John Clappison

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William John Clappison (27 June 1937 – 21 February 2013) was an English ceramic and glass designer. Although Clappison is not as familiar as many of his British contemporaries (his name not appearing on individual pieces), his work sold in the millions. Initially working out of the Hornsea Studio, partly financed by his father, Clappison would later work for Ravenhead Glass and Royal Doulton. Some of his more popular designs included the Heirloom range for Hornsea Pottery, his Studiocraft vases[1] and his plain white Aphrodite vase,[2] which became a popular wedding present of its time.[3]


Clappison was born in Hull, England, to Caeser 'Philip' and Enith Clappison. When the family moved to Hornsea and Philip Clappison, John's father, started to support Hornsea Pottery, and the founders of the Pottery, Colin and Desmond Rawson, saw great potential in John Clappison. He designed pieces such as Elegance and Tricorn for Hornsea Pottery whilst attending the Hull College of Arts and Crafts. The Pottery then sponsored his year at the Royal College of Art in London where he specialised in Industrial Design and Ceramics. After gaining the Faculty of Design Certificate in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, Clappison was appointed as Hornsea Pottery's Chief Designer in 1958. A studio was specially built on the Pottery site where he originated a whole range of designs for tablewares, novelties and gift wares.

Clappison produced many designs for Hornsea Pottery such as his 'Home Decor' range, which are "highly reminiscent of the most advanced work in Studio Ceramics".[4] Other tableware and decorative items that reflected contemporary designs were the 1950s hand-decorated Slipware, 1960s Studio vases, 1970s Muramics and mugs, and 1980s People Figures.[5] Many of these items are actively collected.[6]

In 1972, Clappison left Hornsea Pottery and became chief designer for Ravenhead Glass in Lancashire.[6] He rejoined Hornsea in 1976, and when it went into receivership in 1984, he became head shape designer at Royal Doulton. He retired in 1998.[6]

Clappison's designs were described as "in a completely new idiom.... they presaged trends which would be consolidated during the early 1960s".[7] His designs were thought to have been a determining factor in the success of Hornsea Pottery, "it was only at the end of the 1950s, following the appointment of William John Clappison as chief designer in 1958 that Hornsea became a major force in modern design".[8]

A biography on John Clappison, by Pauline Coyle, was published in April 2007. This official biography includes the full scope and variety of Clappison's work, and was written with his knowledge and co-operation.[9]


  1. ^ "Studiocraft | Clappison, William John | V&A Search the Collections". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Aphrodite | Clappison, William John | V&A Search the Collections". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  3. ^ "John Clappison: Ceramicist who popularised the drinking mug and whose Aphrodite vase was a ubiquitous wedding gift". The Times. 16 March 2013. p. 87. Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  4. ^ Graham, McLaren (1997). Ceramics of the 1950s. Buckinghamshire: Shire Publications. ISBN 9780747803362. OCLC 38371296.
  5. ^ (Hornsea Pottery Collectors and Research Society)[better source needed]
  6. ^ a b c Casey, Andrew (27 March 2013). "John Clappison obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  7. ^ Lesley, Jackson (1991). The new look : design in the fifties. New York: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 9780500276440. OCLC 26850939.
  8. ^ Chamberlain, Richard (1997). Austerity to affluence : British art and design 1945 - 1962. Merrel Holberton Publishers Ltd.
  9. ^ Coyle, Pauline (2007). Gone to pot: The life and work of John Clappison. York, England: York Pub. Services. ISBN 978-0955545504.