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  • Spring Open Studios by Marine
  • Julie Kouamo
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Spring Open Studios by Marine

Three days to visit Cockpit Arts studios and see work by many different artists

It is 6pm and here we are at Spring Open Studios! The studio layout at Cockpit Arts is complete and the designers are ready to welcome visitors and introduce their work. It is my first experience ‘backstage’ at an Open Studios event and I’m working for everyone’s favourite travel inspired lifestyle brand ‘Kouamo’ in studio E7.  I started one week ago and will be assisting Julie for two months. The experience at Open Studios allows me to see both sides of the event and feel the difference between being backstage and being a visitor.

After a few hours informing our customers about Kouamo and showing them our colorful collections - I am given the chance to look around the other studios at Cockpit Arts. What strikes me is how the designers were so involved in their work. It is not only a job for them, their handmade products represent the culmination of a personal project. We also sense the many working hours which are put into designing and making their products. It is not like a shopping centre, where there are international brands everywhere - in the studio you see where designers imagined their products from an idea to a final product. This gives a personal touch to everything we see.

Kouamo is one of many inspiring design businesses at Cockpit Arts and I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you about three of my other favourites:

Tamara Gomez, Jeweller

Tamara was born in Sri-Lanka. She trained at Loughborough College of Art and Design and graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1997 with a Masters in goldsmithing and jewellery. She immediately set up Tamara Gomez Jewellery in London and began to design and handcraft her collections of contemporary jewellery using sterling silver, gold, platinum and gemstones. There are quite a few jewellers at Cockpit Arts but the personal touch of Tamara (and Laura Gravestock, who I’ll tell you about shortly) seduced me the most. Tamara’s jewellery reflects the natural side of the raw materials she uses. Even though she is very busy on the night, Tamara seems a very welcoming and friendly. I feel that meeting the artist before purchasing their work is really important, if you have the opportunity.

 Katharine Morling, Ceramics

Katharine makes amazing ceramics. I learnt Katharine was six months pregnant and her assistant was helping out at the Open Studios. She told me that Katharine first set up her studio in 2003 and today she has an international reputation for her work. Indeed, her handmade products are so original: she creates sculptures with porcelain. Each piece is made with huge attention to detail. Katharine worked around the world for six years and studied psychology before embarking on an A-level in ceramics and then a ceramics Degree at Falmouth College of Art. When she graduated she came to London and set up a studio at Cockpit Arts. It was difficult at first but she completed an MA at the Royal College of Art, Ceramics and Glass Department in 2009 which made her feel more confident and develop new ideas.

Laura Gravestock, Jeweller

Last but not least is Laura Gravestock, who launched her jewellery brand in 2009. Laura was soon named as one of Professional Jeweller's Hot 100 in 2011 and 2014, and was a finalist for the UK Jewellery Awards New Designer of the Year 2012. Laura has different ranges which are inspired by her childhood spent in the Middle-East and in Spain as well as her London life. Her brand offers ‘a new era of decadence and opulence’ and she creates beautifully designed wearable, luxury jewellery. She also has a strong focus on customer service. Laura’s models reflected freshness of the designs and each range seems to reflect a period of her life. She had just had a baby as well and as the baby came early she asked her Open Studios customers to guess the baby’s name!

And finally...

It was a treat to play a part in the Spring Open Studios. It enable me to see the different worlds of the designers who are working in the studios, and how different they all are - from decorative items to jewellery. It is the best opportunity to discover designers and to chat with them, during times when they are not too busy with lots of customers!

By Marine, Kouamo Intern

  • Julie Kouamo
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