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Collecting Susie Cooper

Photograph of Susie Cooper at work
Susie Cooper 1902-95

Susan Vera Cooper was born on 29 October 1902 near to Burslem, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. Being one of seven children, Susie was born into a family with business and property interests, which also included a farm. It was on this farm that she practiced her favourite pastime of drawing, the farm animals most likely, being an inspiration. She developed a keen eye for detail and with her family background of business ventures, she gained some useful information that would help her in the future.

Susie left school in 1917 to start in the family business, but the following year she enrolled for evening classes at the Burslem Art School. Sept 1920, after winning a scholarship on the merits of her high quality work, she commenced a full-time course at the School. It was here that Susie met Gordon Forsyth, the superintendent for art in Stoke-on-Trent, who had recently been appointed to the position. Forsyth was to be a great influence on the young Susie Cooper.

After her course had finished Susie applied for a place at the Royal College of Art but was turned down apparently due to her no industrial experience. Forsyth advised her to take up a place in industry at ,Gray & Co., which was a pottery company in Burslem, Staffordshire. Her job was to be a painter.

Image of a Susie Cooper flower pot. Circa 1920

Edward Gray quickly discovered her talents as a painter and designer, and soon enough Susie was producing her hand-painted floral designs. In 1923 A.E. Gray launched the Gloria Lustre Range employing the technique of lustreware. In 1929, motivated by her desire to design ceramic shapes in addition to decorations, she broke away with her brother-in-law Albert "Jack" Beeson to set up her own business, as Susie Cooper Potteries in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent. Unfortunately, the Wall Street crash of 1929 greatly affected industry in the Potteries, and in November (just three weeks after Susie Cooper and her partner had set up in business), the firm was bankrupted.

However, by early 1930, a new factory premises at the Chelsea Works was located, and the Susie Cooper business was well and truly founded. By the late 1930s, Susie's Company was supplying famous London stores like Harrods, Peter Jones, Selfridges, Heals and Waring & Gillow. Not only was her tableware affordable but it was modern, functional and used innovative designs.
Image of a Susie Cooper Kestrel Tea service

The 1950s and 60s Susie Cooper went from strength to strength, always experimenting. She designed her ware to suit the changing fashions of the decades which made her wares ever popular. Fine china became prominent from the 1950s with her acquisition of the Jason China Company Ltd. which then became known as Susie Cooper China Ltd.

Her aim was to turn the china produced into a more prestigious brand of ware with style and quality. Due to a serious fire in 1957 at the Crown Works, she had to rebuild her business, merging with R.H and S.L Plant to form The Tuscan Holdings Group - their aim was to produce quality china dinnerware as well as tea and coffee ware. During this time, Susie introduced the 'can shape' design of cup, which is still used by pottery firms today.

1966 led to an approach from Wedgwood to take over The Tuscan Holdings Group, which was accepted. Although probably not what she wanted it was felt that the involvement of this strong Company would only benefit to help her continuing work. This partnership lasted until 1972 and produced popular designs such as Corn Poppy. After 50 years of Susie's life involved with her beloved Crown Works it was closed in 1980. At the age of 80 she retired to live on the Isle of Man, where she died on 28th July 1995. Like other well known pottery designers such as Clarice Cliff

Her work has become highly sought after and valued by pottery collectors around the world..

Image of a Susie Cooper water jug

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