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History of Clarice Cliff - Pristine Antiques & Collectibles

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Clarice Cliff

History of Clarice Cliff

The “rags to riches” story of Clarice Cliff

Clarice Cliff is today regarded as one of the most influential pioneer designer and decorator of the 20th century.

Born on the 20th January, 1899 at Tunstall, Stoke-On-Trent in the heart of the Staffordshire region of ceramic production in England. She was apprenticed at the age of 13 for seven years to learn the skill of freehand painting.

At the age of 16 she transferred to the AJ Wilkinson factory. Clarice was ambitious and acquired skills over the final four years of her apprenticeship that were brought to the attention of the factory owner Colley Shorter.

She became his protégé and after a second seven year apprenticeship under his guidance she was given her own studio in the adjoining Newport Pottery. Previously in 1920 Colley Shorter had bought the Newport Pottery which had in store a huge stock of blank pieces and initially left alone Clarice set about covering the Newport blanks with brightly colored geometric decorations.

Soon she had as many as 25 young painters assigned to her production line and by 1929 her team had expanded to 70. This had grown again to 150 by 1931. In 1930 Clarice was appointed art director of the two adjoining factories of AJ Wilkinson and Newport Pottery.

Being such a prolific designer it is impossible to describe all of her shapes and patterns, however, in early 1929 her Crocus pattern was instantly successful and remained a best seller for 35 years, which in turn helped keep the factories working through many difficult times, including the great depression, as her wares continued to sell at a premium and in volume.

In 1939 Colley Shorter's wife died and the next year he married Clarice, after it was rumoured, a 20 year affair which was the talk of the works.

Although AJ Wilkinson and Newport Pottery continued to sell ware with the Clarice Cliff backstamp, she would never re-capture those crazy days of the 1930's and with the death of Colley Shorter in 1963, she sold the factories the following year to retire in luxury, although becoming somewhat of a recluse. Clarice Cliff died suddenly on the 23rd October, 1972.

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