Clarice Cliff became a marketing phenomenon in her time with her colourful, brash, modernistic pottery. Of all the pottery produced in Britain during the 1900’s, Clarice Cliff is probably the most familiar and the most collected. Clarice Cliff has become the epitome of British Art Deco.
In 1920, the firm of A.J. Wilkinson bought Newport Pottery and in 1927 Clarice Cliff was set up in a small studio at the Newport Pottery works. Aided by the paintress Gladys Scarlett, Clarice Cliff tried out new designs on old stock shapes from the Newport warehouse. The resulting patterns were colourful, brash and outrageously modern and were designed to be applied free hand by teams of factory paintresses. Although hand painted, the wares were cheap to produce and aimed at the popular mass market. The resulting contemporary patterns were back stamped Bizarre by Clarice Cliff. They were so successful that within a year, the entire Newport Pottery works were producing only Clarice Cliff ware.
Although the success of Clarice Cliff was envied throughout the industry, she never shared the status that Susie Cooper enjoyed as a modernistic designer. Clarice Cliff was not a great designer and much of her work is repetitive, but she was able to combine her eye for fashion, sense of colour and taste for decorative frivolity and fun with her innate and instinctive understanding of marketing. Design was of less importance than marketing, and the success of her Bizarre and other ranges was probably due to marketing rather than design effort. Clarice Cliff’s creativity was at its peak during the 1930’s and her reputation probably belongs to this period. Although she worked into the 1960’s, she had lost the spark and her designs became dated and repetitive. Clarice Cliff died in 1972, at a time when a new generation of collectors were discovering her work. Their enthusiasm turned her mass-market bold colourings and decorations into works of art. As a direct result she has belatedly achieved the artistic standing she never enjoyed during her lifetime.
The Clarice Cliff Collectors Club is dedicated to the life and work of Clarice Cliff and many pictures of her pottery are available. You can access the Clarice Cliff Collectors Club by following the link from this site.