Within our markets you’ll find a wealth of talent, people honing their skills and contributing to our immense reputation for hinterland artisans. From humble beginnings, Tina Cooper (BNT) is now representing Australia and creating pieces for royals.
Tina Cooper came into the world on the small island of Jersey off France. There, sun-bleached castles line the horizon and romance fills the air. In 1966 she moved to Australia, a larger island, with plenty of opportunities to explore her natural surroundings and art mediums to express them in.
In 1989 Tina chanced to meet Mark Galton, a glass blower, at the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. “My first experience watching Mark working this liquid hot glass induced an overwhelming response in me: ‘Hello! I’ve found my destiny’. A huge feeling of excitement crept over my body, even the hairs on my arms stood up!”
And that is how Tina’s journey in glass began and the 30 year old single mum took a leap of faith into the unknown.
“I convinced Mark to start our own studio. We rummaged through salvage dumps to find our treasures. We did the best with what we had.”
The pair began creating pieces to sell at Eumundi and Riverside Markets. “One of the lines I used was, ‘One day I’ll be famous, and the work you buy today will be a reminder to you that you helped to achieve my goal’.”
She told the Hinterland Times they learned to create designs around freeform dance as they worked.
“I have learned to bring humour and little expectation to my work space,” Tina said. “Everyone needs to feel a part. We always strive to create the vision of peace and we have to become one in the experience of this. Dance has brought people to tears and left them with the sense of that energy created by true artists enjoying the journey of making some awesome pieces.”
“I spent five days blowing and two at the markets on the weekend. Pack, wrap, grind, collect accounts, order material, run a house – five-minute noodles, 4.00am wake up call. I drove in a bomb of a van with a child in tow, no fuel in the tank to get us home and no money to buy breakfast – as my daughter, Jasmin, reminds me.”
After six months Tina and Mark launched Martini Glass and a few galleries took them on. Just six years later Martini Glass was a studio with representations around Australia. Tina realised the time was right to pursue her passion in glass. But she was, in her own words, ‘very wobbly and unsure’.
She still gets asked for her bent goblets even though they were intended to be straight! But her technique improved through workshops and the studio’s first win backed up Tina’s gut feeling that she was on track.
Over time, people ask Tina about her formal credentials. “I remember a William Morris workshop where ten glass artists rattled off their credentials. I felt very humbled. ‘I have a BNT.’ Billy, my mentor, said ‘Oh, great,’ but they all asked what a BNT was. I said with a smile, ‘Born naturally talented!’ They all laughed, but it’s true. We don’t need letters after our name, just the courage to be creators.”
Aside from William Morris she also attended workshops with Richard Clements, Ruth King, Dante Marioni and Dick Marquis, Pino Signoretti and Lino Tagliapietra.
Shortly afterwards Tina was asked to represent Australia in the USA. Ragland Gallery in NSW recognised something in her work that represented the Barrier Reef.
She explains, “My very popular Sealife series was the outcome of immersing my senses while floating through many reefs. I captured the feeling, experience and bright coral, fish, shells and weeds and solidified them in glass as a timeless reflection of Mother Nature in its glory.”
With every plus in life comes a negative. Just two weeks after the USA show the Twin Towers in New York were brought down. Tina found that her soaring career had been cut short. She was almost back to square one. “The world changed from that day on and was never the same,” she said.
She did, however return to the US for the following years, hoping for a turning point in her career. She also a signed a contract on a block of land overlooking Baroon Pocket Dam where her dream was to open an “appointment only” gallery.
Tina persisted. She had exhibitions at the Palazzo Versace – Gold Coast, in Barcelona, Spain, Philadelphia at the National Liberty Museum and in Chicago at the International Expo of SOFA. In addition, “My journey from a little island to the Sunshine Coast has allowed me to rub shoulders with great artists that have enriched my life’s work.”
“I have been honoured to be able to create some spectacular glass pieces for clients. An urn commissioned for the King of Tonga for his funeral and also for other members of the family. I have sold twelve glass pieces to Pat Cash and saw them six months later in their home in a two-page spread in New Idea magazine. Jasmin and I didn’t eat two minute noodles that night!”
Tina finally put up her studio at Baroon Dam Pocket not so long ago. “I kept the vision and learned it may not happen now, but if you stay true to yourself it will.” She has had it tough and life has been a rollercoaster ride (“I hate rollercoaster rides!”).
After twenty five years of sticking at it, Tina believes the vision people see in her work is due to the heart and soul she invests in it.
“I’m so lucky to have had this tough life. I go to work and have fun and fill my life with passion.”