Amy Cooper Ceramic Artist - Cornwall, UK

Expand on how you decided to return to University with the primary goal to set up your own business and how this unfolded?

I had done years of cleaning and bar work after leaving school and knew I wanted to make a living out of being creative. I decided to go back to college in my mid twenties because I wanted to learn new skills but even more than that I wanted to develop the confidence to put my work out there, which I had never managed up to that point. I embarked on a one year Art foundation course to build a portfolio and discover which direction I wanted to go in. I had mainly been working in two dimensions until then, painting, collage and photography but at foundation I realised I wanted to make things in three dimensions. I enrolled on a combined Ceramics and Sculpture degree but ceramics did rather take over in the end!

4. Puffballs


You are currently working on some non-lighting projects for a Delft Gallery, discuss what you are working on?

I have been working with Terra Delft in the Netherlands since 2003, I was honoured to be invited to take part in their exhibition to celebrate their 30th anniversary.
The Title is ‘Multiples’
The series may be limited in number or unlimited; The work may be slip cast, wheel thrown, or handbuilt. The work is new and will be shown for the first time at Terra’s anniversary celebration.

This is my proposal
An evolution in 30 vessels.
30 porcelain vessels variously manipulated to contain and release light, representing a journey and a point in time.
The pieces will be domestic in scale and tactile, reminiscent of drinking vessels. Each piece will begin life identical to the next. The forms may be thrown or slipcast and manipulated individually, they will mostly be unglazed. The pieces will be for sale individually.
It is a work in progress.

2 An evolution in 30 vessels first piece

You also work on 2D ceramics discuss.

My 2D pieces are small in scale and are almost all small excerpts from my illustrations. I enjoy the idea of taking a snapshot of a bigger thing and rarifying it by presenting it in a precious way. The frames were designed to be reminiscent of museum case.


What made you decide to contain light?

Light has always been an important part of my practice. From my early black and white photography and throughout my sculptural explorations at University. The porcelain itself was illuminated after a some experiments with a multiples project at Uni. I was making carved pebble forms out of mixed clay including porcelain and wondered what they would look like if illuminated from within. Needless to say I haven’t looked back! I think the light creates a sense of energy, atmosphere and life force which is endlessly pleasing.

6. Ithan's Lamp

Ithan’s Lamp

Explain your work using peacock feathers and light?

5. Peacock Feathers Porcelain Lamp 34x10cms

Peacock Feathers – Porcelain lamp, 24x10cm

The Peacock Feathers piece started off as a wedding present for friends. I love the combination of beautiful showy celebratory objects which also have dark superstitious connotations. I am also inspired by William Morris.

You use flowers as the base to many of your pieces can you explain one or two of your favourite flowers and how you have developed them into ceramics?

I love nature, especially the wilder side of it. A Cornish hedgerow at the beginning of June is one of the most wonderful, beautiful and inspiring things in the world.

6. Cornish hedgerow in June 2Both of my children are named after flowers and they both have a lamp designed for their name.Rosa has wild roses and Ithan is the Cornish word for Gorse. I also created a series of pieces in conjunction with The Society of Designers Craftsmen which was founded by William Morris for an exhibition at The William Morris Gallery in London. The exhibition was called Everyday Encounters The idea of which was to to champion very common but also beautiful things, my work for this focused on Dandelions and Ivy.


Discuss your photography, ‘Erosion’ and how this work has been developed into your ceramic work?

Photography is an important part of how I work. I take a lot of images of plants, scenery and interesting textures. The photography work tends to feed into the ceramics in a fairly organic way. Sometimes I use the photos directly to work from but I usually draw from life and use the photos to support my drawings when making a final composition. The Erosion pictures were of a weathered wooden sea wall I came across on holiday in the village I grew up in on the North Cornish Coast.

7. Erosion image

You have recently bought a new kiln. Why? What will it be able to do extra for you?

Briefly discuss the technique you use?

I recently invested in a new kiln to enable me to increase the amount of work I can make in busy times. I often find that I am held up in mid flow because I am waiting for my kiln to cool before I can reload it. Besides that my old kiln has seen about 14 years of extremely hard service and is requesting a more gentle pace in its old age.

My work is created in two quite distinct ways, both involve many processes and techniques.
To make the Original Collection (marine based work), the pieces are initially slipcast, usually in two piece moulds. They are cast quickly so they are very thin. They are then removed from the mould while still soft so that the decoration can be applied using various tools from both the inside and outside of the piece. They are then fettled before being bisque fired. The pieces are sanded to remove any imperfections and when dry a textured glaze or slip is applied or the work is left ‘naked’. They are then fired up to 1250°C and diamond polished before being wired up.
The Illustrated Collection are also initially slipcast. They are fettled and stamped before being bisque fired and then sanded to remove any imperfections. When the work is dry I apply a stencil I have made specifically for that form from one of my drawings, attaching it to the work with glue. Initially all of my stencils were hand cut but I have recently been getting some designs laser cut. I sandblast the work until the areas that are covered by the stencil stand proud. The stencil is then removed, revealing the design. The pieces are fired to 1250°C and diamond polished before being wired up.

8. Sandblasting through the stencil

Expand on the influence of other artists, – Paula Dowling’s work on your own work?

I am inspired by a wide selection of Artists, Ceramicists, Printmakers and Sculptors. I love Paula Downing’s dramatic forms and organic surfaces.
I love the flair and decorative quality of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts artists such as Mucha, William De Morgan and William Morris. I am moved by the strength power and tenderness of Jacob Epstein’s sculptures and Eric Gill’s woodcuts.
British contemporary ceramics is an enormously rich field, I love Eddie and Margaret Curtiss’s work, Yo Thom’s thoughtful tableware and Margaret O’Rourke’s fantastic light pieces. I could go on and on!

Discuss your commission – A pair of Doves in Trees.

10. Doves Trees

Doves Tree

The Doves Tree Commission was simply to make a matching pair from the design that I had already made so creatively not really a commission. I don’t tend to do many completely free commissions in terms of design. Although I am always open to discussion, if the idea is something that I feel I would like to draw anyway then it can work well.

How important are commissions to your work and how have they extend your art?

Up until this point they have not been a big part of what I do. However, I recently I purchased a machine that can make stencils of text so I will be offering a new personalised service this year.

11. Lamp with inscription, work in progress


Take two of your underwater pieces and explain the inspiration and technique used?

8. Original Collection

This work is largely inspired by a coastal environment and objects. I am intrigued by the endless variations in nature and the idea of an ongoing evolutionary process. I gather visual information from the precious things the sea offers up to us, the minutia we don’t usually see to the raw geology of an ocean ravaged cliff face.

12. Urchin Lamp

Urchins Lamp
I am also inspired by looking at things under the microscope. The Urchins are directly inspired by found beach treasures whereas the Pollen is from looking at minutia through the microscope.

12. Pollen Lamp

Polen Lamp

Contact details.

Amy Cooper

Amy Cooper, Cornwall, UK

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, May, 2016