Born at Chemnitz, Germany, Coper originally studied textile engineering. In 1939 he left Germany for England. During the war he was arrested as an alien and sent to Canada, returning in 1941 to serve in the Pioneer Corps; he also attended art classes. He settled in London and began working at Lucie Rie's* pottery (1946), making ceramic buttons from moulds. He quickly learnt to throw and from 1947 to 1958 worked in parallel with Rie on domestic stoneware, while also producing his own pots. Coper's early work was exhibited at the Festival of Britain and won a gold medal at the Milan Triennale of 1954.
Hans Coper moved to the Digswell Arts Trust, Hertfordshire in 1959, from where he exhibited frequently and undertook commissions, including a pair of outsize candleholders for Coventry Cathedral (1962). In 1964 he returned to London, setting up a workshop in Hammersmith, and from 1967 he lived and worked near Frome, Somerset, with his second wife. He taught at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts (1961-72) and at the Royal College of Art (1966-75). Retrospective exhibitions of his work were held at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich (1983) and, shared with Lucie Rie, at the Barbican Art Gallery, London (1997).
*Denotes included in the Crafts Study Centre Collection