New Studio - Still at Cockpit Arts!

Posted by Sally Lees on

Sally Lees Cockpit Arts

21 Years at Cockpit Arts & I Finally have my own room!

Cockpit Arts Northington Street

2020 was a strange and sad year but it was also my 20th year at Cockpit Arts. I had planned to celebrate it at the Open Studios in June with Cava! Unortunately Covid 19 put a stop to that as it stopped countless other events. Instead Cockpit took the Open studios online with a lot of success but without the lovely atmosphere and interesting conversations with our clients.

However, without the need to socially distance I wouldn't have made the leap from a shared space to my own space so there is always a silver lining to those dark clouds.

A lot has happened in the 20 years since I first arrived at in London and was accepted for a studio at Cockpit Arts. I still remember looking for a studio whilst still in Bradford on the edge of our new adventure. All my Northern friends will understand my reluctant to go 'down South' especially going to the 'big smoke'.

Even after exhibiting at the New Designers Exhibition in 1993 and my subsequent journeys to visit SKK Lighting in Soho to deliver the lampshades commissioned by them I did not contemplate that 7 years later I would be living in Bloomsbury right next to Cockpit Arts with a Central London postcode.

Bloomsbury sounds posh doesn't it. However in 2000 it was still fairly quiet and had only just begun to be gentrified. We rented a reasonably priced flat, run down but liveable and were lucky enough that it was on the next street to Cockpit Arts. I was the envy of most of the makers there who commuted in to work and who, after a night drinking in the Duke had to get the underground or night buses when I just had to roll down the road home. I used to joke that I could go home for lunch and the same song would be playing on the radio when I left my studio and got to my flat. Both were two flights up too!

Cockpit Arts, leased from Camden Council, who I later went on to make trophies for their business awards, was and remains to be above the recycling centre at Cockpit yard. History says that the yard got it's name from Cockrell fights held there in the 16th & 17th centuries. You can believe it too given the colourful language of the current workers in the yard!

Cockpit Yard street sign

I had been running my business on a part time basis in Bradford, partly for a steady income and also because I couldn't work for very long at Woolston House studios due to the lack of central heating and the hole in the ceiling where a sky light used to be.

I was pleasently suprised when I installed myself in my studio and didn't have constantly wear a hat and gloves and go outside to actually warm up as I had done in Bradford plus I could work longer hours!

I coudn't believe the tropical conditions on the first floor of the building though, where the studio head, Adrian, occassionally walked around in hawaiian shirts making it look like he was permanently on his summer holidays.

I moved around the Cockpit building due to one or two different situations I won't mention here. Sufficient to say I don't think it was always entirey my fault! Sharing with people can be difficult at times and some characters are definitely more difficult than others to deal with.

My first ‘space’ was in E2M. E2M was a large room which covered half of the second floor of Cockpit. It was a bit like being back at college as the spaces were laid out in lines with a space next to the wall at the back and one at the front with a corridor running through the middle and more spaces on the other side of the corridor with walls which measured up to your waist. This meant that I had to walk through someone else’s space to get to your own. This was ok as most of the makers there were just really pleased to have been offered a space at this central London studio. It is conveniently close to Hatton Garden, the jewellery quarter, so a perfect space for jewellers.

Cockpit Arts show Sally Lees

Setting up for Summer Open Studios in Holborn, 2012

I remember sharing with lots of really lovely people too. I was used to having my own studio space in Bradford but always spent time with my fellow makers there. I finally settled in E2F with Yen Jewellery, Mizuho Koizumi and Miriam, we were later joined by Will Odell once Miriam had moved out, and had a lovely time working there. When I had my daughter in 2009 I had a little bit of time off but was able to pop into the stuio and participate in the Open studios as I lived so near.

Cockpit Arts Flyers

Some of the flyers from over 40 shows I have participated in at Cockpit

In 2011 we moved to Greenwich leaving our rather shoddy flat (with no central heating) to live in a cute house and I commuted with my daughter for almost three years to Holborn. We did have a lot of fun coming and going but when school started I had a much reduced day and had to be back before 3pm. After a few months commuting on my own, a much more miserable affair without my cheeky toddler, I decided to cut loose and move to Cockpit's other building in Deptford which was a very sort walk from my house.

Sally Lees London Jewellery Cockpit Open Studios in Studio 301 in Deptford

Open Studios in Deptford Cockpit Studio 301

I chose to move into studio 301 on the top floor, with wood worker Matt Nicholls, with views of the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory where I could almost see of my child's school!

As the years passed Matt moved to a single space and Charles Laurie moved in. Charlie makes beautiful leather bags which complemented my collection of cufflinks for men quite nicely at the Open Studios.

Charles Laurie at Cockpit Arts

Charles Laurie at Cockpit Arts Studio 301

We had fun especially when I overcooked a mince pie in the microwave at one of the Open Studios and it set fire providing us with very on trend beige smoke! Charlie had to carry it down the stairs to the outdoor bins as it wouldn't stop smoking. Every now and again as he was walking down the stairs a puff of smoke would escape. The customers looked mightly puzzled by the display - a bit like performance art and I could not stop laughing!

The pandemic hit us all hard at Cockpit and although those that lived nearby or could drive in were able to continue to come in to work and fulfil orders others weren't so lucky. In response Cockpit came to the rescue with reduced rents which we are all really grateful for.

Social distancing was impossible in 301 so I decided to make a break for it and Studio 111 had just become available so I moved! I have been so busy that I hven't had time to miss it. My new view are of the trees on Creekside. I love trees!

 View of tree from my new studio window in autumn 2020

View of trees from my new studio

And this is where I am now seven months on. I am hoping to welcome you all to the Open Studios this year. Whether it be June or December but I promise you....we will be drinking that Cava!

New Studio Sally Lees
Studio 111 - My New Studio!
#handmade #Cockpit_arts #jewellery #studiolife

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