Although Cockpit Arts has been going in some form since 1986, it is a revelation to me. The UK’s only creative-business incubator for designer-makers, it is an amazing social enterprise, supporting extraordinary craftspeople who create exquisite work. Brought together in two London studio locations, Holborn and Deptford, they have access to the skills they need to develop their business. Such a brilliant idea!
Having never been to either location, I was keen to find out more and so, with my friend Kirsten, an enthusiastic novice potter, headed across town to explore the Deptford venue and to meet Billy Lloyd. At first sight we found it an uninspiring building, but we knew that there must be a hive of activity going on inside.
We started to get a sense of this activity as we walked down the long corridor lined with windows offering views into small rooms filled with mysterious equipment, and intriguing names and numbers on each door – and made a note that it would be worth coming back to the Open Studios in June to discover more.
As soon as we entered Billy’s studio we were immediately struck by the view. With such an inspirational panorama of city life, the space suddenly didn’t feel small at all any more.
And as Billy told us more about his work we began to appreciate what Cockpits Art has achieved. His studio is an innovation-incubator bursting with creative energy and we felt the tingle of excitement at having a moment in time when we were a part of it all.
I suspect that most people are attracted to Billy by the strength of his design concepts and the quality of his craftsmanship which are unquestionably impressive. But, for me, what sets him apart is his palpable entrepreneurial spirit; which is already taking him into uncharted territory and will inevitably connect more people to his work. He is the current holder of The Cockpit Arts Award.
For example, Billy is collaborating with the three brothers who own the prestige tea trading company Lalani & Co. It would be such a waste to serve their premium product in the same way as you may serve Tetley or PG tips. Billy is in the process of creating bespoke teaware which looks and feels exquisite and, most importantly, functions perfectly to transform the perfect tealeaf into the ultimate cup of tea for the discerning palette – an even more delicate process than the way in which some decant fine wines.
Another interesting project has grown out of connections Billy made when he was apprenticed to esteemed potter, Julian Stair. During this time he met the architects Niki Borowiecki (SE5arch.com) and his wife Liz.
Niki and Liz are in the process of completing two stunning properties in Grove Park, Camberwell, at a site they have named Springhill. With plans to live in one and to sell the other, they are committed to creating something unique. They briefed Billy to create a cluster of 100 individually crafted lights for each home.
When we visited Billy, he was in the process of developing each piece. Rather than drawing the designs, he produced 3 dimensional sketches of potential shapes for the lights. Each groove is made by holding a profile tool against the clay and excavating a line on the pot as it spins.
The team went on to discuss the idea of making a site specific commission. The building works have involved digging down into the ground for the foundations – removing workable London Clay – which led to the concept of taking “out of the ground and into the house” to create a permanent design feature. And so now Billy is looking at creating a combination of pure porcelain and found clay tiles embedded in an interior and exterior doorway.
The thread that runs through all of Billy’s work is his focus on form. Even though it may sometimes be collected purely for display his pieces are always created with use and function in mind. Designs emerge as he interrogates a single shape.
A range developed from the conical form inverts and flairs for jugs. Colour may be introduced but the palette is selected and restricted to enhance the form.
Billy is regularly involved in exhibitions and events. For example, last September he created an installation of 50 mugs (which luckily were kept together as one collection, when they were bought by Vicki Conran as a gift for Terrance) for Priscilla Carluccio at Far and Few. And this year he is planning an exhibition in December with Niki and Liz at their Camberwell Grove house.
He will also take part in the Open Studios event at Cockpit Arts in Deptford, 22nd -24th June which would be well worth a visit. If that is not convenient and you would like to see more of Billy’s work his email is email@example.com.
Other sources and links are listed below:
Billy Lloyd: www.billylloyd.co.uk
Cockpit Arts: www.cockpitarts.com
Julian Stair: www.julianstair.com
Lalani & Co: www.lalaniandco.com
Priscilla Carluccio: www.fewandfar.net
SE5 Architects: www.SE5arch.com
Springhill blog: www.springhill-se5blogspot.co.uk
Wayne Kirk: www.waynekirk.co.uk
(The professional, well lit photographs above are with thanks to Wayne Kirk. The memory snaps are mine.)
I hope that you have enjoyed this blog and would appreciate any feedback. Please comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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