Susie Cooper was born in the potteries in 1902 to farming parents. After studying at Burslem School of Art she started work at Gray's pottery as a paintress. By October 1929 she had worked her way up to the post of resident designer and decided that in order to have the freedom she required it was time to start her own company.
With her brother-in-law, Jack Beeson, she set up the George Street Pottery in Tunstall, but had to leave the next year following the bankruptcy of her landlord. She moved into premises owned by Royal Doulton putting designs on pre-made blanks.
The following year, after critical acclaim at the British Industries Fair, she was invited to move her operation to Wood and Sons where she was able to design her own shapes; her main reason for wanting to go it alone. Using ideas drawn primarily from nature she produced stylistic designs that were functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.
After even greater success at the next year's British Industries Fair she struck up a relationship with the John Lewis Partnership that was to prove long and fruitful. Before long she was supplying many high-end department stores and finding it hard to meet the demand. A way of speeding up production was needed, and she turned to transfer printing, which was by this time becoming quite sophisticated in the way that colours could be reproduced.
Her fame and popularity increased throughout the 1930s and by the end of the decade was reaching a world-wide market. Then came the Second World War and a bad fire at her premises which put an end to production until 1945.
Post-war demand for her work remained high, and in 1950 she moved into china production, buying the Jason China Company. The new venture was successful, but in 1957 production was cut short by another serious fire which necessitated the re-building of the factory. By the time it was finished the face of British china production was changing and large companies were moving in on the smaller ones, and Susie Cooper was happy to become a designer rather than a producer. Her designs were used into the 1970s. The 'Crown Works' branch of Wedgwood was closed in 1980.
Susie Cooper retired to the Isle of Man where she lived with her son until her death in 1995. She was an immensely influential figure in pottery design and her work remains popular to the current time.
|Susie Cooper: An Elegant Affair by Bryn Youds|