heal’s windows producing limited-edition work, some of which will be sold by the artists. While Joseph Griffiths is busy covering walls, ceilings, floors and windows with a display of large-scale, 3-D laser-cut butterflies, Yujin Chang will create a dozen pairs of sculptural shoes with heels inspired by Heal’s designs such as shapely table legs. Sophie Blagden will modify sculptures found in secondhand stores, displaying each on a plinth as it is completed, and Sian Louise Landau will produce oil paintings inspired by photographs of store merchandise.

“Artists in Residence is a great opportunity to see original artwork being produced,” says Heal’s chief executive, Andrea Warden. “The project is highly interactive, with customers encouraged to get involved in the creation of one-off work. For Heal’s, this unique piece of retail theatre creates an exciting buzz around the store. Collaborating with the art and design community is of fundamental importance to the business. It reinforces our values as a design-orientated company and, hopefully, creates an enjoyable and inspirational destination for customers to shop in.”