Susie Cooper was one of the most influential ceramic designers of 20th century Britain. Her career lasted from the 1920’s to the 1980’s- she ran, created and designed for her own commercial pottery company. She pioneered new ceramic techniques and invented new shapes and patterns. She was interested in making her designs accessible to many households but also sold to royalty.
Her productions were modern, stylish, elegant and functional and she supplied shops such as Harrods, Selfridges and John Lewis. She considered the purpose of her wares- her teapots and coffee pots were good pourers and her cups comfortable to drink from.
Susie Cooper was born in Burslem, near Stoke on Trent in Staffordshire in 1902. She was from an early age a keen painter. Her career started in 1922 when she became assistant designer at Gray’s Pottery. Initially she wanted to be a fashion designer and went into ceramics to get a scholarship for the Royal College as she needed to be employed in the decorative arts. She ended up rejecting her place at the Royal College and became the first woman in the potteries to have her name stamped on the back of her wares in 1924. Originally she worked in luster and used bold bright colours to decorate her pieces but her style quickly evolved when she set up her own business in 1929. She developed shapes and single patterns alongside a more restrained palette.
The 1930’s saw her business expand and she began to export to foreign markets. In 1932 the leaping deer stamp which distinguishes her was born alongside the Kestrel shape which gave her pieces a sculptural feel.
The 1940’s were a difficult time with the war and a fire that devastated her workshop but she continued to design and produce with whatever materials were available.
The 1950’s were a very creative time for Susie Cooper and she regarded it as the start of her strongest period. She acquired a bone china manufacturer and launched her first range of home china at the Festival of Britain in 1951 in her famously graceful quail shape. She also introduced the Can shape in 1955 with the long, straight-sided coffee pot.
In 1966 Susie Cooper Ltd was absorbed into the Wedgewood group. The designs of that period reflect the contemporary desire for deeper shade of matt colours and a preoccupation for the cost effective style. More traditional patterns such as Persia were produced alongside. It was however quite a frustrating time for Susie Cooper as only 75% of her designs were produced. The commercial pressures and constraints of working within a large corporation led to Susie’s withdrawal from the company and retirement to the Isle of Man.
The selection of Susie Cooper’s pieces presented here show the quality and permanence of her wares and designs- fantastic colours, patterns, shapes and brilliant style.
Susie Cooper a Pioneer of Modern Design, Andrew Casey and Ann Eatwell,
Susie Cooper Productions, Ann Eatwell, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1987