Mr Selfridges Immortalised in Jelly Belly jelly beans
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the iconic Oxford Street store, Selfridges commissioned a Jelly Belly jelly bean sculpture of its founder, Mr Gordon Selfridges.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the iconic Oxford Street store, Selfridges commissioned a Jelly Belly jelly bean sculpture of its founder, Mr Gordon Selfridges. Malcolm West was the artist of choice as he had already created some magnificent Jelly Belly art portraits of, among others, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.
“It was a great opportunity to work in 3D with Jelly Belly” says Malcolm and it seems everyone is very happy with the results”. Indeed they are. The finished statue is magnificent and has attracted thousands of admirers every day in Selfridges Oxford Street.
There was little visual material on Gordon: no full length image of him existed and the photographic portrait was traditional and rather solemn – typical of the day ”I was delighted and relieved to learn more about Gordon’s character” says Malcolm. “He was a remarkable entrepreneur, incredibly imaginative and way ahead of his time. He was flamboyant, very dapper, hugely outgoing and apparently had quite an eye for the ladies. He was also very tall - unusual for an Edwardian - and the statue had to be life size – over 6’ without the ubiquitous top hat.”
The huge array of colours from the Jelly Belly beans palette made it possible to convey Gordon’s personality through his clothes. the Very Cherry/Sizzling Cinnamon cravat, buttonhole and to-die-for jacket lining set against the immaculate Coconut/Vanilla collar, cuffs and handkerchief look great against his waistcoat made from a plaid of Caramel Apple, Bubble Gum, Top Banana and Piña Colada, with the occasional Lemon Lime and Cream Soda. Delicious!
Liquorice Jelly Belly was used more than any other flavour because the jacket was very black-bean-intensive, but Berry Blue and Blueberry added contrast. The trousers have wonderful pin stripes in Grape, Plum and Island Punch.
Creating a realistic stance for Gordon was more complicated. “All full length sculptures have the challenge of remaining strong and upright,” said Malcolm. “Mostly there’ll be some added support that doesn’t get in the way visually and I went for a walking stick which was a typical accessory of the time. I decided on a self-assured rather jaunty posture for him which has worked well.
“The base of the sculpture is a steel frame which loosely follows Gordon Selfridges’ confident pose, and then using foam, cavity wall filler and a waterproof membrane-like substance fill out the figure. The fibre glass came next - painted on directly with a brush followed by Plaster of Paris. This was without doubt the hardest part.
"I had to go against my sculpting instincts” explained Malcolm “by creating a likeness, then destroying it by cutting it back half an inch to accommodate the jelly beans, only to start all over again. Not quite the normal process! The face was the hardest part but the clothes had to be convincing as well – they had to have wrinkles and movement and fall the way fabric does.”
The statue took seven weeks to create using approximately 200,000 Jelly Belly jelly beans! Each one was painstakingly stuck on with bathroom sealant – this alone took 12 days working round the clock.
Gordon Selfridges was an outstanding character. He was a trailblazer in the world of retail and his famous store - (there are also three others now in Birmingham, Manchester and Old Trafford - reflects his genius for modernity and capturing the fashion of the moment.
“I’m sure Gordon would have loved the sculpture” says Tony Alfano of Jelly Belly UK who contributed the 200 kilos of jelly beans. “The Jelly Belly jelly beans make a great statement about his personality and achievements - colourful, cutting edge, daring - and let’s not forget – in the best possible taste!”