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Know your Limitations

John Clappison

“Today, as design becomes increasingly concerned with competitiveness and quality of life, innovation must again facilitate a creative response to change. John Clappison’s team at Hornsea in the 60s churned out winning designs year on year, developing and colliding craft techniques, to a classic standard with a trend awareness and clear passion for the market”.

Marcus Holmes; Building Bridges. Ceramic Review, Issue 159. May-June 2002.*

Although not as familiar as many of his ‘name’ contemporaries, to us John Clappison was the most prolific and innovative designer at the forefront of British pottery, and his work was highly reminiscent of the most advanced in studio ceramics. Throughout his career Clappison wanted to improve the quality of design for the mass market, and at Hornsea Pottery he created some of the most popular ranges available in the UK from the 1950s through to the 80s. Working in the Yorkshire coastal town of Hornsea, whilst the mainstream pottery industry was firmly centred on Stoke-on-Trent, helped him to develop a unique response to contemporary design. Continue reading

Well hello there


St Trinians


It seems an age since we’ve been here and time has just flown by. The summer term is always busy as the students make the final rush towards the degree shows and we fly along with them. But now the showbiz razzmatazz of the opening night has passed, the results have been sent, celebratory corks have popped and we can breathe a small sigh of relief before it all begins again in the autumn.

Summer is always a welcome time for experimentation and reflection here at Treacle Towers and we’ve been beavering away at a new projects.

Watch this space for updates as the summer unfolds.

Why are things the way they are?

Of designed objects we have always questioned;

Why are things the way they are – and, could they be different?

When designing we have always taken an interest in the particular characteristics of objects, centred around methods of manufacture and the ways that things are put together. As collectors of objects, we often value insubstantial things that come to acquire a certain mysterious provenance over time. The collections held in grand cultural establishments come to be celebrated in society as symbolic references and indicators of our culture, but we would argue that it is ephemera that truly indicates our collective lives and speak of our times. Our interest in celebrating things that may initially appear banal and mundane, lies in the power of these everyday objects and the importance of design in manipulating and changing our perceptions.



We have a particular interest for objects without an author, those anonymously conceived objects of both the distant and more recent past we appreciate for their powerful enigmatic appeal as a ‘thing’ and also how useful it is. Anonymous artefacts of the distant past are often ‘anonymous’ purely because the personality of the craftsperson was not commonly attached to the object, as the concept of their labour was not held in high esteem regardless of the craftsmanship of their work. The work of a wheelwright to make a wheel of exceptional quality was still just a wheel… Continue reading


“A lot of young people are somehow put off struggle and difficulty. Boredom thresholds now because of the nature of entertainment, people are adrenalin addicted and I think that one of the big unspoken addictions in our society is adrenalin. We are addicted to drama, everything has to be exciting, black and white there’s no middle ground, we’re all being gradually pushed into this area where our attention span is that of a gnat. Difficulty, learning a skill that might take 10 years over 10,000 hours is something that frightens to death, when in fact when you attain that it is probably the happiest most joyful thing you can do”.

-Grayson Perry Thinking Allowed,  BBC Radio 4. April 2008

The Rosetta Vase, 2011. © Grayson Perry.

Posted by Brimstones. We appreciate your feedback, please feel free to comment.

Thinking through Making


At Brimstones & Treacle, we take time to look at materials, processes and technologies to understand why and how they are harnessed in particular ways by designers, but more importantly to understand the values that we place on them, not only in their visual and tactile properties but also the cultural associations they hold. An icon of this approach is the theoretician Enzo Mari who came to design via the world of art as a fervent critic of Consumerism. As an ideological contributor to the debates surrounding design for the last fifty years he has become renowned for his mantra, “Good design for everybody at affordable prices’.

Central to Mari’s beliefs is that design, rather than simply being an expression of others values should develop its own ideology. Much of his work can be considered from this viewpoint, as a sort of critical design exercise where understanding is reached through experiment that can be best described as ‘Thinking through Making’. Continue reading

You are a Nomad

We know ‘change’ is a paradox, as it is the one thing of which we can be truly certain. As change happens everyday in all our surroundings we endure by continuously adapting ourselves, and our belongings to our situation. In nature species rely on dynamic modification in form and size in order to reproduce, feed or protect themselves. The capacity to adapt is essential to continued survival. And so it is in our ‘man made’ artificial world. As practical experience shows us, many organisations that fail to adjust to ever changing business environments tend to disappear.

Back in 1973, Victor Papanek and James Henessey had already prophesised the necessity for greater movement of people, suggesting that through our changing lifestyles we are all becoming nomadic. At Brimstones and Treacle we delight in their book ‘Nomadic Furniture’ in which they have attempted to fill a void by designing furniture that can be built yourself, bought or adapted by being easily constructed, but which also folds, stacks, inflates or knocks down, or else is disposable whilst being ecologically responsible. Continue reading

Is Design an expression of Art?

At Brimstones and Treacle we take inspiration from Donald Judd’s practice that encompasses art, furniture and architecture. Whilst retaining their distinctions Judd allows them to inform one another, sharing a sensibility of material and form. Judd’s output of deceptively simple objects provide a formal purity despite complexity of their construction, that stand as a testament to his mastery of fabrication and understanding of structure with respect to materials. Continue reading

The Way Things Go

A film that seems to be able to entice us to watch again and again is the strangely wonderful ‘Der Lauf der Dinge’, (The Way Things Go) by the Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Being about “cause and effect” it documents a long chain assembled of everyday objects. The machine itself is about 100 feet long built in a warehouse, and incorporates materials such as tyres, bin bags, ladders, soap, oil drums, and petrol. Fire and pyrotechnics are used as chemical triggers.

Continue reading