When we asked ceramicist Daisy Cooper what she considers to be the role of artisans and makers in today’s society, Daisy painted a wonderful picture of the power of handmade to connect and inspire those around us.
“Society and community allows you to not only follow your own identity as an artist but inspire others to follow theirs. Art and design is in everything we see, hear and touch. Social media is allowing individual artists to inspire others across the world. It’s a very exciting time to be an artist and communicate what you create to a huge audience. As a craftsperson it’s so amazing to see traditional crafts being reignited and brought back by younger generations and makers, influenced by a huge resurgence in getting your hands dirty and learning something new.”
Daisy moved to Australia five years ago but grew up thousands of miles away on a farm in Scotland. There she enjoyed the freedom to roam around and creative freedom, making and crafting things from found materials around her house and garden – materials which included clay, the main component of her practice today…
“I’m sure I made a lot of mud clay creations. We were all encouraged to be creative by my mother, and this has allowed me to go on and become an actual creative in my adult life.”
From crafting as a child to owning a successful ceramics studio, it’s a creative life that Daisy adores and cannot imagine being without.
“I could not even imagine sitting at a desk every day! I think I would lose my mind…not only is my ceramics a creative outlet but because it can be a production line, at the best of times, it gives me rhythm to each day, keeps me on my feet all day and gives me so much satisfaction when each stage of the making process is complete. It keeps me sane, although the business side of it drives me insane sometimes!”
Daisy originally studied Fine Art at Jordanstone Art School in Dundee, specialising in printmaking and installations, moving to London after graduation and working with an Arts Organisation.
“I started working with arts organisations that supported artists with Learning disabilities, it was so rewarding to support artists in their own practice and see them grow in confidence and ability.”
It was in London that Daisy discovered and fell in love with the medium of clay whilst attending evening classes at Turning Earth in Hackney.
“From then on it was all about practice, practice, practice and eventually I felt confident enough to be part of a Christmas market, I was so amazed when people bought my wares!”
Five years down the line and Daisy made the life-changing decision to move to Melbourne, Australia and set up her current studio there. It is clear to see the beautiful landscapes of both Daisy’s homes reflected in the beautiful blue and green landscapes and fiery oranges, with many of her pieces named after the skies, sunsets and waterfalls which inspired them. Daisy continues to take inspiration from her surroundings and the natural world, with her move to Australia providing fresh stimulus.
“I am now surrounded by different environments, colours and seasons, so [Australia] inspires me in new ways, but ultimately the way I translate this to my ceramics hasn’t changed that much from how I was working in the UK.”
Before making the jump to work as a ceramicist full time, Daisy was balancing another job alongside her creative projects, which for her was a bit of an obstacle, as the other job took away precious time that she would have spent creating in her studio. But from those first evening classes in London, Daisy knew that pottery could be her job. Eventually, after moving to Melbourne, Daisy finally made the leap to invest her time fully into her creative dream and now is delighted to offer evening classes of her own.
“I guess [the challenge is] just taking the leap to full time making, and believing that you could make a living off your own creative endeavours.”
“Seven years on and I now teach, sell my work all around Australia, make bespoke pieces for restaurants and other companies and run my own market, Melbourne Ceramics Market. I would never have thought when I first started my evening class that this would be our lives now, it’s amazing where you end up in your creative journey!”
Daisy uses various hand building methods to create all of her ceramics, including pinch, coil and slab techniques, all of which she finds extremely rewarding.
“I love how you can go slow with hand building, take your time (even days) to form the shapes and textures, the act of pinching is simple but so satisfying, but if I’m 100% honest, I’m terrible on the wheel! Ha! I’ve spent my years refining hand building and haven’t given much time to the wheel, but I guess that’s craft isn’t it, you choose your medium technique and then refine that way of making.”
Daisy chooses a similar flexible approach to her designs, which take form as she works with and moulds the clay.
“I tend not to design any pieces on paper beforehand but rather follow the direction of the clay and see what shapes I end up with. I spend a lot of time playing around with different sizes of pieces, scaling them up or down to find the perfect shape/size for what I had in mind. Then the glazing has been years of trial and error and successes, again just playing with the colours, layering them on top of each together until a beautiful combination appears. I would say that I find the hand building aspect the most fulfilling, creating new works that I know will belong to someone else one day and bring them joy to use.”
“I believe that simply using handmade brings joy because it’s unique, you have a memory attached to that particular object, like where you travelled when you bought it, or the friend/family member that gifted it to you, it’s so different to the generic mass produced that you will never forget those feelings of connection.”