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Born in Ayr in 1921, Waistel studied at Edinburgh College of Art, and began his career as a painter, holding his first exhibition in Reykjavik, Iceland.
A dramatic change of direction came when he became friendly with the sculptor Gestur Thorgrimsson, who encouraged him to take up pottery. Together they collaborated on making platters – thrown by Thorgrimsson – which Cooper decorated with painted underglaze in brightly coloured clay slips. The designs included abstracted motifs such as faces that, in their easy, fluid forms, recalled the work of Matisse.
But with no tradition of pottery making in Iceland, and frustrated by having to work in earthenware rather than the tougher stoneware, in 1950 Cooper returned to England, where he set up a small pottery in Culbone, a Hamlet close to Porlock Weir.
It was whilst living in Culbone that Waistel’s signature style flourished, with simple perfectly balanced shapes in deeply textured stoneware, and wood ash glazes, drawing both materials and inspiration from the woodland surroundings.
Waistel’s work has been exhibited widely across the UK, including a major retrospective at Manchester City Art Gallery and Museum in 1994.