On leaving school Norman got a job as an Apprentice Designer at Spode Pottery, but was soon dissatisfied with the monotony of painting flowers on plates.
From 1938 he was a pupil at The Burslem School of Art and progressed from the Junior Art Department in 1940 and it was here that he began his friendship with John Hancock (Shelton) and Arthur Berry. He was accepted into The Edinburgh College of Art in October 1943 after being awarded an Andrew Grant Bequest Scholarship of £60 (5 years). It was during his brief time here that Berry and Hancock visited him at his lodgings in Bread Street.
Norman was totally focused on his work and had by now embraced his image as an artist dressing in a dark suit and tie with long black coat and his hair centre parted. The three friends were reunited at the fateful Burslem School of Art Christmas Ball. During the course of the evening Norman fell backwards down the stairs and died the following morning from a fractured skull. He was only 18.
His brother, Stanley then travelled to Edinburgh to collect Norman’s possessions including all his works and letters. These were kept locked in a small room at the family home in Wells Street, (now Welby Street) Fenton, by his mother who in her grief could not bear to look at them.
After her death in 1970 the collection was looked after by the family. Some were donated to the museum in Hanley. In 2012 Barewall hosted an exhibiton called The Burslem Boys where by Norman Cope, Arthur Berry and John Shelton's works were brought together for the first time since Norman's early death in 1943.
A solo exhibition followed in 2014 at Barewall. Only 40 original paintings existed in the estate and almost all of these paintings were sold to raise money for a headstone for Norman and his sister at a cemetery in Fenton, Stoke on Trent.
Norman Cope was affectionately called 'Copey' by Arthur Berry in his acclaimed Autobiography 'A Three And Sevenpence Halfpenny Man' and his portrait of Arthur Berry called Portrair of a Fellow Student N.Cope 1943 was included in the recent Lowry and Berry: Observers of Urban Life exhibition at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery which Barewall co-curated with the City Museum Jul 2015 to Jan 2016.