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Waistel Cooper 

(Ayr, Scotland 1921-2003 Penzance)

Kidney-shaped pin dish, 1940s  *SOLD*

terracotta decorated with a raised cream slip figurative design on blue and green gloss-glazed ground

signed ‘Waistel’ to the base

3 x 19.5 cm.

Waistel Cooper studied under the Scottish proto-modernist, James Cowie RSA (1886-1956) at Hospitalfield School of Art in Arbroath, where his contemporaries included Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, before taking up a scholarship at Edinburgh College of Art. Though he trained as a painter with a fascination for portraiture, Waistel became increasingly fascinated by the artistic scope of pottery. 

After WWII, he moved to London and briefly was a part of the Soho set which included Colquhoun, MacBryde, Bacon, Freud and Dylan Thomas. He was invited to start an art school in Reykjavik, Iceland, and moved there in 1946. It was here that he was energised by the innovations in art and design of the Danish avant-garde, and began experimenting with studio ceramics, a form that was completely new to Iceland at that time. Alongside the Danish sculptor and ceramicist Gestur Thorgrimsson, he built a kiln and prospected for clay. Limited by the clays available locally, he made earthenware pieces, decorated with coloured slips, such as the present dish. 

The easy, fluid forms of pieces made by Waistel at this time are unique within his oeuvre, incorporating abstract motifs that recall the work of Matisse, taking elements of European abstract art and mixing it with Nordic symbolism. The group’s pottery became known as Laugarnesleir, after the area of Reykjavik where their workshop was situated. 

Ultimately, Waistel moved back to England to take his ceramic journey further, in his search for rough textured stoneware, and it is those works that are most commonly found on the market, unlike this rare little pin dish. 

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