Emmanuel Cooper, 1938-2012
Emmanuel Cooper, potter, writer, historian, teacher, friend and mentor, died on the 21st of January, 2012. He was, and will remain, one of the central figures in British twentieth century ceramics. He was the alchemist who transformed studio pottery from its marginal position with of a handful posh English blokes making wholemeal brown stoneware and a sprinkling of precious pottery ladies pursuing a wholesome hobby in the garden shed, to the fully fledged, vibrant, professional craft that it now is, thriving in the art world and imposing itself on the reluctant consciousnesses of the literati and media-ristocracy.
Cooper was born in 1938 and during his early years, during the post-war era, studio pottery, under the auspices of Bernard Leach, grew steadily. It become fashionable in the1960s when the quasi-rustic, back to nature aesthetic was part of an anti-establishment life-style. Numerous potters associations sprung up, sharing information and resources, each with its own newsletter, annual conference and exhibition. There was a corresponding growth in availability and quality of materials as the industry reached out to the burgeoning market of hobbyists. Classes mushroomed and potters acquired an increasingly professional training. In the midst of this maelstrom of activity, was Emmanuel Cooper who had that rare and extraordinary gift of being able to connect across the full range of makers and designers that emerged during this period. From the most conservative makers of garden and tableware, toiling in barns in the rural shires, to the most outré and rarefied of post modern academicians, producing dusty ‘installations,’ and museum ‘interventions,’ he inspired equal respect and affection in us all.