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Robin Hopper, born on April 23, 1939 in Selsdon, England, was a ceramicist of both functional and decorative pottery, as well as an educator, writer, garden designer and historian, and arts activist.
Early life: The Second World War and the Battle of Britain provided the backdrop to Hopper’s early childhood in England. Due to chicken pox preventing his evacuation from London with the other children, Hopper and his mother stayed in the city, running the family grocery business for five years. Due to the constant bombing over the city, hot shrapnel and blue clay became the only toys available, inspiring Hopper to devote his life to making beautiful objects and spaces.
Education and career: From 1955 to 1961, he trained in pottery and ceramics at the Croydon College of Art In London before immigrating to Canada in 1968 with his first wife, Sue Hara. For two years, he taught at Central Technical School in Toronto, Ontario, as Head of the Ceramics Department. At this time, he also set up his own studio. In 1970, Hopper founded and headed the Ceramics and Glass Department at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario. He became a Canadian citizen in 1972. In the same year, he resigned to work on ceramics with a team of four apprentices. He moved to Victoria, B.C. in 1977; with his second wife, Judi Dyelle, he established ‘Chosin Pottery, located in Metchosin, a community west of Victoria. Hopper was a founding member and president emeritus of the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts (M.I.S.S.A.) from 1985 to 2009, specializing in glaze and colour development. He was also involved in the establishment of Fired Up!, an annual pottery show and sale that has continued since 1984. Throughout his career, he delivered workshops and lectures on ceramics and pottery nationally and internationally, and also worked on garden design.
Publications: Hopper’s publications include
• Making Marks: Discovering the Ceramic Surface (Krause Publications, 2004);
• The Ceramic Spectrum (1st edition, Chilton Book Co., 1984; 2nd edition, Krause Publications, 2001);
• Functional Pottery (1st edition, Chilton Book Co., 1986; 2nd edition, Krause Publications, 2000);
• Stayin’ Alive, Clay and Glazes for the Potter (Krause Publications, 2003); and
• Focus One: Contemporary Studio Ceramics; with Kathleen Campbell and Terrence Heath (Goose Lane Editions, 1997).
Awards and recognition: For his contributions to his craft, Hopper became the first recipient of the Saidye Bronfman Award, Canada’s most prestigious award for fine craft. He was also a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Order of Canada; the latter awarded on November 18, 2016 and invested on March 15, 2017.
After fighting liver cancer for several years, Hopper died on April 6, 2017, age 77.
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Bell, Jeff, “Obituary: Metchosin ‘mud-pusher’ was ceramics innovator,” Times Colonist, April 11, 2017, https://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/obituary-metchosin-mud-pusher-was-ceramics-innovator-1.14870279.
Canadian Encyclopedia. “Robin Hopper.” Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/robin-hopper/.
Chosin Pottery Inc. “Robin Hopper.” Accessed June 22, 2018. http://www.chosinpottery.ca/pages/robinhopper.html.
Jefferson, Cathi, “Robin Hopper, 1939-2017,” Studio Potter: In Memoriam, Accessed August 20, 2018, https://www.studiopotter.org/memoriam.
Studio Ceramics Canada. “Robin Hopper RCA, CM (1939-2017).” Accessed June 22, 2018. https://studioceramicscanada.com/home/about-barry-morrison/contemporaries/robin-hopper/.
Times Colonist. “Robin Hopper Obituary.” Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timescolonist/obituary.aspx?n=robin-hopper&pid=185171753&fhid=16056.