Saturday, June 16, 2012

Meet Lucy Sparrow and her Giant Cuddly Controllers

Lucy Sparrow is an enterprising young sculptor in the UK who is producing a series of retro game console controllers in outsized cushion form.  And she seems to be having a fabulous time kicking it '80s style:

You can visit her online shop at -- wait for it -- She also produces some nifty related items, like a giant Speak & Spell with hand-sewn letters, and other pop-art soft sculptures that are striking and fun.

I asked Ms. Sparrow if she would answer a few questions about her work, and she graciously obliged.

-- How long have you been producing your felt creations? 

I've been making things out of felt since I was about 9 years old, and I'm 25 now so that's quite a while.  And I've always had a fascination with things that reminded me of my childhood. I think I am a little too young to remember the ZX Spectrum, but I have an older sister and a cousin who had every games console that was ever brought out in the UK in his house, so we'd go over there to shoot the baddies. I was never allowed a proper console because my parents wouldn't let me have a telly in my bedroom, but I had a Game Boy pocket transparent (you know, the ones where you could see the wires) and my sister had the original grey one.

-- When and under what circumstances did you first encounter the NES/Famicom controller?

It was only very recently that I realised how much of a cult thing the NES is, and I think if any amazing object can be recreated into a giant cuddly form, it should be the NES.  It was the first controller I decided to make because of its iconic status.  It was only last month that I found out that it was called the Famicom in other countries, when I got asked to make a red one. I've learnt and read so much about retro gaming in the last two months that it's really got me back into it. Within a week of making the Game Boy, I was bidding on loads of games on eBay and have become transfixed with Tetris (not to be played in the car after lunch though because that's a recipe for disaster).

-- Have you taken your wares to any of the retro shows, or are you planning to?

I'd love to! I only just learnt that these existed a couple of weeks ago and they sound amazing fun, so I'm going to have to do a bit of research and get involved. It's lovely receiving emails from people saying they love the cushions but I'd love to see their faces when opening them because I get excited just chucking them around and cuddling them sometimes, and I see them day in, day out. Giant things are so much fun, they make you feel really small (but in a good way.)  It's like Christmas every morning!

-- Which is the most popular of your retro gaming-themed products to date?

The NES and the SNES are literally neck and neck. I've sold more NES [controllers] to America than anything else and the SNES are really popular in France.  I love posting to all different countries, it's so lovely knowing that you're reaching people that would never have seen these things in a shop.

-- Which mediums and techniques are your favorites?

Definitely stitching because you have so much freedom as to what you can do with it. I know it's a cliche but the limit literally is your imagination. I've made everything from red telephone boxes to roadkill. Knitting is great if you want something to look nice and textured.  I'd like to have a go at making a nice knitted Game Boy bedspread, maybe, but it would take FOREVER!

-- Do you see your art as being in any particular tradition? 

I guess it's sculpture? It's a really hard one to put in a box because most people think sculpture is stone or wood so I usually just say, "I make things out of felt" when people ask what I do for a job. It leads to much confusion!

-- Do you play videogames yourself? If so, what are you playing at the moment? 

Yes! But I'm quite a recent convert because I don't have a television so I treated myself to a pocket red Game Boy and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Warioland, Tetris, and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden CoinsZelda is and always has been my favourite.  I must have completed it about 18 times, dreamt about it and can sing all the music that goes with it, but it never gets boring.  I'd like to make some Zelda felt Ocarinas!

Ed.:  Thanks to Lawrence Oatway and Lucy Sparrow for the photos and permission to reproduce them here.

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