Clarice Cliff  Pottery

Clarice Cliff.pottery the most famous and

Clarice Cliff  Pottery

innovative English designer of Art Deco ceramics, was known as the 'Sunshine Girl', an expression that aptly conjures up the bold patterns and bright colours .

Clarice Cliff  Pottery
Cliff pieces were outrageous - an exuberant raspberry blown at the drab, boring pottery that she encountered as a student at London's Royal College of Art in 1927. 

As a result of Cliffs growth in popularity over recent decades, most people are familiar with her extrovert style. 

Today there is nothing more desirable among ceramic collectable* of the 1930s - the demand seems insatiable. While a plate can fetch up to £500 and a jug up to 10 times that amount, small objects such as cruet sets or anything in the 'Crocus' pattern are usually less expensive and make a good starting point for a collection.

Clarice Cliff  Pottery

Born in 1899 in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, Clarice Cliff grew up in a region known for its pottery production. 

At the age of 13 she began work as an apprentice freehand pottery painter in a local factory.

 Four years later - at a time when most men were away fighting in World War I, and there was a shortage of workers - she moved to the A.J. Wilkinson Royal Staffordshire Pottery in Burslem. 

The move proved to be a positive one for Cliff: it was here that she learned the techniques of modelling, gilding, decorating, and designing pottery.

Clarice Cliff  Pottery

Colley Shorter, the managing director at the factory, soon recognised Cliffs talents. He became her protector, sponsor, lover, and, eventually, her husband.

By 1927 Shorter had set up a small studio for Cliff at his own Newport Pottery in Burslem.

 Inspired by the brilliant colours used by artistssuch as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, as well as by a visit with Colley to the Paris Exhibition in 1925, Cliff created a range of patterns, which were then copied onto the pottery by a team of assistants. 

Shorter had supplied Cliff with an old stock of inferior white pottery to work on and, to hide its defects, paint was applied in a thick coating. 

The design was first outlined in black, then filled in with colour. Brushstrokes were left visible on purpose, to emphasise that these were hand-painted wares.

 This laterbecame a strong selling point. In 1928 the all-new Bizarre range, which had a distinctive, warm yellow honey' glaze,

was launched as cheerful,

inexpensive domestic pottery.

Clarice Cliff  Pottery
Cliffs designs were shockingly innovative for her era, with their cacophony of bright colours and jazzy geometric shapes.

Bizarre tales

Bizarre ware was a phenomenal success, and Cliff's team of lady painters became known as the Bizarre Girls' - by late 1928 she had more than 25 painters working for her.

Around 1929 the initial tableware range was expanded to include teapots, bookends, candlesticks, and other decorative 'fancies' (non-essential items) - and the forms and patterns of most of these fulfilled Cliff's love of the extravagant. But she was also practical, creating shapes that 'didn't harbour grease or dust'.

Clarice Cliff  Pottery
Cliff was appointed art director of the Newport Pottery by 1930, the first woman to achieve such status in the Potteries. Productivity of her Bizarre ware increased dramatically. Within 12 months Clarice Cliff was a household name.

Clarice Cliff  Pottery
World War II brought with it the decline of hand-painted pottery, with materials in short supply and many of the workers drafted into service.

The year after her husband's death in 1963, Cliff sold both of the factories to W.R. Midwinter Ltd.

Patterns and shapes

During her long career. Cliff designed more than 2,000 patterns and 500 shapes. 

Although Bizarre is probably her best-known range, others such as Fantasque (launched in 1928) are also popular, as are her 1930s landscape designs rendered in the Art Deco style and using the same palette of hold, bright colours.

Clarice Cliff  Pottery
Among Cliff's most sought-after patterns are 'May Avenue', Applique', Inspiration', Sunray', 'Mountain', and 'Solitude'. 'Crocus', a bestseller of the time (available 1928-63), is still commonly found. By 1934, it came indifferent colour schemes: 'Spring' (with flowers in pale pink, blue, and green). 'Sungleam' (orange and yellow), and Autumn' (red, purple, and blue). 

Honolulu', 'Oranges and Lemons', and Windbells' - all part of the Bizarre range - are also desirable, as are Secrets' and 'Nasturtium'.

 Particularly collectable shapes include the 1930s Conical range of cone-shaped bowls, vases, and tea ware with triangular handles or feet. Other popular shapes include Bon Jour, Stamford. Biarritz, and Lotus.

The perfect marriage

The value of a Cliff piece is determined by the combination of its shape and pattern. A circular bowl in the May Avenue' pattern is common, so it will not be as valuable as the same pattern on a conical sugar sifter, which is less often seen.

The earlierBizarre pieces are most in demand and consequently fetch the highest prices.

Clarice Cliff  Pottery

But a stunning Bizarre vase will not be much if it IS decorated in a pattern that is unfashionable today, such as 'Whisper'.

The appeal of a particular pattern or shape can change according to contemporary tastes. 

Although the 'Gay Day' pattern has remained consistently popular, the appeal of others, such as 'Latona Red Rose' and Inspiration Caprice', has fallen and risen over time, resulting in fluctuating values.

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