London Art Spot: Sophia Fox

Welcome to the magical world of Sophia Fox where happiness comes at the flick of a switch and the turning on and off of seasons may not be far behind. Sophia’s the artist who created the happiness switch that you loved in this entry and a whole series of others like it for her happiness project. She is also an illustrator which you can see from her website, but I decided to focus on the happiness project with her for this interview. If you wander around Holborn, Bethnal Green, Hackney or Aldgate East, you may just stumble upon a magical happiness switch to brighten your mood.

Sophia talks to us about what she thinks is the equivalent of magic in everyday life, tells us about the time she was stopped by police when putting up a happiness switch and her ideas on how to Londoners can make this a happier place to live.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
SF: Originally I’m from Eastern Europe. I lived in Ukraine for little bit, Poland and Czech Republic. I feel each of these places created an important chapter in my life. This is my second year in this magical city. I can’t stop being amazed; every day I learn something new and meet more people with inspiring stories. I came here on my way to Barcelona searching for an exciting life-changing experience and I’ve fallen in love with the spirit of this big anthropologic city.

LLO: Tell us a little bit about your creative background.
SF: I graduated from fashion design, but with time found it limiting and moved on to graphic design. Currently I’m deeply in love with digital art and programming. Interactive art has a special place in my heart, and living in the city with so many opportunities to explore the that topic makes me feel very fortunate.

LLO: How and when did you decide to start your happiness project in London? Tell us a bit about it.
SF: The idea of the happiness switch comes from my love for wizards and fantasy lands. I like to think that stories of kindness are the equivalent of magic in everyday life. My project started last spring. I felt that everyone was exhausted after the heavy winter and needed an energy kick for good beginning of the spring. The switch is turning on the magic in your head which starts the chain of positive thinking.

LLO: How many happiness switches are currently up around the city and where can we find them?
SF: I installed around 40 switches so far, however most of them got adopted. I hope they are comfortable in their new homes. Seventeen of them are still out there working hard every day to make this city a “warmer” place. Most of them are based in east London, however I decided not to reveal the locations as they seem to disappear more often these days…

LLO: The street art aspect of this project is obviously very important. Have you ever been caught putting up a happiness switch?
SF: I meet many people while installing my switches; you would be surprised how many people are on the street at 2 am. This city never sleeps. Once I met a men walking three dogs of the same breed. He was very supportive of my idea and offered a personal guidance of his dogs for the evening. I was caught by police once and they questioned my actions. However I think the switch got out their good side because they started to laugh once they understood what was I doing and let me go.

LLO: What about London makes you happy?
SF: I love the swimming pool in Tottenham Court Road and the under-bridge cafe in Shoreditch. I think that I might be addicted to swimming. I think if it were possible to learn how to fly the training session would take place in water.

LLO: Is there anything about London that makes you sad or angry, something that would make a real happiness switch useful for you?
SF: Don’t like CCTV and the weather. I’m currently working on the switch which would turn off the winter.

LLO: What do you think Londoners could do to make it a happier place?
SF: I feel Londoners are a bit too busy to stop and admire little things. It seems sometimes that many people pursue careers which are considered good in the eyes of society but never look into themselves and ask what they really want to do.

LLO: Other London-based artists you admire?
SF: I love Christiaan Nagel’s mushrooms; always wished for the bus stops to be situated under big umbrella-like mushrooms. They could change within the area so you could distinguish from borough to borough based on the kinds of “mushroom” bus stops.

LLO: Where does your artistic focus lie for 2012?
SF: I want to take the switch to the next level. I’m working on an art installation which would let the spectator take control over the events in the video using one of the switches.

Thanks Sophia!

See more of Sophia’s work on her website (or the other one!).

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Switch on Your Happiness

Hey, it’s Friday! Time to “switch on your happiness”! Loving this piece I found installed at the top of a stairway where Regents canal flows lazily past Broadway Market:

Actually, I think this is a good photograph to print out and tack up above my desk at work and one for the mirror at home for Monday mornings (just for extra measure). It would probably be good for the artist, Sophia Fox, to install a few on the tube as well. Wouldn’t hurt, right?

This is one of my favourite forms of street art. It’s small so you feel a bit special when you find it. It’s creative. It makes me smile. And it’s something that sticks with me. There is, in fact, a whole series of colourful “Happiness Switches” from Sophia’s collection. There are even mapped locations where we can go hunt them down (I love a good treasure hunt)! If you work nearby one of them, scope it out for me and see if it’s still there please!

I love the idea behind Sophia’s work as it echoes the ideas behind LLO as well. She explains, “Through my work I like to bring a smile and perhaps the appreciation of little moments of happiness.”