Hornsea Pottery – John Clappison

John Clappison at LatheJohn Clappison was not born into an artistic family, in fact, his father was a butcher. He was born in 1937 on the 27th June in a room above the family butcher’s shop in Hull, East Yorkshire. He was an only child and he remembers playing with other children in the area during the Blitz of Hull during the Second World War.There must have been a talent for design in the family however as John recalls that his father, Philip, built the family a weekend retreat at a village near Hornsea. Philip based the bungalow on one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs.

1950s picture of John in studio working on the Studiocraft range

Philip was also interested in ceramics and when the family moved to Hornsea he met the founders of Hornsea Pottery, brothers Colin and Desmond Rawson. He started to support the burgeoning Pottery financially.

Tricorn Vases 1957John was twelve when he first met Colin and Desmond and through them, he developed an interest in ceramics. Whilst attending the Hull College of Arts and Crafts John designed pieces such as Elegance and Tricorn for Hornsea Pottery, these are now considered design classics of their time.

Tricorn Vases 1957

The two brothers saw great potential in John and sponsored his year at the Royal College of Art in London, specialising in Industrial Design and Ceramics. After gaining the Faculty of Design Certificate in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, John was appointed as Hornsea Pottery’s Chief Designer in 1958. A studio was specially built on the Pottery site and when this was fully instituted, John refined and originated a whole range of designs for tablewares, novelties and gift wares that would take the company to the vanguard of British Design.

Many of the pieces John designed for Hornsea Pottery have won expert acclaim, especially his ‘Home Decor‘ range, which has been likened to some of the most advanced work in Studio Ceramics. Several innovative items  of tableware and decorative pieces were produced, reflecting contemporary designs, the 1950s hand-decorated Slipware, 1960s Studio vases,  and the 1970s Muramics and are all enthusiastically collected.

During the 1970s, John had a break from ceramics and worked as a designer for Ravenhead glass producing many popular glass designs such as the Barmasters ranges of glasses and Whitefire, Olympiad and Topaz.

After four years he returned to Hornsea Pottery and continued to design several collectable ceramic ranges, including Strata, the much admired 1980’s range of ‘People Figures, a collection of Greek characters for the Coryfo Ceramics Company and  many collectable mugs.

John finally left Hornsea in 1987 and took up a post as the Chief Shape Designer for Royal Doulton. Whilst there he designed many tableware ranges, nine of which went into full production.

John ClappisonAfter half a century of acclaimed work in the design field John is now planning and producing his own ceramics which have proved extremely popular. The high prices reached at auction for these reflect h is enthusiastic following amongst enlightened collectors.

Picture of John Clappison with Paul Atterbury at Hornsea Museum

Gone to PotThe influential and varied range of striking contemporary pieces designed by John is gaining growing recognition. Many experts in design and ceramics such as Lesley Jackson, Dr Graham McLaren, Alan Peat, Paul Atterbury, Andrew Casey and Wayne Hemingway have praised the work he produced during his time at Hornsea Pottery and his designs are often cited as the epitome of post-war industrial ceramic design.

An article in the Guardian in September 2007 recommended John, along with Stig Lindberg, Jens Quistgaard, Ernest Race and Serge Mouille as the designers whose work should be collected now, before their prices sky-rocket.

Growing respect for John’s achievements led to a demand for an appropriate reference work on his life and designs. An  official biography – Gone to Pot, the Life and Work of John Clappison by Pauline Coyle – was published in April 2007.

This book brings into focus the scope and variety of John’s work with his full knowledge and co-operation. See www.hornsea-pottery.co.uk for further details.

Relevant Features
Hornsea Pottery Introduction