Where it all Began : Cockpit
It’s Cockpit Open Studios this weekend and I’ll be showing there as alumni with a wide range of our products on offer. Being back at Cockpit always makes me nostalgic as it’s the place where it all began for my business over 20 years ago.
I graduated from Brighton University in the early 90s and moved up to London with the idea of starting up my own screen-printing studio as soon as possible. I always felt like the magic of textiles is in the physical process of printing on fabric, not sitting at a computer as it so often is these days – it’s like the difference between actually cooking recipes and just reading about them! The planets obviously aligned the day I stumbled across Cockpit Studios. Relatively new at the time, Cockpit was a little craft oasis tucked away in Holborn, full of young designer makers working in a myriad of genres. Jewellers, milliners, musical instrument makers, ceramicists and so on – it was the perfect place to find myself after leaving college – surrounded once again with amazingly creative people and not isolated at home, working alone.
Rent started low and then gradually increased as you became more established, so it was just the helping hand I needed to get myself up and running. After I had been there a couple of months I had to open up my studio to the public for the Cockpit summer open day. “Yikes”, I thought to myself, what am I going to sell? I had been spending my time designing prints to sell to fashion companies that were used on clothing on a large commercial scale. The only thing I could think of was to print a bunch of scarves. By that point I had just started working with botanical silhouettes, so I hand-printed some leafy scarves and to my amazement they sold out within a few days!
Unexpectedly, a talent scout from a US agency visited the studios and spotted my scarves and got me an appointment with a Japanese department store called Takashimaya, which has a beautiful flagship store in New York. I was young and naive and didn’t have a clue how prestigious this was, so I rocked up casually to my meeting with another bunch of scarves under my arm and came away with an order for 40 scarves. I worked day and night to hand-print them all and sent them off.
Luckily a friend in a neighouring studio was able to advise me on what an invoice actually was and how to send things out to US, but you can imagine my accounting system was less than efficient. Things really took off then – Barney’s spotted my scarves in Takashimaya and placed an order, and Libertys quickly followed suit.
Before I knew it I had orders coming out of my ears and was printed scarves seven days a week. It was hard work but such an exciting time. I had no idea how to run a business but suddenly found myself with a fully fledged one – unintentionally. Probably for the best, as if I’d known then everything I know now I would probably have been put right off!
So now here I am, full circle, back at Cockpit Summer Open Studies. The place hasn’t materially changed, maybe a bit more organised these days, as indeed am I. I will have a selection of products there, mostly at a special Cockpit price. Ifyou’re interest in arts & crafts, it’s a great day out. You can nose around all the workshops and chat to the makers in person and there’s demos, talks and lots going on over the whole weekend.
Fri 9th June: 5pm – 9pm
Sat 10th June: 11am – 6pm
Sun 11th June: 11am – 6pm
Cockpit Yard, Northington St, London, WC1N 2NP
Tubes: Holborn, Chancery Lane & Russell Square
FREE ENTRY (Donations welcome)
P.s. Apologies for the headache inducing layout of this blog post – we are still in the process of setting up our new website to be more responsive!