15th May 2017
In July 2016, ten candidates were interviewed by representatives from Clear Insurance and Cockpit. Leah Jensen was selected for the 2016 Award and moved in to Cockpit, Deptford in September that year.
The Cockpit / Clear Insurance Award specifically aims to support professional makers who have been in business for less than three years and have aspirations to develop their craft business.
The Award includes the following benefits:
Studio space for one year within the creative community at Cockpit, London.
An insurance package from Clear Insurance.
Business and professional development services including on-site coaching, a personalised development plan, workshops and events.
A range of selling and promotional opportunities including the Cockpit Open Studios.
I use ceramics as a canvas, as a surface on which to explore ideas surrounding mathematics and art; deconstructing Renaissance paintings to their fundamental elements and unearthing hidden geometric structures that reside beneath the surface. I carve each vessel by hand with an aim to increase the complexity and precision of detail to appear mechanically manufactured. I call this aesthetic ‘anti-digital’.
The patterns derived from each painting are determined by significant points in the image, which are mapped onto the surface of the vessels using pins and paper. The holes left behind dictate where I carve, generating an added challenge by creating irregular intervals in the surfaces. I combine materials in order to produce the highest possible contrast in colour and texture: clean, smooth, white porcelain against dark, burnt wood; grogged clay partially covered by a glassy shell. Carving each vessel by hand is a very slow and meditative process that allows space for reflection.
Once the vessel is complete the narrative is hidden, just as structure of the painting before it.
Q. What difference has The Cockpit / Clear Award made to you and your business?
The difference has been huge. Having only been in London for a year and still in the early stages of my business, it has been so incredibly valuable to have an instant network of support. I am able to speak to other ceramicists if I have a question about making, and I can book a 1-2-1 appointment if I need help working through pretty much anything else! This has given me the head space to concentrate on making to the best of my ability, and it has really made me think clearly about what I want to achieve and how I can make it happen, and that it is actually possible.
Q. How has the Award affected the growth, development and/or performance of your business?
It may sound simple, but having everything I need to make my work in a clean, warm and well-organised space is something I have never experienced before, and it has made a huge difference to the efficiency of my practice. This has freed up a lot of time I can now spend on other things such as marketing and experimenting. The growth is something that I think will become apparent over a little bit more time. I have spent my time at Cockpit so far solidly making vessels for my first solo show with The New Craftsmen in May 2017, which has meant I haven’t had anything to sell or promote as it’s all been kept under wraps until the exhibition. This is by far the most important thing I have done to date.
Q. How has the Award affected the profile of your business?
Taking part in the Open Studios in December 2016, it quickly became apparent to me that people associate a certain level of craftsmanship with studio holders and Cockpit. It has made me think a lot about how my work is perceived and what kind of image I want to portray. The additional press around the solo exhibition with The New Craftsmen has really boosted my profile, and it’s been a great asset to promotional activity to say that I am a recipient of the Award.
Since being at Cockpit I have realised the importance of being surrounded by other creative people: seeing the quality of their work and what they can achieve has made me feel unafraid to be more ambitious. The insurance segment of the Award has been brilliant, because I make highly time- consuming one off pieces; if something goes wrong it’s not as simple as just making another one. I feel very comforted in the knowledge that if I am ever in that situation, a very helpful and understanding company are just on the end of the phone.
Leah’s exhibition with The New Craftsmen during London Craft Week 2017 has been a significant milestone for Leah. She created six finished vessels, as well as two on display that were ‘in process’ to illustrate her making technique, including porcelain, stoneware and, for the first time, terracotta. The porcelain pieces in the series were also combined with burnt wood bottoms – creating a subtle feeling of discomfort through the juxtaposition of dirty and clean, rough and refined.
The show continues until 17 June and more details can be found here: https://www.thenewcraftsmen.com/leah-jensen-show-london-craft-week-2017/
The Cockpit / The Clear Insurance Award is offered annually to craft practitioners starting out in business who wish to apply for a place at Cockpit’ incubators. Details about the 2017/18 Award will be coming soon so watch out for news on www.cockpitarts.com
Clear Insurance Management continues to show their commitment to supporting craft businesses, having run The Clear Insurance Scheme for Craft Workers & Design Businesses since November 2002. The scheme has proved enormously beneficial to the UK craft community by providing an affordable insurance package tailored specifically to the needs of makers.