Wendy Lee Cooper

When I was a small child I would find ways to earn a little money and then walk three long blocks to the local dime store to buy construction paper and glue. I loved to make boxes and other three dimensional objects. I think my love of purse-making goes back to those childhood years.

As a young adult, I was introduced to the Japanese ukiyo-e woodcut prints depicting women in kimono while studying art at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. It was there that I first thought of fabric as an art form. With a growing interest in printed cloth, I dyed and embellished my own fabrics to make clothing.

Wendy Lee Cooper

In 1991, I obtained my Master of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During my studies there, I was introduced to the French Impressionists. I loved the movement of their brush strokes, the bright new colors they used, and the texture of paint on their canvases. The impressionists too, were inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e prints. It was then that I took a closer look at eastern art. Many Japanese and Chinese brush painters often used perspective in unusual ways when creating landscapes. Trees and nature seemed to float above the viewer.

For my concluding MFA exhibit, I created eight-foot tall paintings using large strokes of black, white, and gray to create treescapes. I wanted viewers to feel the trees towering over them as the light shown through the leaves, just as I had observed in the park where I walked everyday.

After many years of studying traditional Eastern art in books, at galleries, and in museums, I still feel inspired when I see Chinese and Japanese brush paintings, calligraphy, and folding screens. These Asian art forms reaffirmed my love of texture and pattern.

As a designer, my affinity for pattern, texture, colors, and nature continues in the purses, scarves, and jewelry I make. I tie and dye my own shibori with natural dyes creating patterns and textures. I use traditional Japanese woven cloth, vintage and contemporary kimono silks, along with shibori cottons from Japan. I often pair these fabrics with beautiful embellishments and colorful beads from around the world. I handcraft select pieces of sterling silver in my studio.

As an artist, I continue to do plein-air drawing and painting. I am inspired by the beauty of flowering trees and gardens. Images I am currently creating will be transferred to fine silk.

I truly enjoy the calm that handcrafting, hand sewing, painting, and drawing provide. These activities take me back to the quieter childhood times when I constructed forms with paper or drawing and painting trees in the park while working on my MFA. I hope that you find pleasure in the colors, textures and patterns of my truly one-of-a-kind purses, scarves, and accessories. They are works of art for all occasions.

Painting - Trees in Sunlight

Painting - Trees and Snow

Painting - Magnolia Tree Blossoms
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Wendy Lee Cooper