Susie Cooper (1902 – 1995) British ceramicist and designer

Cubist' a gray's pottery coffee set for six designed by Susie Cooper
Cubist’ a gray’s pottery coffee set for six designed by Susie Cooper

Breakfast in an American middle-class home in the 1940s was often served on dishes designed by English designer Susie Cooper (1902-1995).

Education

She studied under Gordon M. Forsyth at the Burslem School of Art from 1918 to 1922.

Biography

Cooper began working as a designer for A. E. Gray & Company in 1922. Her work became so famous the following year that it was stamped with the words “made by Susie Cooper.” She worked for A. E. Gray until 1929, then had her own pottery company from 1929 until the 1960s, until joining Wedgwood in 1966.

Susie Cooper Pottery was founded in 1929 in a factory rented from Doulton. In 1931, she relocated to Burslem’s Crown Works, where she remained for over 50 years. She purchased blanks and created her shapes, both of which were manufactured by various firms until she reached an agreement with Wood and Sons to manufacture her goods.

Initially, she created designs by hand. By 1933, she was employing over 40 painters and utilising a lithographic-transfer process.

Art Deco Susie Cooper Gray's Pottery Modernist Lamp and Beaker Duo
Art Deco Susie Cooper Gray’s Pottery Modernist Lamp and Beaker Duo

John Lewis was her first major commission in 1935, followed by Peter Jones, Harrods, Waring and Gillow, Selfridges, and Heal’s.

In c1933, she created the Curlew shape, and in c1935, she created the Kestrel shape.

Designed tableware for Imperial Airways in 1937—1938. She was a significant innovator in domestic ceramics throughout the 1930s and beyond, known for her elegant and utilitarian shapes. She designed tableware for the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain’ exhibition at the Royal Pavilion in London. She manufactured bone china at Longton’s Jason Works, which she acquired in 1950 and renamed Susie Cooper China.

Kestrel Coffee Set Susie Cooper V&A
Kestrel Coffee Set Susie Cooper V&A

By the early 1960s, her primary product was bone china, and earthenware production had virtually ceased. In 1961, she merged with R.H. and S.L. Plant (Tuscan Works), which was acquired by Wedgwood, where she remained until 1972 as a senior designer and director. For six decades, she was a prominent potter whose work was lauded both in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Style

Although the Susie Cooper Wedgwood lines were only produced until 1979, Cooper continued to operate until 1986. Her designs mirrored the tastes of the time, transitioning from new to traditional to appeal to the American market, then to subdued modern shapes such as mug-like cups and cylindrical teapots in the 1950s, and finally to op art trends in the late 1960s. Her dishes were always fashionable, functional, and reasonably priced. Bright colours, abstract banded patterns, stylised flowers, incised designs, spiral motifs, and polka dots were among the elements she used.

Susie Cooper Gray's Pottery 'Rooster' Nursery Ware Child's Mug Pattern c1928
Susie Cooper Gray’s Pottery ‘Rooster’ Nursery Ware Child’s Mug Pattern c1928

Sources

Atterbury, P., Batkin, M., & Denker, E. P. (2005). Millers twentieth-century ceramics: a collectors guide to British and North American factory-produced ceramics. Miller’s.

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Kovel, R. M., & Kovel, T. (2007). Kovels’ American collectibles 1900 to 2000. Random House Reference.

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