John Paul Cooper (3 October 1869 – 3 May 1933) was an architect and a leading craftsman in the Arts and Crafts Movement, specialising in metalwork and jewellery. He is particularly noted for the use of materials such as shagreen and ostrich egg in combination with precious metals and gemstones.
Cooper studied architectural drawing for three years from 1888 as an apprentice to John Sedding in London and travelled in Europe in the 1890s with the architects Alfred Hoare Powell and Henry Wilson.
In the 1890s he made various changes to buildings at St Margaret Works, Leicester for his father's company. He continued in architecture even after starting his own workshop, including building several cottages and an infant school.
Cooper took up metalwork in 1897 on the advice of Henry Wilson, Sedding's chief assistant, who he had trained with for several years. Wilson also introduced him to gesso and plasterwork techniques. Cooper set up a workshop in Kensington, sending four pieces to the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1899 but did not produce his first jewellery until 1900.
He became Head of the Metalwork Department at Birmingham School of Art from 1904 to 1907 having taught there from 1901 onwards. Several of the craftsmen he employed in his workshop moved with him to teach at Birmingham, including his wife. In his teaching he believed that designers of metalwork should only design items that they themselves had the skill to produce.
Cooper was renowned for the use of shagreen in his designs, a material he started using in 1903 and it was through his use of it that it became established as a luxury material in the 1920s to 1930s. As well as his jewellery and metalwork Cooper also produced watercolour paintings.
After the death of his father his inheritance enabled him to give up teaching and he moved to a rented house in Hunton. In 1910 he moved to Betsom's Hill, the highest hill in Kent, into a house and studio that he had designed himself in an 'Arts and Crafts homage to Kentish rural architecture'. He lived there until his death in 1933.
Cooper was influenced by the work of William Morris and collaborated with Ernest Gimson from 1902–1906, making handles for his furniture.
Bernard Instone worked in Cooper's studio until World War I and Cooper was an influence on the work of Edward Napier Hitchcock Spencer.
Cooper's works now feature in many museums including the V&A.
John Paul Cooper was the son of John Harris Cooper and grew up in Rotherby and then Evington Hall, Leicester. He worked with his second cousin May Morgan Oliver from 1899 and married her in 1901. Their son Francis worked with John as a metalworker from 1924.