This year I’m really excited about partnering with Cockpit Arts on a range of events and activities. They’re local to us in King’s Cross and have a history of working with CreateKX and the Library’s Business & IP Centre.
Emma from Cockpit is going to be an expert at our next ‘Make it, Sell it!’ event in September (watch this space). She answered some of my questions…
Can you sum up Cockpit Arts for us in a nutshell?
In a nutshell, we support extraordinary craftspeople who create exquisite work! We are an award winning creative business incubator tailored to support talented designer-makers. We work with a broad range of different craft disciplines such as textiles, jewellery, ceramics and glass and we provide designers with affordable studio space, business support and selling opportunities. Since we first started in 1986 we have helped thousands of craftspeople to grow their businesses, many of whom have gone on to achieve national and international success. Twice a year we also open our doors to the public for our renowned Open Studios events. Visitors love to see behind the scenes in the studios, discover new work and buy designer pieces direct from the makers.
You’ve got 165 designers and makers working in your studio spaces across London. Can you tell me about a few of them?
Here’s just a taste of what some of our diverse group of designer-makers are up to:
Fashion designer Lena Santana's Inspiration collection features silk screened African brocade fabrics in pastel shades and techniques ranging from intricate pleating to hand-knitting. Lena’s approach to fashion is bold and playful which she puts down to her South American background. She has a strong focus on ethically sourced materials and her garments are hand draped, cut by hand and made in the UK. Lena is developing a plan for business growth and recently benefited from Cockpit’s ‘Commercialising Creative Content’ project funded by the ERDF, to help improve and streamline production. We also connected her with a UKTI advisor to help take her export plans to the next stage. Stockists in London, Brazil, Budapest and Japan could be just the start!
Lizzie Allen has gained an enviable reputation as a designer: she launched her vibrant wallpaper collection at 100% Design in 2006 and it became an instant best-seller. Her wallpapers are stocked in Liberty, John Lewis and independent stores in UK, France, Germany, Netherlands and New Zealand. She has designed the Spring/Summer 2012 main print on a range of homewares for Habitat using her signature style, and the products have just hit the shops. Lizzie’s designs are all hand screen printed in small batches using hand-mixed inks, and are all made in London. In addition to her witty wallpapers, Lizzie has expanded her range to include colourful printed textiles, sold by retailers such as Liberty and Paul Smith. Other high-profile commissions include a Royal Wedding design for Marks & Spencer and a stunning 60th anniversary Festival of Britain wallpaper for the Southbank Centre. Lizzie has enjoyed tailored one-to-one business coaching with the Cockpit Business Development Team. She also benefitted from our ‘Commercialising Creative Content’ project, funded by the ERDF, where she worked closely with a manufacturing expert to explore new product development and strategic planning.
I’ve had a quick peek around your studios in Holborn and it was fascinating to get a feel for what people are making. What’s the most unusual piece of work you’ve seen someone create?
Work by Paul Vincett of Stitches and Glue is very unique and always draws a crowd during the Open Studios. For Paul, working with monsters is a passion that he has turned into a successful career. All the critters that come out of his Monsters Workshop are meticulously hand-crafted from premium quality fake fur and are collectors’ items. Paul has worked for many years in film and theatre. Most notably he has worked on X-Men First Class and Tim Burton’s recent release, Dark Shadows. He is currently working with Handspring UK, the acclaimed puppet company behind the South Bank’s War Horse production. Paul has taken advantage of our one-to-one business coaching and his work enjoys a growing international reputation. In 2010, he won the New York Times’ Puppet of the Year and he also produces bespoke art toys for Urban Outfitters US. Paul exports to France, Japan, China and Russia and has launched a new online shop.
Mary Portas recently came to one of your events. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yes, we were thrilled that Mary Portas came to our summer Open Studios this June. She really enjoyed the experience and the we all enjoyed meeting her. Mary is a huge supporter of British made work and she spoke very passionately about the importance of what we do at Cockpit Arts. She said on camera "I like shopping this way. It feels like a wonderful, spirited, creative environment. We are at the heart of great talent and community spirit - I think that’s very British. For me this is somewhere I would like to drag 25 pals back to. Actually when is your next Open Day?" We’re looking forward to seeing her again!