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$3,065 pledged of $10,000 goal
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By Adrian Wilson
$3,065 pledged of $10,000 goal
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About this project

After spending 10 years giving away art and months holding free art days at his home, Adrian Wilson decided last summer to do the impossible: open a store that didn't sell anything.

From that simple idea, The Inutilious Retailer was born. It was created to remind people that buying things doesn't make anyone happy, that a hobby is something important in life and that everyone enjoys making art.

The front part of the store is black and white, lit by a giant barcode. In the middle of the store is a slot machine from 1929, the start of the aptly named Great Depression, on a school desk.

There are colorful clothes hanging on umbrellas that are free if anyone wants them but first they have to pull the slot machine handle. The reels are blank, signifying the futility of our working lives, though if the customer uses his imagination to describe what might be on the reels, a wall mirror swings open and the customer is invited into the secret workshop behind the wooden wall.

There are only two conditions to get the garment, after all nothing is ever free. Firstly they have to agree to use a new garment, paint and printing blocks to create art on a new piece of clothing to replace it. Secondly, they must agree to be photographed so that they will find out which random person made what they picked and which random person will pick what they replace it with.

The customer then spends as long as they want in the privacy of the workshop. They are shown how to use the 100 year old hand made stamps but never judged on what they make. There is no right and no wrong. Phones are switched off so that nobody is disturbed and the customer has to use their imagination to describe their experience to their friends.

The store also has a secret courtyard garden where every wall has been covered in street art by Adrian Wilson's fellow street artist friends.

There are around 300 people who have wandered into the store and found what has been compared to Narnia, Oz or Willy Wonka's. Originally planned only to be open from September 1st to January 1st, single parent Wilson has continued to 100% fund the project from his own pocket ever since. The landlord even lowered the rent by 20% to help keep the store open.

The Inutilious Retailer won a prestigious Retail Design Institute Store of the Year award a few months ago, with a special category created for the first time in 45 years of awards. In order not to spoil the surprise element, Wilson only allowed one newspaper to cover the whole store and workshop and that was because The Guardian was founded in 1821 in Manchester by a textile merchant who would have used the same printing blocks.

The store has become a big part of the local Lower East Side community, contrasting with the gentrification of the area by the arrival of high end galleries and ever increasing rents. As well as supporting street artists with free and legal places to create, the store has held events and gallery takeovers to provide a forum for the graffiti community.

The store's value is in it's ability to inspire everyone who comes inside. In a city designed to make money, a free store makes no sense but it makes complete sense to everyone who experiences it. 

When your grandmother knitted you a hat or sweater every winter, you didn't ask how much the wool cost or suggest she make a business out of selling more, you just accepted it. The payment for both of you was unconditional love.

We all need reminding sometimes that we should sometimes do things just for the sake of it. Even open a store that sells nothing.

Unfortunately, I have run out of funds to keep it going, so I am asking for your help to keep the only store in the world that has a permanent "100% OFF" sale from closing down.

Risks and challenges

The store has been open and running for 9 months already. The only expenses are rent, paint and clothing (all bought from the Salvation Army) to print on.
This kickstarter is to ask for help with running costs. I am not paid anything to run it and do not make any profit whatsoever.
The $10,000 will help me keep the store open for another 6 months.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    set of 20 vintage fabric brand labels

    Textile merchants in Manchester stuck paper labels on fabric sent all over the world. Receive a set of 20 of these 50+ years old rare original labels if you pledge $25

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Hand painted one off tshirt

    Receive a one off hand printed tshirt by the Inutilious Retailer artist

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    9 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Spend a day making your own art

    Learn all about how to use rare handmade wood and copper printing blocks from Adrian Wilson. Bring clothing or canvas's and use the paint and blocks to create your own art/fashion

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    12 backers
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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Create with a NY graffiti artist

    The back of the Inutilious Retailer has a secret graffiti garden. Bring up to 5 friends and spend 2 hours learning how to create street art and have your work up alongside some of the most famous local graffiti artists.
    All paint and materials supplied

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Unique pop up store for rent

    Use the Inutilious Retailer storefront or private graffiti garden as your own pop up store for 24 hours.
    The Inutilious Reailer is an award winning, unique storefront located right in the busiest part of the Lower East Side on Ludlow Street. A perfect spot to promote your brand, sell your art or products, or we have even had bands play in the store to promote their album launch.
    There are some restrictions but google Hanksy's "Dump Trump" pop up store to see a good example of the potential, or click this link to see a video of the one day event
    https://vimeo.com/169391797

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    A secret graffiti garden event

    At the rear of the store is a magical hidden courtyard completely covered in cool graffiti by NYC street artists. Perfect for unique creative private events or private parties.
    Holds approximately 100 people. Available 9am-8pm

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    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    1 day photoshoot by Adrian Wilson

    Renowned interior and architectural photographer will shoot your project and provide up to 20 retouched images within the 5 borough area of NYC for $2,000.
    Check out his work at www.interiorphotography.net

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Funding period

- (27 days)