Last spring, The New Craftsmen and Cockpit joined forces to help promote greater diversity in the craft world with an award that aims to champion a new generation of exceptionally talented craftspeople focusing on the application of craft in interiors. The 3-year programme provides the awardee with a funded studio space in London, financial and practical support from both The New Craftsmen and Cockpit, as well as continual guidance and mentoring.
As we open up applications for the second round of the award on Tuesday 3rd May, we spoke with Kamilah Ahmed - our first awardee from 2021.
Kamilah was selected from many brilliant applications in June last year. Shortly after this she moved into her Holborn studio where she has been creating an energising showcase of her unique textile techniques across weaving and embroidery. Kamilah has also been exploring the ambitious application of her distinctive craft process - inspired by traditional Bengali Jamdani muslin sari weaving - to interiors products, including lighting, furniture and sculptural pieces.
We’ve asked Kamilah a few questions about her experience as the award-winner over the past 6 months and what advice she would offer anyone interested in applying for the second year.
As the first recipient of The New Craftsmen Award at Cockpit, please can you share with us how you’ve found the experience, what you’ve learned and what impact it has had on your practice?
So far, the process has been challenging and transformative. I am constantly encouraged to look at business, practical and product perspectives, in gearing my embroidery practice towards high end interiors. The Make It Count workshops - provided by Cockpit - have provided a brilliant foundation and introduction to business basics and enabled me to identify areas which need attention and building on, whilst being part of an amazing support network and creative community at Cockpit. The opportunity to invite visitors into my studio space through ‘open studios’ as well as other events at Cockpit have helped me to gain exposure and connect with potential clients and collaborators. The additional curriculum that The New Craftsmen has provided me has given me an invaluable introduction into the high-end interiors market, as well as a strong framework of market insights and context to position my practice in and aim towards. The curriculum meetings have been an opportunity to gain detailed outlines of how The New Craftsmen works with makers, their commissioning process, product development and sales insights, and providing me with the opportunity to ask questions, discuss and ‘soundboard’ with the team to help me further develop and refine my skillset towards the high-end interiors craft market.
How has your work developed over the past six months?
During the past six months, insights into the world of high-end interiors during research and development alongside feedback from business mentorship has encouraged me to investigate ways that my combined hand and digital processes can become more commercially refined through collaboration and outsourcing certain aspects of development. The aim is to create finishes with more refined commercial applications for statement lighting features and ultimately to develop processes that are integrated in furniture panels. Using cross hatched yarns and embroidery trapping techniques with harder materials such as raffia and perspex, my ambition is to create a process that can be applied to a wider range of interior contexts through collaboration and commission.
What themes are you currently exploring in your work?
My mixed media embroidered and woven textiles merge contemporary processes and aesthetics with tradition to explore the boundaries between hybridity and heritage. I look at the landscapes and craft legacies evoked in family photographs, heirloom textiles and my illustrations from Dhaka, Bangladesh and layer these into my work. The interdisciplinary approach to process in my work takes inspiration from the art of Jamdani which combines weaving with hand embroidery simultaneously on the loom. Developing hand wrapped warps held together by digital embroidery, trapping silk yarns along with other experimental approaches to combining materials in my work, interrupts the traditional order of craft processes to create unexpected finishes.
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone considering applying to the award?
This award will give you the opportunity to develop your craft practice within a high-end interiors context with a product focus in mind alongside practical advice and business support. If you are aiming to launch your craft practice, the professional development and studio space based at Cockpit will provide you with the best environment to do so. Working in a stimulating creative space alongside diverse makers will create new possibilities for growth in your practice, so be open to explore the potential avenues this brings and make the most of engaging with the creative community at Cockpit and the team at The New Craftsmen.
Applications are now open for the second Award. Please follow the link to read more and apply.