Madame Roxy unleashed in Soho [NSW]

Craft artist Lucy Sparrow recently opened Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium in Soho - a sex shop made entirely of felt.

An installation made of more than 5,000 felt sex products from plush condoms and accessories all the way to S&M bondage gear and Fuzzy-Felt peep shows.

The show aims to highlight the rights of sex workers, fetishists and consumers of porn, challenge our perceptions and rage against new laws which place restrictions on pornography.

Ultimately, the felt-filled-show toys with the boundaries of legality, playfully illustrating the hypocrisy that, if it wasn’t made out of felt, Lucy’s sex shop would now be illegal.

It’s a far cry from Lucy’s last major installation, an altogether cuddlier and more child-friendly re-creation of a Cornershop.

Felt has played a key role in each of her installations; felt’s playful qualities demonstrated in very different ways. The Cornershop introduced felt as an intriguing and surprisingly intricate material whilst Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium uses the soft, naive qualities to it’s advantage, enabliing viewers to more easily digest contrasting this with the exhibition’s controversial adult themes.

Intrigued by her felt-creations and the strong views behind them, we caught up with Lucy to find out more about the ideas and process behind her latest show.

Let’s start with concept, how did the idea for Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium come to you?

I used to work in a lap-dancing club and the whole sex industry really interested me. As someone working on its periphery I was just fascinated by the punters and the girls who worked in the industry. I think it’s often misunderstood and those working in it are judged and disapproved of by people who really should know better. The Cornershop was my first big installation and I was fairly sure I could get funding for it. I don’t think I could have done that with the sex shop so I knew I had to do the Cornershop first but the idea was in my mind a long time before that.

Why do you think it is important to protest against “prudish prohibition” and stick up for sex workers?

I think we’re entering an age of neo-puritanism. I don’t know why that is but I could hazard a guess that the pincer movement of third-wave feminism and religious conservatism is creating an atmosphere where all sex work is viewed as exploitative or just misogynistic. That just shouldn’t be the case. Of course I’m very much against those coercion or trafficking of sex workers but for those who make a conscious decision to work in the sex industry, well that’s their right and I don’t think they should be told by others not to work because it offends someone else’s notion of what is moral or right.

I’m not afraid to tackle difficult subjects through the medium of feltism.

Your latest exhibition was a lot more controversial and politically-charged than your family friendly Cornershop. Why did you make this change?

My previous show was The Warmongery, a comment on weapons and firearms in modern life. I wouldn’t say I’m a party political animal but I do have things to say and I’m not afraid to say them. Using a soft and approachable medium to tackle hard questions seems wonderfully counterintuitive to me. People don’t expect that from felt. It has a way of creeping up on people and making itself felt… if you’ll excuse the pun.

You have adopted the pseudonym of Madame Roxy for the show. Why have you chosen to do this?

When I worked in the dancing clubs that was my pseudonym. I wanted to extend my character and imagine what Madame Roxy would have been like as an owner of a sex shop. If Carlsberg did sex shops it would be like Madame Roxy’s Exotic Emporium. Who better than a sex worker to run a sex shop?

And what you be the ideal outcome for you at the end of the show? What would you like visitors to come away thinking?

I would like people who have never been into a sex shop to come in and take a look and have their consciousness expanded.

The great thing about Madame Roxy is that people can come in and look without feeling sheepish.. There’s no shame in looking. It’s art!

What is it about felt that you enjoy working with so much? When were you first introduced to it?

I first started with felt when I was a child at primary school. My grandmother was surrounded by material, pins and sewing machines. As a child I was painting, drawing and making all the time so the two things came together. I love working with felt: it’s colourful, easy to manipulate and totally innocent.

Can you describe your creative process?

The ideas are never in shortage. I’m fizzing with ideas all the time and I just extend the ideas into concepts that make for a totally immersive show.

When I create an installation everything is felt; a single material that can represent almost anything. I adore the challenge and I love the opportunities it throws up to be inventive.

How long did it take to create all of the items included in the show? And which was the most difficult?

It’s taken about five months to create all 4000 pieces. The hardest piece was Rob… the gimp monkey who took me three days to cover in felt and decorate. I’m really proud of him.

Have you had time to take part in other projects or visit exhibitions recently or does creating an exhibition not leave you much time?

I’ve been working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ve had no time to get involved in other shows but I’d like to produce some single works again soon. I really haven’t had time to get out and see anything for the past five or six months either.. I need to put that right and top up on some fresh influences.

Finally, what would you like to do next?

I’ve not thought that far ahead. I do have one huge project in mind that would be so ambitious it would be a serious undertaking for at least a year. Whether I can pull of that project depends very much on someone extremely high up in the art world. I’m waiting to hear back.

Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium was on display at Scissorhand Barbershop, 2 Green’s Court, Soho, W1F 0HB. October 7-17.


Posted on Oct 25th, 15 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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