4th April 2021

In our 2021 Cockpit Effect Report, we’ve featured six makers in case study stories, each illustrating different practices and experiences during 2020. We’ll share them all over the coming weeks.

Cockpit Effect Report 2021 – maker’s story: Ekta Kaul

What major things happened to you during the year?
It was a momentous year. Before the pandemic hit, I was looking at a very busy year. I’d received map commissions from private collectors and had successful open studios. I was invited to teach at the Victoria & Albert Museum and my in-person workshops were well established.

What challenges did you face?
Several big challenges simultaneously when the pandemic hit: Cashflow became a challenge when all my exhibitions, workshops, open studios and selling events were cancelled overnight. I had no access to materials as all my usual
suppliers were closed. Because of childcare responsibilities, I was unable to access my studio space. Working from home, with limited space and whilst home schooling, was highly challenging.

What successes did you have?
I launched a new product line consisting of five map embroidery kits. These were aimed at making my work more accessible and democratizing the creative process. It proved successful and resulted in sales and I also received an order from a museum shop.

In May, I pivoted to online teaching. This led to successful collaborations with key brands like Toast, New Ashgate Gallery and Selvedge.

An exhibition of my stitched maps was held at Toast Shoreditch during the Shoreditch Design Festival, which in turn brought press, enquiries and raised my profile. I received press coverage in Toast Magazine, Embroidery Magazine, Vogue, BBC Radio 4 and Living Etc. Arts Council England emergency funding gave me initial funds to prototype
and test ideas.

What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of having responded to the pandemic crisis with dynamism, positivity and determination. I consistently worked at building my business – I brainstormed ideas, put them into action, tested them repeatedly – despite the challenges I faced.

I also created Soothing Stitch- a free online series of stitch gatherings as a safe space for people to find community and creativity. I continued to do these every Friday throughout the first lockdown and fortnightly since. Over 500 people from all over the world joined these. I feel proud of having given back to the community in a time of crisis.

What would you say was the benefit of being at Cockpit?
Having access to business advice and someone to bounce off ideas with made a big difference, and having training on online marketing, SEC, Zoom and applying for Arts Council England funding were very helpful.
The community was important, too: I didn’t feel isolated despite working from home.