The life story of English potter and designer Clarice Cliff, (1899-1972) is a real-life rags-to riches story. Clarice was born in the potteries area in Tunstall, Staffordshire in 1899, and her father was an iron moulder, while her mother took in washing.
She attended school until age 13 and then left to work in a lowly paid job in the potteries. At that time the potteries were the major employers of women in the North Staffordshire and at the time she commenced work there were over 20,000 women employed.
The jobs for women ranged from being assistants to the men who threw the pots, to the less menial but repetitive task of painting prescribed designs onto clay blanks.
After 10 years, and a several of changes of employer, she had learned a number of trades and mastered the techniques of gilding, enamelling, lithography and design.
At the age of 17 Clarice Cliff was working for the Royal Staffordshire Pottery owned by A J Wilkinson owned by the Shorter family. and at this time the firm's pattern books begin to credit her as the designer of some of the items illustrated in the books. more...She attended evening classes at Burslem School of Art from 1924-1925 and studied sculpture at the Royal College of Art in 1927, but returned after only a few months to set up a small studio in Wilkinson's Newport Pottery, decorating traditional white-ware.
In 1927/8 a market testing of 60 dozen pieces of "Bizarre Ware", using reject stocks of sub-standard whiteware, and masking the blemishes with highly coloured decoration was organised by Colley Shorter.
Wilkinson's salesmen were shocked by the extreme boldness of the Clarice Cliff designs and further astonished by the rapidity with which they sold. Handpainted Bizarre, the name chosen by Colley Shorter, the managing director of Wilkinson's, to cover the whole range, was launched.
She then produced her most famous and popular design, ‘Crocus’, which features flowers between brown and yellow bands. From then, all Cliff’s ware was stamped with: Hand Painted Bizarre by Clarice Cliff, Newport Pottery, England . Cliff then designed modern shapes; the 1929 ‘Conical’ range consists of cone-shaped bowls, vases and teaware, with triangular handles or feet, decorated with sunbursts and lightning flashes; the 1930 ‘Stamford’ teapot has flat sides and angular edges
In 1930 she was made Art Director of A. J Wilkinson, and by 1931 Clarice Cliff was supervising a workforce of up to 1000 at the Newport Pottery, with 150 boys and girls
In 1940, following the death of his first wife, Clarice Cliff married Colley Shorter. Her designing career ended with her marriage and World War II, during which time there was a ban on decorated china, and she retired to live in Shorter's Arts & Craft mansion in the Staffordshire countryside.
Her husband died in 1963 and the following year she sold the business to Midwinter Pottery, a company established in the 1950s, and became a recluse.
Her death in 1972 was unexpected.
Learn about Coffee Pots
Before the invention of the dripolator, percolator and the expresso machine, the roasted and ground coffee beans were placed in a pot, and hot water was added, to infuse the water with the coffee. After the coffee had brewed it was ready for pouring, a similar process to that used to make tea now. It was not until the invention of the percolator in the late 19th century, that use of the coffee pot began to decline. From the early 18th century to the end of the 19th century, coffee pots were produced in silver, silver plate and by most of the major ceramics producers who produced dinnerware, including Wedgwood, Royal Worcester and Belleek.
Clarice Cliff 'Bizarre' coffee pot, c. 1929-1930 'Swirls' pattern, stamped 'Registration applied for', printed factory marks to base 'Hand painted Bizarre by Clarice Cliff Newport Pottery England'. Height 21.5 cm
Rare Clarice Cliff art deco coffee set, conical shape, applique range, lucerne pattern. Comprising coffee pot, six each cups and saucers, cream and sugar. Excellent original condition. Small glaze loss rim of sugar
Clarice Cliff, 'Bizarre' Eva Crofts for Clarice Cliff coffee set, c.1934 'Field Flowers' pattern, 'Bonjour' shape, printed factory marks to base 'Designed by Eva Crofts Produced in Bizarre by Clarice Cliff Wilkinson England', six cups, six saucers, coffee
Clarice Cliff, 'Fantasque' tankard coffee pot 'Broth' pattern, printed factory marks to base 'Hand Painted Fantasque by Clarice Cliff Wilkinson England', stamped 'Lawleys Norfolk Pottery in Stoke'. Height 19 cm
Clarice Cliff 23 piece part dinner set. Creamware, with geometric silver overlay. One oval platter, 6 large dinner plates, 3 small dinner plates, two desert bowls, one side plate, one teapot, one coffee pot, one coffee cup and saucer, and one tea cup. Seve
A Clarice Cliff Bizarre Solomon's seal pattern part demi tasse coffee set, circa 1930, comprising three demi tasse coffee cups and saucers a milk jug and a conical sugar bowl each painted with stylised flowers within mauve blue and green borders black fact
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