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Pantxika Ospital – her English friends call her Pia – owes her unusual name to her Basque background. She grew up in Bayonne, between the mountains and the beaches. But a talent for art took her first to Paris, where she studied, and then to London. She says that both nature and the city influence her creative work.
After a training in design and leatherwork she has turned her hand to working with a natural product that has been under threat following the wine industry’s decision to turn to screwtops and plastic to seal its bottles. Pia fell in love with cork on a visit to Portugal. Cork is entirely renewable, it is harvested every nine years, without harming the trees it comes from, something which appeals to Pia.
She soon discovered that very thin cork can be used to make bags. She looked around for a cork bag to wear, discovered no-one was making them, so went into the cork business herself. She is now making and selling handbags, as well as covers for iPads and iPhones, purses and card holders. She loves the cork she uses, “It is amazing! It is light, flexible and waterproof. It can be dyed and finished in many styles – it’s really versatile. And it’s a nice and green alternative to leather”.
A great fan of London – “I find that Londoners are really funny and kind with my mispronunciations”, she says – Pia’s ambition is to develop a collaborative studio shop with like-minded designers in West London, to promote, make and sell products made locally. That may be a few years off. But meanwhile, there’s an opportunity to visit Pia’s studio and see (and buy) some of the goods she makes there during the ArtWest Open Studio weekend on October 4th and 5th.