2nd April 2020

Our 2020 Cockpit Effect Impact Report features a series of case studies to illustrate the diversity of makers, their practices and business journeys at Cockpit. Over the coming weeks we’ll share these with you.

Tessa Eastman is navigating the commercial art world with her abstracted clay sculptures

“Clay can bend and move as forms in nature can,” says ceramic artist Tessa Eastman. “The challenge is in retaining a sense of life in the work after firing.” The abstracted forms she produces reflect the natural world as seen through a microscope – the intricacies of bones, clouds, crystals and seeds. She makes her one-off pieces by hand – using age-old pottery techniques, colourful glazes and textures to create contrasts and unexpected spatial juxtapositions.

The nature of her work meant that she never quite fit in at craft fairs. “Nobody purchased my work and I didn’t enjoy talking to clients who didn’t understand it,” she says. “Whenever I had a show in a gallery, I felt my work belonged there.”

Making a living as a fine artist is, of course, not easy – something she was acutely aware of when she arrived at Cockpit. “I was hungry for business support, which I felt in desperate need of,” she says. “Being a businessperson doesn’t come naturally to me.” As well as help with pricing, writing, giving lectures, social media and applying for funding, she has worked with her coach to assess the market for her work and set goals for the future. “I like the action-based nature of these workshops and meetings and the fact I can take what is relevant and apply it to my business – for example, I have learnt how to create gallery contracts and to gain more confidence in managing client relationships.”

With a string of awards, including the Young Masters Prize in 2017, solo shows and presentations at such platforms as the Collect art fair under her belt, she is now working to broadening her reach internationally and increase sales. Things are already progressing rapidly: last year, she approached Manhattan-based gallery Jason Jacques, which has a reputation for showing dynamic sculptural ceramics, and in October secured a solo show at its space – followed rapidly by displays at its stands at Design Miami in December and San Francisco’s FOG Design + Art fair in January. In the UK, she is represented by the Cynthia Corbett Gallery and Alveston Fine Art.

Eastman’s growing confidence in seeking out such opportunities is in large part the result of the support at Cockpit, she says. “It will allow me to be a tougher businesswoman, be clearer about asking for what I want and saying no to things that aren’t right.”

Cockpit Effect Impact Report 2020


Photos: Juliet Sheath and Jamie Trounce