Jessica May Underwood Breaks New Ground for Harrods
To celebrate spring, Harrods’ store has gone into full bloom. Inspired by the flowers of the season, they’ve filled their store, magazine, and window displays with the work of Jessica May Underwood. Her Victorian inspired line drawings of flowers represent a new chapter for the retail titan, something that isn’t lost on Jessica at all. “It’s the biggest thing they’ve undertaken that’s been solely illustrated,” she says. “It’s the first time my direct paintings have ever been made into something so large scale.”
It's a huge vote of confidence for an internationally renowned retail space like Harrods to take the leap into illustration like this. They could have walked into it with some trepidation, but they didn't. They trusted Jessica's work and let it stand on its own. "The nicest thing was that they kept it so true to the line work," she says. "And it was like watching my drawings grow literally into life size plants." From development, to drawing, to installing the final pieces; it has all come together very naturally.
Like real flowers, Jessica’s installation has a finite life. It is not ironic, but perhaps fitting, that the composite pieces are as ephemeral as nature. She noticed the passage of time working on her contributions the last time she visited the installation. “It’s been about three weeks since opening night and they all gradually begin to wilt because they’re made out of paper,” she says. But rather than being disheartened by this, she recognizes the reflexive feature. “It’s really nice. Kind of the nature of the theme of it all. It sounds really predictable but I didn’t expect for it to happen. And it looks really lovely.” The effort that Jessica put into each image was to bring a sense of realism to the work, and as time passes the realistic aspect expands.
This year, for the first time ever, Harrods attended the Chelsea Flower Show, the 103 year old even that celebrates spring and horticulture. Attended by 157,000 visitors each year (the number is limited), it is an international event and perhaps the most famous garden and flower show in the world. Harrods’ set up a booth this year, and used the same imagery for their display. The tradition of the Chelsea Flower Show reaches far back, drawing on inspiration from Victorian gardens, so it was fitting that Jessica’s work should be Harrods’ contribution. “For me it’s nice because it’s drawing on Victorian processes,” she explains. “It’s nice to be at the root of all of that as the artist.”
Check out Jessica’s flowers at Harrods before they lose their pedals, and if you want a piece for your own, check out Harrods’ Magazine.