Friday, January 30, 2009

Interview - Lisa Cooper

Posture - artwork by Lisa Cooper

The Butcher's Daughter jewellery - photos from Vogue Living May/June 2008

Lisa Cooper - portrait from Inside Out's Christmas Issue 2008, photographed by Sharyn Cairns

I first became aware of the work of Lisa Cooper after reading a Vogue Living feature about her beautiful jewellery in the May/June issue last year... but then when Inside Out featured Lisa's Christmas tea party, set in her gorgeous Sydney studio filled with lush green plants, sweet treats and sparkling trinkets, that's when I really decided I needed to hunt Ms Cooper down for an interview!

Much like last week's interviewee Ebony Bizys, Lisa Cooper has many strings to her bow! She's an exhibiting artist who creates paintings as well as video projection pieces, and she will soon receive her PhD from COFA in Sydney. Lisa also creates exquisite jewellery under the label The Butcher's Daughter, and was recently commissioned by the Sydney Theatre Company to create custom-designed crowns for their much publicised War of the Roses, starring Cate Blanchett. Inbetween all these various pursuits, she also works at Sydney's favourite florist - you guessed it - Grandiflora, creating floral masterpieces. I'm not kidding! (Sydney seems to be getting smaller and smaller with every Sydneysider I interview!)

Lisa has answered all my interview questions in such a graceful, poetic way... read on for an insight into her incredible blossoming creative career.

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I have an Honours Degree from the College of Fine Arts. My near complete PhD research represents the summit of my formal education. It is an enquiry into the motivations and impetus of my practice. It answers in many words ‘the path’— the dedicated approach to making concrete (imaging), what is abstract in the universal/individual experience (a life), is the short answer.

St. i and St.ii paintings by Lisa Cooper

You work is so varied and you seem so prolific! You are completing a PhD in video art at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney, your handmade jewellery label The Butcher’s Daughter is stocked at select boutiques in Sydney, and you’ve recently created custom ranges for Collette Dinnigan and for the Sydney Theatre Company’s upcoming production War of the Roses. OH and you manage to squeeze in floral arranging for Sydney’s famous florist Grandiflora! How do you manage your time in order to focus on such a variety of projects? Do you struggle to balance them all?

It is not difficult to focus on these strands of practice as they are the ‘stuff’ of my life. I am not prolific! Though if I were it would be (as is always the case) a product precisely of focus, immovable, complete focus (an aspiration). ‘Making’ constitutes the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of my life. It is a selfish path.

I have indeed kept some glamorous company this past year— THE BUTCHER’S DAUGHTER has wings!

TBD is stocked at David Jones, Sydney City Store.

Ohhh GRANDIFLORA ! in the punctuating moments of our lives flowers bear witness (from tables and hall stands) and then they elegantly depart. Flowers are incredibly powerful metaphors and whimsical poets at once.

Lisa's crown for War of the Roses - incidentally, beautiful production design with all that foil confetti...

What have been some of your favourite creative projects / commissions?

-A video project at Cockatoo Island
-Two commissions for the Parisian cosmetics company SISLEY.
-I most love the private commissions for TBD, individuals who understand ‘Garden compositions in metal’.

Lisa's Video work. Above - Silence has Teeth. Below - Self Portrait with Onions.

How do your video pieces and works on canvas compare with the dainty style of your jewellery for The Butchers Daughter? Does your interest in floral imagery carry through in all areas of your work, or do you find yourself drawn to a different aesthetic when working in different mediums?

The grand poetic metaphor of flora is an important thread that runs through all of my work. Flora does feature in my video work and across the different mediums of my practice, though for TBD and of course Grandiflora they are used in a more material and literal sense, in other work it is for their poetical and conceptual meanings… from platitude to monolithic symbol.

Lisa's workspace - image from Vogue Living May/June 2008

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

I am inspired by intelligence and lack of compromise but I think you want names… Simone Weil and Antonin Artaud, Susan Sontag, Samuel Beckett, Pipilotti Rist, Ezra Pound, St Therese of Lieux.

Where else do you find inspiration – ie books, magazines, your environment, travel, your family and friends?

Magazines are porn they make me feel dirty and good. Travel makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland, it makes you undulate and that is good. Inspiration is derived from experience I think, it is constant and also the past—memory, though it is a laboured concept.

Lisa's beautiful Christmas tea-party, featured in Inside Out Christmas issue 2008. Notice her intricate silver creations on the table... photography - Sharyn Cairns

What's the best thing about your job?

I’m not sure which you are referring to, I guess that’s the best thing about it.

And the worst?


What would be your dream project?

To answer that would be too limiting

What are you looking forward to?

Having a Doctorate
Berlin in September

Sydney Questions –

Best gallery to see the work of artists like yourself in Sydney?

Roslyn Oxley 9
Sarah Cottier Gallery

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade in Sydney? (ie jewellery supplies, art supplies etc).

That’s a secret

More from Inside Out's feature - love her beautiful jewels strewn throughout the studio... photography - Sharyn Cairns

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

Fratelli Fresh
Billy Kwong
It’s a tie.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

At Grandiflora - knee deep

Sydney’s best kept secret?

Its kindness


  1. Thanks for this insight into Lisa and her work... Intriguing and inspirational! I loved the Inside Out feature... the images are so gorgeous.

    (Strangely I'm another Lisa who is the vegetarian daughter of a butcher.)

  2. I am pretty captivated by this women and her incredible work....but found it realllly hard to work out what she was saying!!! Very poetic nonetheless :)

  3. Hi Lisa,
    I know I loved that Inside Out feature so much - gorgeous gorgeous photos. I found it weird that they made such a big deal of the 'vegetarian daughter of a butcher' thing! I mean, they used it in her intro in the title! It seemed odd to me to make it such a central focus. I have a good friend who is the vegan daughter of a dairy farmer... it can't be that unusual!

    Ju - Yes I must say I had to read a few of Lisa's answers back more than once to understand :) I guess she's more accustomed to the academic terminology, having just completed her phD... anyway, it did leave me feeling somewhat inarticulate by comparison! :)

  4. What exquisite work! I am also captivated. Plus slightly green with envy at what appears to be a complete lack of any need to sleep. So many projects! Impressive.

  5. I love Lisa's work and have just discovered your blog too, Thanks. I really really love Lisa's Tattoo, it has inspired my own, do you know how I could contact her about it? I know it's bizare and probably a little futile to ask such a thing in a public domain like this, but I have not found any other way.