If you’ve watched any episode of the Antiques Roadshow then you’ll have come across the name Clarice Cliff. In all my years of collecting, I never found a piece while thrifting. That was until today – I found my first pieces of Clarice Cliff at my local Savers here in Metrowest Boston. Imagine my delight !
But, don’t be fooled. This isn’t the stuff that goes for thousands of pounds / dollars. It’s her later stuff under the Royal Staffordshire brand. Still, it was such a thrill to find this tea set, that I had to dive in and find out more about Clarice Cliff the woman. So as I sip my first cup of earl grey tea, in these vintage cups, I hope you will become as enamoured as I was after reading this post.
According to the ClariceCliff.co.uk website ” The most prolific and possibly important Art Deco ceramic designer of the 20th century “. Though I was familiar with the name, I wasn’t as familiar with her work and her her apparent huge contribution to the Art Deco movement. She was also something of a trailblazer becoming a female leading ceramic artist at a time when that was fairly uncommon. What I found most interesting was her account in 1972 , when she gave an interview at her exhibition in Brighton England.
Here are some examples of Clarice Cliff pieces. Note the intricate handprinted designs and the vivid colours in the Bizarre ware pieces (at the top).
Notable Facts about the woman – Clarice Cliff
- Born January 20th 1899 in Tunstall Stoke on Trent
- Began working at age 13 in “The Potteries”
- Given her own studio after moving to AJ Wilkinson pottery factory in 1916
- Most known for her line of “Bizarre” ware which she launched in 1922
- Married later in life to her then boss Colley Shorter in 1940
- After Shorter’s death, Clarice sells the business to Midwinter
- In 1972, Clarice Cliff’s work was exhibited in Brighton
- She died October 23 1972 suddenly
- In 1999 her centenary was celebrated worldwide
Clarice Cliff was known for her geometric Art Deco style pottery sold under Newport Pottery. By the end of the 1920’s she had a team of 70 decorators working under her direction. Some of her most sought after designs are Bizarre and Fantasque which display Modern Cubism styles of the Art Deco Period. “Cubism” is a term for a painting style that puts in place geometrical shapes for natural forms. Rare pieces of these sell for thousands.
My teacup and saucer was not an example of either of these styles and was likely to have been produced in the late 60’s or 70’s based on the backstamp information I have found to date. Still, it will be cherished as my first piece of Clarice Cliff found in the wild! I found two teacups and matching saucers. They are a much welcomed addition to my teacup collection. And… Who knows, I may start collecting more pieces in the future.
If you’re going to collect Clarice Cliff, I highly recommend that you pick up a few books. I usually see if I can source these titles at the library first. Don’t underestimate the power of your local library (and make friends with the librarian too, who can help you search for materials from the Art Deco period). Having a copy of the book in hand is great, because I can then flip through the resources, before committing to the purchase.
A must have for new collectors though is Clarice Cliff for Collectors by Greg Slater as well as Leonard Griffin’s book on Bizarre ware. There are other great titles, but these I found the most helpful. Be mindful of fakes, there are a lot of them out there. I would suggest joining one of the Clarice Cliff collector communities, if you have questions about whether a piece is genuine or not. Backstamps are not always a foolproof method of determining the whether a piece is genuine.
Recommended websites on Clarice Cliff
Christie’s guide to collecting Clarice Cliff the auction powerhouse writes a great summary with enough information for the budding collector or someone with an interest in knowing more about Art Deco.
Buying Clarice Cliff Andrew Muir is a well known collector and dealer of Clarice Cliff. On his website you can buy and sell pieces as well as have them appraised. Of course if the Antiques Roadshow is coming your way, you can always line up and get it appraised in person !
Victoria and Albert Museum One of my favourite FREE museums in London. The V&A cover the Art Deco influence of Clarice Cliff. There are also wonderful images of the pieces displayed as part of the their collection. A must see if you’re ever able to make it to London.
If you collect Clarice Cliff, please leave a comment below ! I’d love to know what’s in your collection and what made you decide to collect her pieces.