We work with The Prince's Trust to offer previously unemployed young people a gateway to a career in craft.
Find out how we support designer-makers at different stages with our selection of makers' stories.
“I chose Cockpit Arts mainly because of the business support you get here; I wasn’t ready to move into a studio with no support. Cockpit seemed the ideal place for a complete beginner like me.”
Tipped as one of the standout stars of her generation by The Worshipful Company of Weavers, Rita Parniczky is winning awards and fans alike with her large-scale art installations that defy conventional weaving techniques. Using unusual materials like nylon monofilament, Rita weaves extraordinary x-ray like pieces that play with light and shadow. She has exhibited at COLLECT Open and her work is in the permanent collection of the V&A.
Moving into a studio at Cockpit Arts in 2011 enabled Rita to work on a much larger loom and in a very real sense has allowed her to grow creatively and expand the boundaries of her chosen art form. With one-to-one support from the Business Development Team, Rita is successfully repositioning her work in the world of art and rapidly being recognised, including the recent announcement, as the 2016 winner of The Perrier-Jouet Arts Salon Prize.
Bow maker, Stephen Thomson, is the latest recipient of a Cockpit Arts & Ingenious Growth Loan using the funds to assist in the purchase of a substantial stock of Pernambuco, a protected species which is the preferred wood for making bows. Following a chance conversation about the scarcity of materials and concerns about the aging population of bow makers, Stephen explains: “finding this stock of perfectly aged Pernambuco wood has enormous repercussions – it is a step toward preserving our industry far beyond just my working life; I knew I had to find a way of buying the stock at a fair price”.
His next step was a meeting with David Crump, Head of Business Development, who quickly realised the importance of Stephen’s opportunity and guided him in applying for the Ingenious Growth Loan.
Beyond the finance, a significant value in applying for the Loan, is the application process itself. Working closely with David, the applicant puts together a business plan showing past and current performance and forecasting future results. The focus is about how the business works, and how these results are going to be achieved, rather than just looking at financials and the bottom line. Even for applications that do not progress, real benefits emerge as the studio holder and David take a really comprehensive look at their business model.
“Creatively [having a studio at Cockpit] has allowed me to take risks and develop ideas whilst working alongside other creative people in a supportive and exciting environment.”
Eleanor Lakelin is fast becoming one of Britain’s most accomplished artists making in wood. Working exclusively with trees that have been felled in the British Isles, she combines traditional craftsmanship with a free-form approach to create vessels with a distinctly contemporary feel. In 2014 she has been nominated for the Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize, represented by the Sarah Myerscough Gallery at COLLECT, invited to design an Artisan Retreat at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. This year is even busier with Eleanor’s involvement in more high profile exhibitions, including ‘Sculptural 15′ with the William Benington Gallery at Coombe Trenchard , Collect with Sarah Myerscough Gallery and ‘Slow Turning’ at the Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool.
Originally from a furniture making background, it wasn’t until Eleanor won the Cockpit Arts/Worshipful Company of Turners’ Award in 2011 that she was able to take her business in a new and more exciting direction. She moved into a dedicated studio space at Cockpit’s Deptford incubator and with support from the Business Development Team has dedicated her time to repositioning her business and developing a body of work for the art gallery and high-end retail markets. ‘I think it’s fair to say that without the Turners’ Award, I would not have had the confidence to pursue [turning and carving] full time,’ says Eleanor.
‘I looked at all the studios in the Lewisham/Greenwich area and found that Cockpit Arts ran the best programme. I felt it had everything that would be helpful to setting up a business.’
January 2015: Katharine Morling is an award-winning artist working in the medium of ceramics. Using a technique that she describes as sketching in 3D, Katharine has created a number of large installations for high-profile clients including the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and large installation commissions through the Balman Gallery.
joining Cockpit Arts in 2003, Katharine’s work has grown in both reputation and scale. But it took a while for her business to really take off. ‘When I first arrived at Cockpit, I didn’t think artists had anything to do with business. I just thought it was luck,’ says Katharine. ‘I was encouraged by the Business Development Team to look at the parts of my business I could get help with.’ Katharine now employs a studio manager and an assistant. ‘It has taken the stress away so I can concentrate on what I’m good at.’
With her profits increasing year on year, Katharine feels she finally has a viable business model that she can continue to grow. ‘Eventually I’d like to have a team of sculptors who I could train to work in my style,’ she says.
‘Initially I was not in a position to sell product or make any money back, so being able to keep my costs down with a subsidised studio space has helped me incredibly.’
November 2014: Imagine your favourite piece of music transposed into fabric – this is the work of visionary weaver Nadia-Anne Ricketts who combines innovative digital technology with traditional weaving skills to create luxury bespoke woven pieces. Nadia’s gorgeously rich fabrics offer a wide range of applications from large-scale art installations and upholstery to fashion and home accessories.
Nadia arrived at Cockpit Arts in 2012 with a passion for dance and music and a fledgling business idea. She had been awarded a studio thanks to the Cockpit Arts/Clothworkers’ Foundation Award which provided a large dedicated studio space for 6 weavers at Cockpit’s Deptford incubator. This subsidised studio space has played a vital role during the formative years of Nadia’s business.
Two years after joining Cockpit, her registered business, BeatWoven®, is now producing fabric by the metre and one-off commissions for the V&A, Southbank Centre and Harrods.
‘BeatWoven® has been extremely expensive to set up as there has been a lot of research and development in the early stages of the business,’ explains Nadia. ‘Initially I was not in a position to sell product or make any money back, so being able to keep my costs down with a subsidised studio space has helped me incredibly.’
During one-to-one coaching sessions with Cockpit’s Business Development Team, Nadia was helped to successfully apply for a School for Start-ups’ Launcher Loan and the UAL Seed Fund. Along with a further year’s funding from the Cockpit Arts/Clothworkers’ Foundation Award 2013, this has enabled her to continue to develop and research her brand.
‘I’m really happy with the way things are going now. Thanks to all the support I have received from Cockpit Arts, my work life balance has really sorted itself out.’
October 2014: Maya Selway is an award-winning silversmith who has had a studio at Cockpit Arts since 2008. Having spent the early years establishing an enviable reputation both at home and abroad for her sculptural art objects, Maya is currently repositioning her business for the fine jewellery market.
This shift in direction coincided with the birth of her son in 2013. Suddenly, with less time to devote to her work she was forced to reappraise her business model. ‘I realised the sculptural silverwork was winning me lots of awards and press attention, but it was the jewellery that was keeping the business viable,’ she explains.
With support from the Business Development Team, Maya realised she could license the designs of her sculptural objects, leaving her to concentrate her creative energies solely on the fine jewellery. She is now in the process of a wholesale rebranding of her business and has also taken on her first PAYE employee thanks to a wage subsidy from the Creative Employment Programme. ‘The whole process has helped me really focus on which parts of my business needed to be essentially me, and which bits I can delegate,’ says Maya. ‘With support staff around me it’s giving me the space to design new work which is essential to keep growing.’
‘There is an amazing density of knowledge within these walls, and people are very generous with sharing their knowledge. It’s refreshing to know that even well-established businesses struggle with the same issues that I do.’
July 2014: Mark Tallowin crafts made-to-order handbags, painstakingly hand making each bag to exacting specifications. Yet he comes to the luxury handbag market as a largely self-taught craftsman, and realises the sheer scale of the industry he is taking on. Mark’s passion and tenacity for a traditional skill brought him to Cockpit Arts in July 2013. He already had a capsule collection of hand stitched bags, but needed help with getting his pricing and positioning right for the market. ‘In the early days, the one-to-one sessions were like a much-needed MOT,’ says Mark.
In the last year, Mark has completed a commission to make a bespoke case for Billecart-Salmon Champagne and showed work at Christie’s as part of the Multiplied Art Fair. His work has been featured in Elle India and New York Magazine’s The Cut and he was invited to join the Fashion Innovation Agency’s bank of prestigious designers. He is about to launch a fifth bag in his CORE collection, alongside a range of wallets.
Mark has just won this year’s Cockpit Arts / The Leathersellers’ Award, an opportunity he says he would never have considered without the support of Cockpit’s Business Development Team. The award will pay for his current studio space for another year.
‘Being in craft is a tough life,’ says Mark. ‘But when you have the opportunity to make a go of it, it’s fantastic.’