The Inutilious Retailer is born

by admin on 13/02/2017

Because of the success of my Art Sundays, a day when everyone and anyone could come to my home and use the stamps to create art for free, I decided to expand the idea and open a free store in NYC.

So many people left the Art Sundays happier than when they arrived, yet all they had done was use the stamps to print on a t-shirt or canvas. They were reminded how enjoyable art could be, I was reminded how rewarding being altruistic can be and it felt like the stamps had come alive because they were being used again, maybe 100 years after being left to gather dust on a warehouse shelf.

I wanted to recreate the wonder of walking into my home and being surprised by the art workshop within, so the idea was to create a surreal monochrome clothing store, which confused all those who entered. But those who were curious enough to interact with a voice from behind a false wall would be invited back into a welcoming home and workshop that looked as though it had been hidden there for years.

Every ‘customer’ could have the garment they liked in the store for free but the condition was they had to come in the back of the store, make something to replace it and be photographed with both garments at the end of the process.

I hoped the store would inspire people to question why we are pushed to buy things to make us happy, why we think Art can only be created by artists and why it is important to have something in life that is nothing to do with making money – a hobby.


I found the things I needed – an old workbench off craigslist and vintage umbrellas off eBay

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I bought 30 fluorescent tubes and made a light that looked like a giant barcode



Of course I needed to organize the stamps so people could get to them easily, so I bought 150 old bread trays and designed a shelving system for the store

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The key to getting in the back of the store would be to pull a 1929 slot machine I had owned since I was a kid. It seemed the perfect focal point of a store that represented consumerism and capitalism to have a gambling machine from the year when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. I painted it white and it was ready for action.

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Last but not least was the fictional Inutilious Retailer himself – Mr Herringbone Grey. Originally a pizza advertising guy, he had been thrown out 8 years previously and had become part of my family. I cleaned him up, painted him white and replaced his chef hat with a Phrygian cap – a symbol of the emancipation from oppression.

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All that was needed now was a perfect location. I chose the Lower East Side because it still has a few remaining stores where things are made and sold on the premises. Retail and manufacturing were often directly connected, with storefronts selling everything from bagels to suits that had been made in the back of the store. In these times of internet delivery, I wanted to celebrate that history and so wandered up Orchard Street and down Ludlow taking note of the many empty stores until I came across the perfect location.

151 Ludlow Street, between Stanton and Rivington, NYC

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and this is how it looked inside…


The realtor apologized that the back of the store was such a mess – I signed the lease immediately, knowing I had found the perfect spot..


I rented a truck and roped in some friends who moved everything in the space. I bought a vintage mirror from Craigslist that I designed the wall around and on the way to the store, we picked up an old leather sofa for the lounge area.  $400 of wood was delivered to build the false wall, I put three vintage mannequins in the window to throw the inquisitive off the scent and spent two weeks building out the interior with only hand tools and an electric drill.

Total spent was $2,000


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Famous NY typographer Louise Fili created a logo for the store and a monogram, which I had made into a banner for the outside of the store.

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The only thing missing were garments on which to print. The first pieces of clothing were bought from Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters – stores that have a reputation for copying smaller designer’s work. My idea was to do the reverse –  take their mass market designs and let people convert them into one off designs that would be given away.

Once those 14 garments had been used, I bought a stock of varied clothing from the Salvation Army. Firstly, because the money I bought them for would, as they say on their receipt, go to help others. Secondly, because the store was really about Salvation from consumerism.

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Before it opened I was interviewed for Print magazine



The inevitable online confusion/ridicule about someone planning to open a store which didn’t sell anything followed.


After just 2 weeks, The Inutilious Retailer was ready…






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