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 craftspeople at different stages with our selection of makers' stories.
“I finally feel I have a body of work that sits well together, not just a hotch potch of designs.”
Birds hover and perch around the studio of Georgina Brett Chinnery, a leather worker who creates startlingly lifelike sculptures. With a background in upholstery, she exploits traditional leather working techniques to create unique objets d’arts. She arrived at Deptford in 2014 as an awardee of the Cockpit Arts/Leathersellers’ Company and has spent the last two years refining her work and repositioning it for the art market.
“Professionally and emotionally I am indebted to Cockpit Arts. I feel very proud to be an alumnus. You don’t ever really leave Cockpit; you still feel part of the family.”
Billy Lloyd is an award-winning designer of ceramic tableware, perhaps best known for the series of interlocking mugs he designed exclusively for The Conran Shop. He started his practice at Cockpit Arts in 2011. At the time he was selling hand thrown tableware through a number of modest stockist and collectors, but it was during his time at Cockpit that he realised the potential of designing his work for manufacture. With support from the Business Development Team he was able to carefully and strategically reposition himself as a designer. He now spends the majority of his time designing and making prototypes for manufacture, and has collaborated with RIBA and Brooks Brothers, as well as The Conran Shop. He is currently working on a collection of coffee cups and saucers for international cycling super brand Rapha.
“London is a creatively vibrant city, and craft is a vital part of that. It’s really important to have a craft presence in this area, for craftspeople to be making and working here.”
Jane Adam holds the honour of being Cockpit Art’s longest-serving studio holder. She arrived in 1994, when the building was little more than a managed studio space, and has watched it grow over the years into the award-winning craft business incubator it is today. A doyenne of the jewellery industry, Jane pioneered the use of anodised aluminium as a jewellery artist’s material in the 1980s. A maker trustee and then co-vice chair of the Crafts Council, and a founder, vice-chair and chairman of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery, her work is held in major museum and public collections throughout the world. Although she moved out of her Holborn studio in 2015, she has cemented her long-standing relationship with Cockpit Arts by recently becoming a trustee.
“The support at Cockpit Arts has been unbelievably useful, particularly over the last two years as my business has undergone these major changes.”
Jo Hayes Ward is a fine jeweller whose business has grown since its conception in 2006 into an internationally renowned luxury brand. She has exhibited with the British Fashion Council’s Rock Vault and has her work in the permanent collections of The Crafts Council, The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and the Alice and Louis Koch collection in Switzerland.
Jo has found the mid-career coaching at Cockpit Arts particularly beneficial, helping her restructure the business and employ staff for the first time. This has enabled the brand to continue to grow and flourish, allowing Jo to focus on her creative strengths, as well as making her work/life balance much more manageable.
NADFAS David Bell Memorial Award was established in 2014 to support a young crafts person aged 17 – 28 who is inspired by music and starting out in business.
In April 2015 Camilla Lee Lambert was selected as a recipient of the prestigious Award. Camilla was awarded a place at a Cockpit Arts incubator for a year.
Camilla Lee is a London based designer working in the field of furniture, lighting and sound. Whilst studying 3D Design & Craft at Brighton University, Camilla developed a broad range of skills working with various materials. She is interested in the aesthetics and organic sound qualities of wood and ceramic, and is passionate about fusing functionality with unique aesthetic forms. Application of sound and pattern has become a recurrent thread within her work, linking themes of sound therapy, interaction and line.
What difference has The Cockpit Arts / NADFAS David Bell Memorial Award made to you and your business so far?
‘It’s kicked everything off really. It’s made everything very serious and very professional. Everyone at Cockpit Arts is looking out for you and encouraging you. You look at all the designer-makers in the studio around you and you see their incredible work and you think, ‘wow, I’m of this standard’ – well, sometimes you think ‘I’m not there yet but I will be – I can be of this standard!’
“Without the support of Cockpit Arts I would have struggled to find a way to express myself creatively. To be able to turn that into a way to make a living really does feel miraculous.”
Eleanor Lakelin is 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. Her work is shown in major galleries and exhibitions including Contemporary Applied Arts, Sarah Myerscough Gallery at COLLECT and William Benington Gallery, Sculptural 2015. She was nominated for the Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize and has work in the permanent collection of the National Trust.
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. With support from the Business Development Team she has dedicated her time at Cockpit 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.
“The free studio space was a huge boost in the early days of setting up my business.”
Sarah Marafie was a self-taught jeweller, selling her fashion jewellery on market stalls, when she was referred by the Prince’s Trust to Cockpit Arts’ Creative Careers Programme. After two years of business coaching, along with intensive training sessions at the bench to learn traditional jewellery making skills with two of Cockpit’s jewellers, Sarah’s business has undergone a complete overhaul. She has repositioned herself as a high-end fashion jeweller, including redesigning her logo and website. With the start of 2016, she is now ready to launch her new brand into the high-end jewellery market.
“I’m very surprised there is a market for hand woven. It’s a real relief that it’s possible. I’d always hoped hand making was a form of luxury; that the skill, care and attention to detail that go into my products is valued. I really appreciate the amount of creative control that I have over my pieces because I weave them by hand.”
Catarina Riccabona designs and makes hand woven textiles that are produced from start to finish in her studio at Cockpit Arts Deptford. Using a traditional, computerised loom and eco-friendly yarns like hemp, linen, undyed wool and alpaca, Catarina has become part of the new wave of crafts people redefining luxury. She sells her work direct from her studio, as well as through outlets like The New Craftsmen.
“The one-to-one coaching sessions were a great sounding board for ideas and gave me the confidence to go forth and get on with things.”
Ndidi Ekubia is a contemporary silversmith who uses traditional hand-raising techniques to create visually stimulating yet functional silverware, recognised for its distinctive ‘rhythmic’ style. A Freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company and Senior Fellow and Trustee of the Bishopsland Educational Trust, her work has been auctioned at Sotheby’s and is in the permanent collections of the V&A, The Ashmolean Museum and The Goldsmiths’ Company.
Ndidi has been at Cockpit Arts’ Deptford incubator since its inception in 2001. Over the years she has been supported in readjusting her business model for the high-end collector’s market, ultimately making her business much more profitable and sustainable. With the birth of her first child, she is now moving out to bigger premises in Surrey and plans to expand into product design.
“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 for setting up a business.”
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.
Since joining Cockpit Arts in 2003, Katharine’s work has grown in both reputation and scale. With help from Cockpit’s Creative Employment programme, she has learnt how to streamline her production processes and now employs a team of three people, enabling her to focus more on the creative side of her business. She is currently looking to expand into the US and hopes one day to open her own workshop space.
“I thought of Cockpit Arts as a studio space and a community of designers with the added bonus of business support – but actually it’s been so much more than that.”
Julie Kouamo, of Kouamo textiles, draws on her French Cameroonian heritage to design boldly visual fabrics rich with imagery collected on her many travels. She launched her eponymous label in 2011, and has collaborated with Made.com on an exclusive collection, as well as selling her work through ABC Carpet & Home in the US, Swoon Editions in London and her own recently launched online shop.
Julie has spent the last three years since arriving at Cockpit Arts’ Holborn incubator transforming her business into a premium textile brand, streamlining her production processes and rethinking her target market. She relaunched as Kouamo in early 2015 and is currently exploring new markets.
“The Cockpit Arts & Ingenious Growth Loan Fund gave us the boost we needed for sampling and marketing and enabled us to create some real energy around the campaign to launch our ready-to-wear range”
Deborah Carré and James Ducker, of Carréducker, craft beautiful bespoke shoes using traditional English hand welted construction. Since joining Cockpit Arts 12 years ago, the company has grown to include shoe making courses, a design consultancy service, an online tool shop and a successful ongoing partnership with gentlemen’s outfitters Gieves & Hawkes. They have recently benefited from The Cockpit Arts & Ingenious Growth Loan Fund which has helped them launch their new ready-to-wear collections.
“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.
‘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.’