Cockpit Arts, enabling craft-makers to flourish

Pic: Rebwar. Vanessa Swann, the director of Cockpit Arts and jewellery maker Sarah Marafie (from right to left)

Pic: Rebwar. Vanessa Swann, the director of Cockpit Arts and jewellery maker Sarah Marafie

By Christopher Ubsdell

Cockpit Arts is an incubator for talented craftspeople and supports makers in the growth of their craft businesses, by giving them space and entrepreneurial advice.

Founded in 1986, the social enterprise helps people of all ages pursue a career in the creative industries, by offering a space to work and business advice enabling them promote and maintain their own companies.

Vanessa Swann, the director of Cockpit Arts, said: “The purpose of Cockpit Arts is to support individuals who want to start up and develop a craft career.”

She added: “It’s difficult enough setting up a small business, but when you want to set up a creative business the tendency is for the person to have a leaning toward the creative side, as opposed to the business side. So we want to ensure that as many people who have that craft and creative skill, develop the business acumen to be able to exploit their creativity and become successful.”

The enterprise offers small craft studios, where the maker-designers can produce their work. They run the Cockpit Arts Creative Employment Programme where first time craft employers are supported to take on an apprentice or an intern and also the Cockpit Arts/The Prince’s Trust Creative Careers Programme. The young people that join the Creative Careers programme are financially supported on the course buy a bursary scheme.

Vanessa explained: “We’re trading on the back of the services that we’re providing to our beneficiaries. To a degree there is a recycling of funds, so that those that are paying more are supporting those that haven’t got the same ability to pay. That’s the beauty of a social enterprise, because to me it’s a better way of creating a fairer and more equitable society.”

Pic: Rebwar. Sarah Marafie, at work.

Pic: Rebwar. Sarah Marafie, at work.

One of the people benefitting from the social enterprise is Sarah Marafie. After studying Fine Art at Westminster University and interning at art galleries for three years Sarah felt that she was still not progressing within the industry. She then joined the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme and they helped her develop a business plan and referred her to Cockpit Arts, as she wanted to be a self employed jeweller.

Since joining the social enterprise Cockpit Arts have introduced her to a Creative Mentor, who has taught her how to make the kind of jewellery she wanted and she now produces handmade pieces in silver and gold.

Sarah says Cockpit Arts and their business team have been very supportive, adding: “They ask you what you need, how much space do you need, just really accommodating helpful friendly staff, like the business team, any time you want you can email them.”

In the future, Vanessa believes that Cockpit Arts could expand to more spaces in London and other cities, to provide more young craft entrepreneurs the platform to flourish. Talking about the enterprise moving forward Vanessa said: “One of the things that interests us is the way that we can further our social mission, and that we can broaden out opportunities for employment in the craft sector to a range of people.”

For more information about Cockpit Arts visit their website

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Filed under Christopher Ubsdell, Features, Rebwar H

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