Words, photos and podcast production by Jenni Mazaraki
When Daisy Cooper left Scotland, she had to leave Jay, her beloved plant behind.
Jay grew in a mug that her partner gave her on their first date. When Daisy decided to leave the UK she didn’t want to separate Jay and the mug for fear that he wouldn’t survive. So she gave her precious plant to her mum to take care of and painted a portrait of Jay sitting in his little mug. The painting hangs on her studio wall so she can look at him anytime she likes.
Since September 2016, ceramic artist, Daisy Cooper has made Melbourne her home via London and Coffs Harbour. She plans to visit New Zealand and is looking forward to seeing the colours of the New Zealand landscape, which people have told her are reminiscent of her home town of Perthshire. “I grew up on a farm, so that’s had a huge influence on my work, (especially) the colours…I like the tactility of ceramics,” said Daisy. “We used to make little mud cakes and stuff like that and every kid does, but you specifically remember those things.”
Listen to Daisy Cooper in the podcast interview:
Daisy is as down to earth as her work. She explains her art process and shares her journey to becoming a ceramic artist. After studying a fine art degree focusing on printmaking, Daisy travelled to China, where she was astounded by the beauty in the ceramic glazes that adorned the houses she saw. The trip inspired her to undertake a course in pottery, confirming her passion to pursue it as a career.
Working for arts charities after college with supportive colleagues also helped Daisy decide to pursue ceramics as a business rather than a hobby. “When you leave art school it’s quite scary and you don’t know if you’re going to be able to do it or not.” Working alongside art therapists at her job where she worked with adults with learning disabilities encouraged Daisy to pursue her dreams.
“Just for people to believe in you enough, that you can do it, was really nice,” said Daisy.
When you look at Daisy’s ceramics, you can see the earthy tones in the clay which she mixes herself to create the shades and textures she wants. “I mix all my clay bodies, so I buy them in and mix different ones together to get different colours, and speckledness and toastiness.” She also mixes up her own glazes from raw materials and like a chemist, is precise in her measurements to ensure consistency in her range. “You need to measure everything perfectly,” said Daisy. As her work is so beautiful, the temptation would be to keep her ceramic pieces for special occasions. However, Daisy makes her tableware durable for everyday use.
All of Daisy’s work is hand built. She found working on the pottery wheel stressful and ended up distracted, “I was giggling too much with my friends!” Daisy naturally took to hand building for its slower process. “I preferred the calmer pace of hand building at the table where I could just kind of, sit and think and just create shapes, I tried not to think too much about it and just let the shape create itself,” said Daisy.
When Daisy moved from Scotland to London in her early twenties she worked in a shared studio with other ceramic artists. Daisy found great support amongst other potters.
“Potters generally are really lovely people,” said Daisy.
The studio was open plan with all artists sharing tables and facilities. Sharing of the kiln became an issue at times as firings had to be scheduled with everyone else. To sustain her art practice, Daisy worked three jobs in London before deciding to make the move to Australia for a new adventure.
Moving to her Brunswick studio has meant that she now has her own kiln. Despite sharing the studio with other artists, it a calm and quiet space. When Daisy has a break she spends time with one of the other studio artists, enjoying a chat and a cup of tea.
On Daisy’s wall as inspiration are collages she’s made, a dried seedpod found by her partner and a woven macrame piece made by textile artist Julie of Little Loom with whom Daisy has discussed a future collaboration. “Where I draw a lot of my inspiration from is woodlands and stuff like that.”
When Daisy takes time off from her ceramics business, she nurtures her creativity with the things she loves including baking (despite finding her current oven to be uncooperative) and going for drives to the coast or the hills to be in nature. “I like cities, but I’m not a city person,” said Daisy. “I can see us in maybe five year’s time moving out of Melbourne to somewhere more rural.”
The outdoors inspire and calm Daisy as the ferns and objects from nature in her studio indicate. “I get too stressed out being in cities, being constantly surrounded by people and cars,” said Daisy. “My house is full of plants as well, so it’s like, we’ve made our house into a little haven where we can kind of chill out, which is nice.” The move to Australia has had a significant impact on her lifestyle and she expects that it will continue to show in her art practice.
Daisy has found the creative community in Melbourne very enthusiastic and supportive. “In a creative sense, it’s been really nice to connect with other potters here,” said Daisy. “I’d never experienced it elsewhere. This is the first place I really experienced that truly (sic) openness within a creative community.”