Cockpit Arts 18 – 22 Creekside, Deptford, south London, has to be the place to go for collectors, fans and connoisseurs of contemporary crafts. A couple of times a year they throw open the studio doors and invite the public in to relish a treasure trove of high quality and beautiful things. We spent 5 hours there one rainy Saturday and loved every second.
Award winning Cockpit Arts Chief Executive Vanessa Swann oversees this dynamic institution, ensuring full participation in their open events and doing masses to support business development, from hosting an incubator and finding scholarships to providing a searchable online directory of studio members. Previously the Deputy Director of the Design Museum and Director of Commissioning at Contemporary Applied Arts, Vanessa is well placed to head up Cockpit, helping the UK’s talented creatives to get on the map.
Ceramics are extremely high quality and artists like Katharine Morling push the medium to it’s outer most reaches. You can invest in her work easily enough, from buying a single ceramic nail to going the whole hog and ending up with an entire ceramic installation. Katharine seems to transform her material, like the finest paper folded this way and that, until a whole world appears, the matt white surface’s only concession to colour – an inky line.
The rich glazed colours found in the work of Cockpit Arts alumni Louisa Taylor (MA RCA) work beautifully in groups and well as individual pieces, I couldn’t resist buying two of her pieces which were amazingly good value given her status in the world of ceramics and her career as a lecturer at Brighton 3D Design and Craft, where she is committed to teaching the next generation of ceramicists; an ‘inspirational teacher’ one of her students told me. Louisa is also the author of ‘Ceramics: Tools and Techniques for the Contemporary Maker. My orange and green pots now sit on my mantlepiece at home, small points of energetic colour.
Anna Perring had on show sensual ways to light your home using her Luna Snowball Lights in stoneware; lamps which cast a million stars. You can commission Anna to make lamps and porcelain and tealight holders too. Hats off to Emma Yeo whose works are nothing short of sculptural, her background is in Multi Media Textiles from Loughborough University and MA in Design Jewellery from St Martins. Emma’s hats are unique, wonderful when worn and equally compelling exhibited as art objects.
Jasmin Carey is a highly skilled pattern cutter as well as a great fashion designer. Jasmin studied at the London College of Fashion and Kent Institute of Art and Design, specialising along the way in bespoke tailoring. Her designs come under the label Deco 22 and are made like nothing you’d ever see in the shops, the quality and finish is exceptional. If you want to learn from a real expert in her field with 17 years of professional experience, Jasmin also runs pattern cutting courses at Cockpit Arts, for more information see Notches.
A real perk of visiting their Deptford studios is lunch. Blue Patch’s Emma Kirby is vegan and I was sorry she wasn’t with me to taste the mouthwatering cakes by chef Giancarlo Roncato – I happily made up for it. Next time we have a party we’ll be calling on the services of Vegan Sweet Tooth for sure.
The Clothworkers’ Foundation Award supports gifted weavers at Cockpit Arts for a period of two years, providing looms and free studio space. This enables a cohort of exceptional weavers to continue their practice without worrying about studio rent and the cost of buying a loom. One such weaver is Catarina Riccabona, who’s work takes into consideration the supply chain and ethics of her raw materials. Catarina uses undyed and unbleached wools, the only colour in her textiles is the natural colour of the fleeces, found and upcycled items, so an orange zip or strip of red wool could be introduced, giving her work a conceptual edge. They’re beautifully soft too.
Seeing double, I met two highly skilled guitar makers called Alex. Alex Potter and Alex Bishop both studied instrument making at London Metropolitan University and were happy to play their instruments and entertained visitors. Aware of sustainability, both of these master guitar makers are well up on their supply chains and love to use wood from UK trees that has fallen naturally. I was amazed to see guitars, mandolins and lutes being made in Deptford. It was, I imagined, a long lost skill – but evidently not, so if you want a guitar just book an appointment to visit them.
Row Pinto designs and makes elegant scarves in superfine Scottish lambs wool, which are excellent for brightening up formal business suites without making you boiling hot. Demand for Row’s work is increasing steadily with clients from Jasper Conran, Sonia Rykiel and Marc Jacobs. Her work is so visually pleasing it looks as good on the wall as worn – not something to hide away in your cupboard. Amber Khokhar is trained in the Traditional Arts and she lectures at Birkbeck College, London. She’s also is the first contemporary artist to create a 40 meter long rug for Buckingham Palace. Commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales, the rug is right in the heart of the Palace, alongside the art collection of King George IV.
Rounding up this brief encounter of the treasures of Cockpit Arts I suggest you add yourselves to their mailing list and take the first opportunity to visit this wonderful studio and social enterprise. Committed to supporting crafts in the UK Blue Patch is in full support of the ideals and aims of Cockpit Arts and we’d love to feature more of their artist/makers. Buy your gifts and furnishings from these ethical and independent UK businesses and you’ll also generate local jobs, protect the environment and improve our economy all round – added to which you’ll get lovely things to pass down to future generations.