Local finds: Bloomsbury

Working from her studio at London’s Cockpit Arts in Holborn, ceramicist Jo Heckett makes distinctive porcelain gifts, jewellery and magnets. We asked her to share with us her local knowledge and insight into the area she loves.

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Why Bloomsbury?

The atmosphere and sense of history. It’s Dickens country, so you get a real feeling of the layers of London. It’s quite residential yet very near the square mile, so it’s got a bit of everything, and everywhere is accessible from here!

Describe where you work and what you love best about it

I work in a shared studio at Cockpit Arts Holborn along with my studio manager Kim. If you were a fly on the wall, you would be forgiven for thinking you were at a bakery.

We use similar techniques to making biscuits – rolling out the finest porcelain clay into slabs and then using a selection of cookie cutters and templates to cut out a variety of shapes. These are then stamped with a rich array of textures using our vintage stamps and found objects, before being fired in our kiln and then glazed in our soft glossy colours.

I try to be environmentally conscious and can’t bear the idea of throw-away stuff, so aim to make special gifts that have personal meaning and value that I hope will be treasured forever. This is also one of the reasons I make such small things. Value is not about size but meaning.

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Describe the sights, smells and sounds of where you work

Our studios share a building with Camden’s bin men, and I love to hear them joking with each other down in the yard. On warm Friday evenings the local pubs spill out onto the pavement as office workers switch off for the weekend. I particularly like walking around the area at the weekend when the hustle and bustle of the week has gone and the underlying sights and sounds take centre stage.

If we came to your area for one day, what shouldn’t we miss?

Come to our studio for a cup of tea and a rummage through our letter magnet drawers, especially when Cockpit Arts has its open studios when over 100 designer makers transform their studios into a gorgeous retail environment… it’s a fantastic day out.

Share a real hidden gem with us – the sort of place we’d never find in the guidebooks

The Foundling Museum and Coram’s Fields. The Foundling Museum tells the poignant history of four centuries of children whose parents couldn’t look after them, while Coram’s fields is a great playground and historic mini zoo.

Where’s the best place to watch the world go by?

Gray’s Inn Gardens is like a little bit of Dickens and although I’m not sure that they’d let you loiter, it’s a real treat to walk through there. Otherwise Queen Square is right in the middle of all manner of specialist hospitals (sounds morbid, but the architecture is dramatic and you get the sense of the important things in life) and the square is full of comings and goings. If it’s raining then the Mary Ward College has a nice little vegetarian cafe overlooking the square.

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Best find for a quiet coffee and a cake?

Bea’s of Bloomsbury on Theobalds Road – yummy, scrummy, fabulous cakes & a grand cup of tea!

Best find for history and culture lovers?

This is museum country, so take your pick – Sir John Soane’s Museum, Charles Dickens Museum or The British Museum.

Best find for lovers of great design?

Cockpit Arts of course!

What’s your favourite place to eat out and what do you order?

Kimchee Korean Restaurant, High Holborn – Pick randomly from the menu & you can’t go wrong!

Best place to pick up lunch? What would you order?

Ban Mi Bay Vietnamese Retaurant – I eat from here at least once a week. My favourite is summer rolls & satay chicken noodle salad with a fresh carrot, apple & ginger juice. The staff are really lovely and the food is delicious & fresh.

Best place to stay in your area and why?

We recently did some work for the events department at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel which is an absolutely incredible building – maybe one day I’ll get to stay there!

Best place to buy great food and what would you eat/cook?

The People’s Supermarket – it’s a co-operative supermarket with ever changing fresh produce. I pop in most days for seasonal veg & fab artisan bread. Best place to shop and favourite find?

Best place to shop and favourite find?

I really love my butter & sugar dishes by studio mate YoYo Ceramics. The Brunswick Centre is great for decent high street clothing chains… many a party crisis has been averted by a last minute dash!

 


Resources:

For more information about Jo Heckett’s work visit www.joheckett.com

To find out more about Bloomsbury, take a look at www.allinlondon.co.uk/regions/bloomsbury

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