Hans Coper was an influential potter and was resident at Digswell House in the late 1950’s until the early 1960’s. He took up his residedency having been invited by Henry Morris who had heard of his outstanding reputation as a modernist ceramicist, highly recommended by the Art Council.
Hans was born in Chemitz (now Karl-Stadt, Germany) and his family lived in Reichenbcah, Dresden and Leipzig. Hans left for England as a refugee at the beginning of the Second World War. He gained British Citizenship in 1958 a year before he moved to Digswell.
Han’s pottery became sculptural pieces rather than functional objects, he viewed his works as vessels and created them with strong conceptual ideas by hand throwing them, adjusting, altering and assembling them until they were complete.
He was very tough on his decisions on what pieces survived. – Sometimes the outcomes of the kiln firing would determine this for him. It had been know that he placed 50-60 pieces of work in a kiln only to find that 10 survived.
Hans pots had a rough stoneware surface rubbed with oxides, often with Manganese. Hans used elements of architecture within his work, which led him to become one of the founding members of the Architectural group that established themselves at Digswell House during that time period.
Hans work space at Digswell House enabled him to have a spacious workshop with simple living accommodation. A kiln had been made especially for him to his own specification through a grant made by the Maidenhead Brick and Tile Company. This company also made further annual grants in support of the programme research into the use of ceramics for archiectectural purposes upon which Hand Coper was able to embark.
Hans had been quoted regarding his residency at Digswell House and his involvement with the Architectural group:
’ The development group based on the Digswell workshop, consisting of a number of architects concerned with school and public buildings, two heavy-clay manufacturers, and occasionally technical consultants, and myself as a design consultant is continuing to function. The main pre-occupation being the development of the clay products for the prefabricated application in housing and school building. This is bound to be a long-term programme and very much dependent on the capacity of the particular factories involved. This work, if brought to a practical conclusion, will produce the ‘face’ of much of future public building, (which is bound to be more factory-produced). So far a number of products have been developed at Digswell and are being successfully produced.
Cladding tiles, which might be regarded as an intermediate step – between traditional and pre-fabricated usage –acoustic tiles and bricks and rather outside the actual group work, cladding tiles and bricks for traditional application and some sanitary ware.