Four years ago Daniel Cooper visited the Elterwater Slate Quarry, situated in the Langdale Pikes of the Lake District National Park, He explained his interest in slate to the quarry manager, who kindly arranged a personal tour of the quarry. After showing evidence of huge extracted rocks, a quarryman explained quarrying techniques and the geological background of slate. Following this a slate splitter gave a demonstration in slate splitting. He presented a freshly rived roof slate, and a riving chisel which Daniel took home to practice with. Around the quarry, extracted rocks were waiting to be sawn into slabs for the slate splitter to work into roofing slate, flooring tiles and cladding. Daniel noticed that when slate is sawn the greeny blue textures change , changing also through the elements of sunlight and rain.
Daniel left the quarry that day inspired by the quarrymen , their stories of riving slate, finding beautiful textures and strata markings in the layers of this incredibly unforgiving material. He wanted to adopt the working methods, knowledge and dialect of the quarrymen, how they refer to the strata markings in slate as the “Barring” and the riven texture as the “Bate” and work these textures into sculpture that bring nature, industry and art together.
Daniel feels that the raw forms of his sculptures are inspired by the quarrymen and from a true story, where on one occasion a quarryman rived a rock of slate and found a fossil trapped within the layers. Daniel had this image of the quarryman going about his work, riving slate and finding a beautiful form, which for that moment, broke the monotony and hardship of his working life. Daniel wanted to capture this story by carving the female form as a metaphor for the fossil. His “Slate girls” are highly polished forms, trapped within the violently sharp layers of their material (formed by volcanic activity 450 million years ago). His “Slate girls” certainly appear to belong in the slate, yet they also look out from the material from the metamorphic age, towards the future.
When making a sculpture, Daniel always documents his working process in written verse . He likes the sound of words that relate to slate (riving, rock, slab, layers etc ), he loads the words into poems.
Daniel is currently showing his ‘Slate Girl’ sculptures at the Walker Gallery in Harrogate, he is represented by this gallery. In 2014 Daniel was commissioned by The Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery (City Art Gallery) to produce sculpture from Elterwater slate for a solo exhibition 'Metamorphosis 1'.
She lies naked
On a rock of slate
Her greeny blue eyes open
To find herself in a quarry
Rolling over the surface
Rough against her skin
She finds a discarded sheet of hessian
Wraps it around like a shawl
Out of sight she hears a sound
Follows it through rocks and slabs
Leading to the edge of a yard
Where a quarryman is riving slate
Confronts him at the rock he rives
Reaches out to him
Unaware of her presence
He does not sense her touch
She makes her way from the yard
Without a backward glance
Returning to the rocks and slabs
Back to where she came from
Influenced by the Neruda poem "Fable of the mermaid and the drunks"