The Cockpit Turners Award 2021 Mike Groves
March 2022 interim progress report
This Award supported by The Worshipful Company of Turners helps an aspiring or established turner, someone who practices the art and craft of turning on a lathe in wood or other materials, to develop their craft practice and business by providing a sponsored place at Cockpit Deptford for a year including a studio and support services, as well as additional support from the Company. The Award includes studio space and access to a lathe and workbench for a year at Cockpit Deptford, London SE8. In addition, the Awardee has access to the business and professional development services at Cockpit, including on-site coaching, a personalised development plan and business skills workshops, as well as public selling events twice a year and a range of promotional opportunities.
The Cockpit Turners’ Award was created to provide an aspiring or established turner with the space and time to grow their business, increase profitability and develop their profile.
Previous winners include Loewe Prize 2022 nominee Eleanor Lakelin and Frank Boggis Rolfe (2011), Chloe Robertson (2012), Matthew Corbishley (2014) Darren Appiagyei (2017) Rafael Santoliquido (2018), Arturo Soto (2019) and Jason Lock (2021).
Mike Groves was selected for the 2021 Award. This report contains his interim progress report with input from Cockpit’s business development team.
Photos taken by Ellie Yexley at the Deptford Cockpit Arts Studio
Mike creates functional tableware – especially bowls – from found and foraged wood. Working in this way – sourcing material from the waste products of tree surgery – takes him into hidden nooks and corners of the city on little adventures off the beaten tracks. Logs are then chainsawed up into blanks and left to season for up to a year. Once dried, blanks are then turned on a lathe and sculpted with chisels and gouges into kitchenware that is made to be used, worn and loved – developing a patina over time that comes to reflect the habits and tastes of the owner. Designs for bowls, for example, are often inspired by Korean, Chinese and Japanese ceramics with tall, raised feet on the base to allow people to hold their bowl; to get up and close with the object and the food.
Q. When did you move in, and how are you finding Cockpit so far?
A. I moved in at the very beginning of September 2021 and, quite frankly, I absolutely love it. To the point where I’m already trying to plan for how to stay on after my Award.
Q. How is your space?
A. My space is great – everything is organised into how and where it works for me. Obviously I also have use of the Lathe Room, which makes my space easier to keep clean. I share with another Awardee at the moment but I know that, when the time comes, I’d rather be on my own in my studio.
Q. What activities have you taken part in so far? Any workshops or events attended? What were they like?
A. I was on the Make It Count series of seminars at the beginning of the Award. That was great for a) having a bit of structure b) meeting new people and, most importantly, c) learning some business tips. I also attended Orsi Toth’s three-part workshops on online marketing. Again, that was extremely useful! I was present for the whole of the Winter Makers Market. This was an amazing opportunity to spread the word and establish myself as part of the Cockpit community. Financially it was a bit stop/start but Sunday was good for sales. Outside of Cockpit, I was part of the Worshipful Company of Turners Wizardry In Wood expo at Carpenters Hall in the City and attended a high-end Christmas market in Kensington. I also gave a seminar at UCL’s Department of Anthropology on 21st century making, for which I was paid.
Q. What are you working on at the moment and what do you have coming up?
A. I’ve been working on some samples for a project I’m doing with Neptune – an upmarket homewares shop (or three shops) in West London. Each of the three shops has three different sized bowls that customers can study and enquire about and, if they’d like to buy one, the order comes directly to me. The emphasis is on provenance and supporting local, with wood sourced from across West London.
Q. Have you met your Business Coach? What have you been working on?
A. I have. I originally was working with Emma Jeffs, Business Coach (maternity cover) who has just left. Now I’m with Judith Tolley. Both have been excellent. Judith’s approach is less hands-on but still very constructive. We’re currently looking at my transition to selling online/through Instagram.
Q. What difference has the Award made to your development and the development of your practice and business so far?
A. The Award has been absolutely incredible for my development in numerous ways. Firstly, on a technical point, my work has improved in quality by a considerable margin. My work now has a more sleek, professional and ‘designy’ finish that I think opens it up to new markets (instead of relying on the more hippy scene of green woodworking). I am also making bigger and better things – sometimes double or triple the size of what I could make before – which is not only a personal practical development but also adds variety to my range of products. Secondly, economically, my work has a higher value attached to it because of this more professional look. I now have a higher price tag (deservedly so) and this feeds into a more professional model for my business. By this I mean that I now outsource most of the procurement of my materials so that I have a more ready supply of timber that is ready to go (as opposed to foraging it all myself and having to wait months or years for it to season before working it). These two economic factors combined mean that my business is now more profitable when sales pour in. Finally, on a more personal note, the award has given me a vote of confidence and purpose in what I do and love. This was something it didn’t realise I needed as much as I did.
Q. What are you looking forward to most in the coming six months?
A. In the next 6 months I’m looking forward to tapping into the expertise on offer at Cockpit to develop my brand further. It has been made clear over the previous six months that selling online is the way forward for me and I was to use the resources at Cockpit to really nail the marketing of my products in a concise and professional way online.
To Apply for an award, visit Cockpit Awards
The Turners Award closes 25th April 2022
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