Pippin Drysdale was born in Melbourne in 1943 into a wealthy family, and grew up in Perth from the age of three. Her father, John Hastings "Bunny" Carew-Reid, was a successful businessman and real estate developer. As a teenager she had art lessons from William Boissevain. At school, she excelled at art, but struggled with other subjects due to an undiagnosed vision problem that, although eventually discovered and corrected at age 12, set her on a rebellious course during her formative years. She failed her Junior Certificate at Methodist Ladies' College, Perth. After leaving school, she attended a business college, from which she was expelled, and then a technical college, where she failed all subjects. She then worked for a short stint at her father's company as a typist, then as a secretary in Canberra, then worked odd jobs in England for a year, and traveled throughout Europe. Returning to Australia in the early 1960s, she moved to Melbourne, married Christopher Drysdale in 1967 (divorced in 1972), and had a son, Jason. In Melbourne she began selling art (Mexican paper flowers sold as "Pip’s Flowers"). She returned to Fremantle, Perth in the 1970s, and started a successful business selling herbs. Through a relationship with a potter who made ceramic structures for her herbs, Drysdale first discovered clay. That led to an Advanced Diploma in Ceramics at Western Australia School of Art and Design in 1982, followed by a 1982 trip to America where she studied with Daniel Rhodes and Toshiko Takaezu at the Anderson Ranch Art Center. Rhodes encouraged her to further her education at university level; Takaezu told her to ignore traditions and create her own sensibilities and techniques to suit her own environment. Returning to Australia, Drysdale obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) at Curtin University in 1986.