Clarice Cliff Pottery Guide

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Clarice Cliff is perhaps the best known of the ladies who helped to change the face of popular pottery in the 1920s and 30s. Born in Tunstall, Stoke on Trent, she left school at 13 and began the first of a series of apprenticeships that would see her end up at A. J. Wilkinson's at the age of 17. Here she found greater responsibility and creative freedom, and continued to build up her armoury of skills, adding modelling to her already considerable expertise in hand painting and lithography.

Clarice Cliff's early success led her into a close relationship with Colley Shorter, then managing director of Wilkinson's, and this doubtless attracted some comment, as Shorter was many years her senior and married. However, the couple were always careful to avoid any appearance of impropriety and it was not until many years later, following the death of Shorter's wife, that they were to eventually marry and make public their relationship.

Clarice Cliff Wilkinson Pottery Backstamp Mark

Clarice Cliff was to stay at Wilkinson's, and several more years of hard work culminated in her spending a brief period in 1927 studying sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London before returning to Stoke to take charge of a studio of the Newport Pottery, recently acquired by Wilkinson's. Here she was given a large stock of plain white wares and acquired her first apprentice, Gladys Scarlett. This early output proved very successful and over the next couple of years the Bizarre team was created. Early success meant more decorators were needed to fulfil all the orders, and the name Bizarre, chosen by Clarice Cliff, began to be applied to her wares, as also was the signature "Clarice Cliff".

Clarice Cliff Autumn Crocus Preserve PotClarice Cliff Bizarre My Garden Pattern Conical Jug, c1936 to Post War

Success followed success, and until 1937 there seemed no limit to the public's appetite for the work of Clarice Cliff and the Bizarre girls. Patterns such as Crocus, My Garden, Nasturtium, Nuage, Red Tulip, Gayday, Lily, Sunray, Gardenia and many more followed, and it became necessary for marketing purposes to introduce a second Clarice Cliff range. The new range was named Fantasque and ran alongside Bizarre until 1934, when Fantasque was phased out. Bizarre ran a little longer, but it too came to an end in 1937.

Clarice Cliff Bizarre My Garden Pattern Conical Jug Backstamp, c1936 to Post War

Although Clarice Cliff would go on designing new patterns and shapes up until the second world war prohibited the production of decorative ware, her work from now on had a subtler appeal and did not achieve the public glamour of the Bizarre range.

She was married to Colley Shorter in 1940 and became more involved in the administration of the company, until after Shorter's death in 1963, when Clarice Cliff decided to sell the pottery. An offer was received from Midwinter and this marked the end of Clarice Cliff's involvement in pottery production. It was to be the 1970s before her work came back into vogue and started its journey towards the collectable status it enjoys today, but then and now, no one disputed the huge contribution Clarice Cliff had made to the history of decorative art in the 20th century.

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