Recently, during a house contents valuation I was conducting for Probate purposes in Clay Cross, near Chesterfield, I came across one of the most extensive collections of Susie Cooper ceramics I have ever seen. I have always been a take it or leave it sort of chap when it comes to Susie Cooper, but when i saw her talent en masse I have to say my opinion changed to one of admiration.
Susie Cooper was one of the most successful designers of the twentieth century. Born in 1902, she joined local potter A. E. Gray & Co. Ltd to gain the experience she required to attend London’s Royal College of Art. Initially Cooper was a production line painter, but her talent was quickly spotted and instead of going to London she became a designer at Gray’s.
Cooper was influenced by many artists, but her contribution to the company was highly personal. Gray’s used the factory mark “Designed by Susie Cooper” to identify her work and this early work of flowers and chintzware is still very popular with collectors.
By 1929 Susie Cooper had left Gray’s and set up on her own in premises at the Chelsea Works, Burslem. Products made after her departure from Gray’s are marked “A Susie Cooper Production”. However, in 1931, after interest from Wood & Sons, she moved to a larger studio at their Crown Works and products were then marked with the familiar leaping deer, that is most often associated with her.
The 1930s were the most dazzling years for Cooper and the high demand for her work led to her use of lithography at a time when most firms were still using mechanical decoration.
By the late 1930s Susie Cooper was producing up to 200 new designs a year, featuring banding, polka dots and stylised flowers. Patterns that were both modern and timeless such as “Patricia Rose” and “Endon” were the key to her success, appealing to a far wider audience than the work of many of her contemporaries.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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