CLARICE CLIFF

Hi Everybody,

There was an auction in the West Midlands last week that included 300 lots by one of my favourite artists, Clarice Cliff. So, I thought it would be timely to do a short blog about her. After  studying pottery and sculpture at the Burslem School of Art, Cliff started working in the Newport Pottery in about 1927, being given her own studio, where she experimented with on-glaze enamel colours.

The first production pieces she made were called ‘Bizarre’ and were a range of pottery, decorated with bright colours, using abstract stylised geometric and figural forms that were popular in the art deco period of the time.

Over the next few years Cliff produced hundreds of designs, all hand painted, using a team of 70 painters, mainly women, to assist with the ever-growing demand for her work.

In 1940, Cliff married her boss Colley Shorter and she moved into Chetwynd House in Staffordshire, where she then focused her skills on developing the gardens of the house. After her husband’s death in 1963, Cliff retired and became a recluse. She died suddenly in 1972.

It is interesting to analyse why Clarice Cliff’s pottery was so popular, when it was first introduced and even more so today. At the time of the first production of the ‘Bizarre’ ware, the pottery used crude, bright colours, stylised designs and, at the time of production, they were inexpensive.

At the sale by Fielding’s Auctioneers, one of the top lots was a plate/charger, 18in (45.5cm), a landscape with stylised trees, which sold for £18,000!

Interestingly, this particular charger was used in a promotional photograph, where Clarice Cliff appears to be painting the piece. However, it must have been fired first, otherwise the glaze would have smudged on the sleeve of her coat.

Our own website will soon include a section on collectible pottery for sale, which will include the wonderful Clarice Cliff. So keep an eye out for this.

Barry