Hornsea Pottery has something of a mixed reputation, thanks probably to the fairly tacky souvenir ware they began life with, and also to the sheer volume of some of their basic (though still nicely designed) mass produced homeware ranges which continues to keep charity shops stocked to this day.
The firm’s classic design pieces under the studiocraft banner in the 50s and 60s are rightly collected today but for me many of their standard tableware ranges of the seventies are more interesting and are slowly becoming recognised for their great designs.
My real favourite is the Concept range of tableware released in 1977 (and which immediately won a Design Council Award). What marks this design out is the combination of glazed and unglazed surfaces on each piece, using a special unglazed stoneware body which Hornsea called Vitramic. This gave an added tactile feel to the already interesting surface design of moulded radiating circles and ovals. On most pieces the inside is glazed, with just the centre circle on the outside glazed, the rest left matt. The design was by Martin Hunt and David Queensberry (who had a design partnership from 1966 to 1999 and worked for a number of ceramic firms). Colin Rawson is listed as having had design input in the range by some researchers, but he was the company founder and by 1977 any input is likely to have been of an executive nature.
The image above is of the amazing teapot, which we treat ourselves to using from time to time (and which is otherwise in display in a glass cupboard!). Following the first biscuit coloured range it was issued in pink and cream colourways. The shape was then ressued with all over colour glazes (under the name Swan Lake) in pink, burgundy, and even one remarkable range with silver ink blots forming the pattern, named Cirrus.
I’m not sure how long the original Concept range lasted, there were production difficulties with producing the design and the second Hornsea factory used to produce it (the local authorities blocked expansion on the original site!) closed in 1988. The range was also difficult to keep pristine; knives marked the unglazed surface quite easily and damaged the glazing as well.
I do regret never visiting the Hornsea Pottery site, but it was very much done as a kiddies “visitor attraction” with animals, rides and the like, which put us right off at the time. The firm closed in 2000 and the factory was demolished.
Best place to see more of this range is at the Hornsea Pottery Museum in Hornsea itself. And if you do visit, spare a thought for my old Uncle Billy Audas who lived in the old farmhouse (now part of the museum) until his death (he wanted to leave the site to me in his will but circumstances dictated otherwise.) I’m sure he would approve of how it has been preserved, even if the curators have written him out of their history.