Antiques Column: Dazzling polka dots and flowers

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Born into a middle class family in the Potteries in 1902, Susie Cooper was hardly a typical factory worker. She joined local pottery A E Gray & Co. Ltd. to gain the experience of working in the decorative arts that 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.

Early work of flowers and Chintzware is still very popular

Cooper was influenced by other artists, but her contribution to the company’s style, – hand-painted and abstract patterns with thick bands of colour – was highly personal.

Gray’s used a factory mark with the words ‘Designed by Susie Cooper’ to identify her work. This early work of flowers and Chintzware is still very popular with collectors.

By 1929, 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 associated with her work.

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, 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 key to her success, appealing to a far wider audience than the work of many of her contemporaries.