SHOWROOM DUMMIES

 

Showroom 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 description". AL

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. That allowed a confidence and pace I hadn’t experienced in the same way before.”

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 called Omnicolour.

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 Dummies company, 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


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• 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.