Tea Caddy – Robert Cooper
I was fortunate to have Robert Cooper as a tutor during my two years on the City Lit Ceramic Diploma course. He is a free-spirit with an open-minded and experimental approach to ceramics, as well as being a committed, engaging and enormously enthusiastic teacher – full of ideas and suggestions.
An inveterate collector and hoarder, he takes inspiration from all areas of international visual culture and is a passionate recycler. Nothing is knowingly wasted. He reuses clay, broken ceramics, cast-off toys, glass, clinker and pottery shards, ceramic transfers, glaze waste, slips and lustres to create multi-layered, multi-textured, multi-toned and multi-coloured ceramic ware as well as producing paintings and works on paper.
He hand-builds tea bowls, tea caddies and ‘candlesticks’ using pieces he mud-larks for along the banks of the Thames. Indeed it was Robert who encouraged me in the early days on the course when I felt completely out of my depth. “Look to your strengths” he would say when it came to celebrating and using surface textures and found objects in my work (an interest that we shared from the beginning).
I have struggled with clay – both during the course and in the years since completing it and working independently as a ceramicist. It offers a great deal but after using a variety of media for many years I also find it restrictive and messy. I have been waging an internal battle with myself for a while now – reluctant to abandon it entirely and yet feeling trapped and restricted by its use and feeling the need to slip those stoneware ‘shackles’.
Whilst I have always collected, displayed and arranged objects, both as a hobby and as a curator and exhibition organiser, it has taken a long time for me to realise that I should use the pieces that I have lovingly collected over the years to create with. I love the serendipity of these finds and the random way in which my ‘curations’ and ‘assemblages’ – little figures and scenarios – come together. But more than that, I enjoy the process as well as the outcome. Three dimensional collage suits me.
So this is by way of tipping my hat to Robert. It has taken a long time for your words and freedom of approach to sink in, for me to shrug off my inner control freak and just enjoy what I do with my found objects, as you do with yours. So I thank you ‘Robert The Cooper’. I raise my glaze-waste tea bowl to you. (Yes – I still have it. A prized ‘second’ from the first year Pottery Sale!!).
For more information about Robert’s work go to: www.robertcooper.net