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Oxfam, Window Dressing

KEY SKILLS: Documentation, Resourcefulness and Time Management.


MOVING FORWARD: I enjoyed this 'commission' as it was a unusual job to do. But it meant that I could advertise my work, albeit shelf decoration. And it led to me being asked to decorate the shop for Christmas in a similar fashion, using what would have been recycled books.


I am a volunteer at an Oxfam Bookshop and the window display shelves needed re-doing. They had been spray painted silver for Christmas two years ago, and the book stands had been scratching away at the paint. The manager knowing my art background asked if I would take it on - three, three-tiered shelving units.  I said yes, and he gave me a brief - using what would have been recycled books. This was fine and so any books that would make nice collage but would otherwise have been recycled/pulped were put aside for me to use as I saw fit. I wanted to tie in some part of my practice and that was the collage element.


I wanted all three units to be quite different. So number one was collaged pages of World Who’s Who of Women 1960 Ed. Over which I had pasted circles [an integral part of my practice] of tissue paper cut out from all different colours. Much like A Very Hungry Caterpillar.


Number two was using all different types of maps. The shelves had astronomical maps and the case had vintage world maps. For this unit I cut up the pieces into hexagons and tessellated them.


The final unit is covered in comics. This one because of the comics having every colour imaginable. I kept it to kids comics for this one as the other two had quite a grown-up feel about them. I wanted to separate them by using Asterix and Obleix along with Tintin and old SMASH annuals.


Time management was important as the units were too big to take home to work on so I had to work on them in the bookshop. I did not want to get in the way of the other volunteers as I would be doing this outside of my usual shifts, so I decided to work on them in the early mornings. Another reason was that when working on a unit, it was removed from the display meaning that there were fewer books on display for the customers to be enticed by and I did not want that to happen too much. So I tried to only have them each gone from the window for about a week at a time.


Resourcefulness was important for this as I was using a very narrow range of materials - almost recycled books. So for this I had to be quite inventive about each shelves theme and if I could then stretch over the entire shelving unit. To help with this I collected books for a few months before starting the units.

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