Clarice Cliff

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While the very avant garde were busy making useless and ugly expressionist paintings in the 1920s-1930s, creating the very beautiful was left in the hands of lady ceramists. Lady ceramic artists took the bright colours off the garish canvases and applied them with care and good taste to create pieces of pottery that stand the test of time. As David Hume said (not in the last century but in 1757):

"The same HOMER, who pleased at ATHENS and ROME two thousand years ago, is still admired at PARIS and at LONDON."

So too is Clarice Cliff.


Aura daisy pattern jugPrinted transfer floral tureenClarice Cliff (1899 - 1972) came from the ceramics town of Tunstall in Staffordshire, and had clay in her blood stretching back through her father's line to Thomas Wedgewood, brother of the famous Josiah. One of eight children, 6 girls and 2 boys, she attended High Street Elementary School and later Summerbank School in Tunstall, until she left to work in the potteries at the age of thirteen.


Clarice resisted a production line career path by learning the full gamut of the lady ceramicists skills. Her versatility and wide ranging expertise was recognised when she was permitted to decorate defective white ware. Her bright geometric pieces, known as Bizarre Ware, received popular acclaim and assured her place in industrial history. In 1927 while fine artist George Grosz was disdainfully painting capitalist pigs, gluttons and prostitutes, Clarice Cliff was in charge of a flock of lady ceramicists called the "Bizarre Girls". How bizarre.


As Clarice's popularity grew, her name became a valuable commodity. The number of wares that bore her name increased, but her creative input was reduced. Post world war two, her name was associated with mass produced wares that bore little resemblance to her original creative pieces.