Dummies was a design company headed by Abigail Lane in collaboration
with Brigitte Stepputtis and Bob Pain. They first started working
together in 2002 but the company was officially set up a year later
and launched with an exhibition called Interior Motives (Natural
Histories and Natural Disasters). The company proceeded on a rampage
of projects and creativity for the following 4 years. The headquarters
were Abigail’s home in Hackney Wick – the massive top
floor of a warehouse in which everything could be tried out,
The initial intention was for Showroom Dummies to be a secondary
creative outlet for Abigail’s ideas – the more design-based
activity being fuelled by the Art she produced and exhibited in the
art world. However it’s momentum and the company’s dedication
to detail meant they had created a kind of monster that demanded
her full time attention … and more. Ultimately this was to
be the company’s undoing.
“A particular brand of problematic beauty”, was how
the Showroom Dummies aesthetic was once described. "I felt this
was a fitting
The themes, ideas and aesthetic originated mostly in Abigail’s
ongoing interests - Museums, Natural and Medical history, Games,
Gambling, Magic, Circus and the sometimes peculiar and intricate
relationships she sees between these. There was invariably an element
of dark humour surrounding the works; such as the skeletons that
juggle the bones of others, which appeared
first in the wallpapers and later in various other forms as part
of Bone Idle. Love’s Gamble, a St. Valentine inspired collection,
included silver stopwatches with cast silver hearts attached. For
the same project there were silk scarves and T-shirts emblazoned
with hearts, punctured by darts or arrows, superimposing a ouija
board or speared with a knife.
“Showroom Dummies was a great opportunity to have aesthetic
freedom and fun.” Abigail says, “ It seemed that our
activities were supported and welcomed with open arms - not judged.
a confidence and pace I hadn’t experienced in the same way
Whilst Abigail’s creative momentum was fuelled by Bob and Brigitte’s
very particular enthusiasm, it was their experience in their respective
fields that turned the designs and ideas into objects. Brigitte is
head of couture at Vivienne Westwood. Bob has a printing company
The Showroom Dummies activity received huge amounts of press - and
mostly found them.
“I didn’t, and still don’t know anything about
the world of design in which we somehow found ourselves in terms
of press – I
think to some extent the fact we were ‘winging it’ and
were oblivious to our audience in that context brought a vibrancy
and excitement that people responded to.” AL
The way the works were illustrated also extended the creative process
and ideas. The company kept a tight grip on the way they were represented
and portrayed. The Love’s Gamble items were photographed over
a bath of blood; the Bone Idle clothes were photographed waving around
on broom handles topped with cut out skulls against a stormy sky.
Abigail worked almost exclusively with photographer Coco Amardeil
to achieve the images, which were as important as the works themselves.
Indeed the lines were often blurred.
“The general rule was that, if it could be used (such as a
screen, wallpaper, blanket and so on) it belonged to the Showroom
whilst “ an
object of obscure beauty” as Brigitte brilliantly described
everything else, was considered a work of Abigail Lane’s. It
was sometimes confusing.” AL
Every event incorporated contributions and collaboration from existing
friends and those they made because of it. There was a lot of energy
in the company and they were amazingly supported. *
From the beginning the Showroom Dummies worked with Vanessa Fristedt
on many aspects of design including their website. Although the company
became dormant when Abigail moved to Suffolk, the website remains
a good document of some of the Showroom Dummy activity and so it
is presented here in an archival capacity. It is mostly as it was,
although the detail of the shop is no longer visible.
It represents almost 5 years of Abigail’s productivity.
I stand by all that we did as a company. It was a great time and
I remain faithful to absolutely all the ideas and things that we
produced. I would still love to see some of the things in proper
production – maybe some day someone else can make that happen.
Bob, Brigitte and I continue to be great friends.” AL, 2012
• Mark Hix’s
restaurant made the food for the Interior Motives opening
night that was held in a fabulous
building generously refurbished then lent to them by their
friend Agnes Rein.
• The VIP night at which Fergus Henderson worked with Sarah Lucas to prepare
carefully arranged sausage and quail egg plates for all was appropriately named
Knobs Night. PIC. On another occasion Charles Fontaine together with Abigail’s
friend and ongoing maker of things, Terry Nixon, produced breakfast for a hundred
in a make shift tiny kitchen.
• At Bone Idle, Momo produced exquisite skull and cross bone confections
that were served with tea by crazed lipstick smeared waitresses and the Colony
Club was several times plucked from it’s legendary Soho den to set up
their bar, bringing with it their very particular ethos.
• Sav the magician thrilled visitors at most events since Abigail felt
a sense of wonder was what she wanted their guests to leave with – and
preferably a cashmere blanket too.
• A CD was produced with 12 commissioned versions of Showroom Dummies (originally
a Kraftwerk song).
• There was an auction of decorated skulls made by Abigail and 11 of her
artist friends: Sarah Lucas, Tracey Emin, David Harrison, Damien Hirst, Angus
Fairhurst, Don Brown, Gavin Turk, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Rebecca Warren,
Mat Collishaw and Peter Blake. There was also a collection of clothing made
by friends including Yoko Brown, Pam Hogg, Eric Wright, Agent Provocateur, Mother
of Pearl and Vivienne Westwood.