Friday, 4 February 2011

Clarice Cliff - Introduction

 Clarice Cliff (1899 - 1972) was a designer working in the ceramic industry, who is best remembered for her art deco designs of the 1920's and 30's. She was born in the Tunstall area of Stoke on Trent in the homeland of the British ceramics industry and educated in local schools. She left school at the age of 13 to work as a gilder adding the gold line to pots. During this period of her career she attended evening classes at the Burslem School of Art.

In 1916 she went to work for A.J. Wilkinson at Newport, Burslem to improve her career opportunities. During this period she acquired skills in modelling, gilding and hand painting ware. She can under the influence of Colley Shorter who managed the factory with his brother Guy. Colley Shorter was 17 years older than Clarice and went on to play a major role in nurturing her talents as well as marrying her. 

Clarice sarted a second apprenticeship at A. J. Wilkinson's in 1924 working as a 'modeller'. She also worked with factory designers John Butler and Fred Ridgway on special art wares such as Oriflamme, Tibetan and Rubaiyat.

Clarice's skills were soon recognised (Colley influence again) and in 1927 she was given her own studio in the adjoining Newport Pottery which Shorter had bought in 1920. Here Clarice decorated some old white wares with freehand brightly coloured patterns covering any imperfections with simple geometric triangular patterns. This she christened "Bizarre" and they were marked on the underside with the hand painted title "Bizarre by Clarice Cliff". These designs were an instant success and soon she had her own team of girls decorating pots (actually one girl called Gladys Scarlett)
She is known to have studied at the Royal College of Art in London during 1927. From here success followed success soon she was designing both new shapes and pattern for an ever expanding team of decorators. 
Production of one her early designs "Crocus" went from one girl painting 1928 to 20 girls painting full time during most of the 1930's.

Clarice's patterns were the epitome of the British Jazz Age with names such as; Windmill, Crocus, Gayday, Red Tree, Idyll, Palermo, Blossom, Caravan, Bird of Paradise, Etna, Garden, Lugano, Eden and May Avenue and shapes called Conical, Bon Jour, Biarritz, Stamford, Eton, Daffodil and Celtic Harvest.


Endless pattern variations on a multitude of shape made her ware the ideal collectors items with prices from a few £10's to £10,000's - good luck. Watch out for restored and enhanced items. Also fakes and reproductions are around.


Plenty has been written and published on this subject

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