Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Christina’s Wish list- Cockpit Christmas Open Studios

Gathering Wood by Katharine Morling
Late November and early December is when consumers are simultaneously bombarded by craft, design and affordable art fairs, all vying for a prized spot on your Christmas shopping hit-list. There’s simply too much choice and too little to spend it on.

Until scientists figure out how to scatter clones across multiple destinations, this year I decided to be well, decisive.  Opting out of polished gallery exhibitions and glossy department stores (cue: beautiful but overpriced gifts), during the last 2 weekends I went straight to the source at Cockpit Christmas Open Studios. Its annual Christmas open studios in upmarket Holborn (25-27 November) and up-and-coming Deptford (2-4 December) are fantastic for picking up unconventional gifts at a snip of the shop price.

Cockpit is a social enterprise which supports independent designer makers mainly through its unique business incubator package. (In case you’re wondering, the name originates from the site of the Holborn building, which was once an 18th century cockfighting yard).

At first glance, the exteriors of both studio buildings were hardly glamorous, my head embossed with the image of industrial factories and billows of black smog. But once inside the festive excitement and was overwhelmingly infectious. Visiting a designer-makers’ open studios is a bit like getting a sneak peek at Santa’s elves in his factory. You get to see where the magic happens (some were literally making), satisfying one's curiosity of how beautiful things are made. It was slightly surprising to discover artisans of diverse crafts working alongside each other in each studio. Weaving looms, knitting machines and digital fabric printers stood beside Victorian letterpresses, kilns and jewellery benches. I’d never seen such eclectic disciplines  drawn together in a dynamic hub of creative talent; brimming with enthusiasm and inspiration of which makers must inevitably rub off on each other.

Each maker’s space had a personalised atmosphere- from music, aroma, to lighting (I was seduced by dimly lit boudoir of Holloway Smith Noir). Even kilns and sewing machines were given a sprinkle of Christmas embellishment or used as display props. Plus there was amazing warm mulled cider and nibbles offered to keep shoppers spirits’ merry. I’ll definitely be visiting again.

In recession stricken times, Cockpits’ success is testament that the artisan crafts spirit, community and industry are very much alive.

Christmas at Cockpit- Top 10 Gift Picks

Spoil Loved Ones (or more likely yourself!)

1.  Extravagantly opulent with gold and precious stones, this Hoard brooch by Ruth Tomlinson is a headturner
2. This bold, contemporary Geisha screen print by Constructive Studio adds a funky edge to any interior

3. Tiny cut glass inspired porcelain vases by Shan Annabelle Valla- so cute you'll want to collect them all!
4. Fun, nostalgic with quintessentially English humour, Ruth Martin's rubber stamped paper creations are perfect for all ages

5. Jessica Poole's gold fluted earlaces with diamonds remind me of angels' trumpets. A glamorous festive touch to any evening or party outfit

6.Naomi Ryder's Kirsty Drinks Tea bone china teacup and saucer features beautifully delicate illustrations taken from her embroideries
7. Maya Selway plays with trompe l'oeil with this clever silver Kishu vase that appears to be a simple line drawing. By putting something in it you can customise and complete its silhouette
8. Like the Pam Am series currently airing on the BBC, I predict Petra Bishai's airline matchbook themed Lucifer rings will be a sure hit
 9. Illuminate a living room into a rural and mythical winter wonderland with Lush Designs lampshades
10. Channel Dita Von Teese with these naughty yet classy Holloway Smith Noir vintage lace pasties.


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