Five makers looking to nature in the city

Anthropause by Lucille Lewin

As COP27 highlights urgent climate questions, we look at the Cockpit makers who look to nature for inspiration

As we gear up for the Cockpit Winter Open Studios, we’re looking at some of the threads that connect our wonderful Cockpit makers.

This week, we’re looking at five makers for whom nature is a constant source of inspiration, material resource and wonder.

Read on for intricate wood vessels, ancient sculptural baskets, botanical libraries, sustainable natural dyes and political porcelains.

Darren Appiagyei

Woodturner Darren Appiagyei’s goal is always to honour the wood. Turning on the lathe, he uses gouges and chisels to gradually reveal the innate qualities of his materials, be it banksia nut, burr, ash or beech – often sourced locally from Woodlands Farm in London’s Shooters Hill. On this journey, Darren allows the knots, grains and minute details to dictate the shape and outcome of his vessels.

Out of the studio, it’s nature’s presence in our everyday (think grains in your front door) and its power to vandalise the manufactured (think flowers protruding from pavements) that encourage Darren to embrace and showcase its beauty.  

Patrizia Sascor 

Italian basketmaker and former ceramist Patrizia Sascor weaves sculptural contemporary pieces that celebrate craftsmanship and simplicity through renewable materials and enduring design. Always looking to express the energy and dynamism of nature within minimal structures, she predominantly weaves with scented willow from Somerset Levels – a material she describes as ‘unassuming and humble’ and which ‘reveals its versatility after soaking for days’.

Through her willow works, rush seatings and mid-century design chairs in Danish cord, she pursues her quest for simplicity and beauty while considering sustainability and the ancient gestures of weaving.

Amanda Ross

Printing directly from pressed plant cuttings, Amanda Ross creates beautifully lifelike botanical images. While a self-confessed ‘plant killer and useless gardener’, she uses greenery collected from walks and gardens, and draws on the inks, fabrics and paper of her textile background, to create her dream gardens and landscapes. 

An avid collector, Amanda’s plant library includes pieces sourced on travels (both abroad and in the UK) as well as site-specific vegetation and anything that catches her eye. A select number of her prints make it into her ‘Botanical Element Library’ to be used in digital collages.

Ellen Mae Williams

Ellen Mae Williams is a London based textile maker, specialising in natural dyes and sustainable textile methods. Having grown up in rural Oxfordshire, Ellen has a strong connection to the countryside – a dialogue that runs through all of her works. Influenced by the changing seasons and the atmosphere of a place, she looks at colour, texture and composition to create abstract interpretations of the natural world.

While studying textiles at the Royal College of Art, Ellen began to understand the scale of environmental damage caused by the textile industry, from polluting waterways to wasted material. Since then she’s experimented with natural and sustainable ways to work, using natural fibres and dyes to link her main inspiration to the final outcome.

Lucille Lewin

Through porcelain, ceramist Lucille Lewin explores the ‘chaos we have created’ – be it the impact of climate change, social inequalities or political power struggles – as well as a sense of wonder about knowledge and the imagination. 

While works from her ‘Second Nature’ series explore the violent relationship between humans and nature, ‘The Secret Life of a Pea: Post Apocalyptic Regeneration’ references the early microscopic photographs of the natural world by Karl Bloosfeldt. In her works, porcelain clay is modelled, dipped, slipped, cast, thrown, cut up, pressed, extruded – then broken and reassembled through gestural acts over months of hand making.