Susie Cooper (1902-1995) was an English pottery decorator fascinated by cubist and abstract art. She produced between 1928 and 1929 several pitchers adorned in pure colours arranged in fitted geometric forms. Then won over by art deco trends she discovered at the 1925 Paris World Fair, she developed her own idiom, characterised by using naturalist and plant themes in a geometric, purely decorative style on the crème grounds of dishes, teapots and kitchenware.
She studied under Gordon M. Forsyth at the Burslem School of Art from 1918 to 1922.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Casey, A., & Eatwell, A. (2002). Susie Cooper: A pioneer of modern design. Antique Collectors’ Club.
Cunningham, H. (1999). Clarice Cliff and Her Contemporaries: Susie Cooper, Keith Murray, Charlotte Rhead, and the Carlton Ware Designers. United States: Schiffer Pub..
Eatwell, A., Cooper, S. (1987). Susie Cooper Productions: An Exhibition of the Work of Susie Cooper. United Kingdom: The Museum.
Marshall, A. (2013). Susie Cooper. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Youds, B. (1996). Susie Cooper: An elegant affair. Thames and Hudson.
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