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   Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday 3rd March, 2003

CLARICE CLIFF POTTERY

Clarice Cliff pottery
PRICEY POTTERY | pound for pound, Clarice Cliff's work is worth more than gold

For those of you with an eye for a collectable, Inside Out may have just the thing. With her bright and original designs, Clarice Cliff took the pottery world of the 1920s by storm. Now 80 years on, some of her work, pound for pound, is worth more than gold.

Clarice Cliff was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1899. By the First World War, she was working in one of the many factories that dominated the potteries.

By the late 1920s, amid economic recession, Clarice was designing innovative, colour rich pottery and her career was blossoming.

Black and white photograph of the girls at work
Clarice Cliff's career blossomed in the height of recession

"She was successful when everyone else was just trying to make some money, she was making a load of money," explains Leonard Griffin, a Clarice Cliff expert and founder of the Clarice Cliff Collectors Club.

"The colours sold themselves, they were in the windows of the stores in London and major cities throughout the world."

A colourful life

Clarice’s pottery was matched in vibrancy by her equally colourful love life.

During the 1920s, Clarice had an illicit affair with her then boss, Colly Shorter. Years later the pair married, but it was the couple’s business partnership that took the pottery industry by storm.

"People have often said she wouldn’t have succeeded without him, but the fact is, his factory wouldn’t have succeeded without her," says Leonard.

"This swish twenties woman came along and revolutionised British pottery for him."

Bygone age

Nowadays, Cliff’s pottery is still very much in demand and Inside Out meets Andy Muir from Birmingham, whose collection is arguably one of the largest in the UK.

Andy selects a classic 1931 piece which he believes embodies Clarice’s work.

"It’s a classic piece from 1931. Fantastic pattern called Orange House," says Andy. "Whimsical cottage and cartoony landscape, it’s everything Clarice was and is today."

This may be a classic example of her work, but it is not the rarest in the collection. That privilege belongs to an abstract 1930s piece that Andy bought in New Zealand. Today it would fetch a staggering £10,000.

An acquired taste?

Rene Dale
Rene worked for Clarice 70 years ago, but wasn't the greatest fan of her work

Whilst modern day collectors like Andy may marvel a bygone age, Inside Out has tracked down someone with first hand knowledge of Clarice Cliff.

85 year old Rene Dale, worked for Clarice at Newport pottery 70 years ago.

Not only was Clarice an innovative, talented designer, but according to Rene, she an excellent boss as well.

"You couldn’t have asked for a nicer boss. She thought the world of the girls you know," says Rene. "She has no family of her own and she sort of took us on as her family."

Rene may be a huge fan of Clarice’s management style, but for Rene, her pottery was somewhat of an acquired taste.

Clarice Cliff
Pound for pound, Clarice's work is worth more than gold

"We all thought it was so gaudy, but then that was the idea, she wanted it gaudy, she wanted it gay," explains Rene. "She thought the British housewives deserved more colour in their lives."

So with pieces of Clarice Cliff’s, fetching anywhere up to £20,000, what would this local girl from Stoke think of it all? Maybe Rene can answer that:

"If Clarice knew what was going on now, she’d dig a hole and get into it. She wouldn’t have liked all this fuss."

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
Antiques - Clarice Cliff Pottery

On the rest of the web
The Clarice Cliff website
The Clarice Cliff collectors club
Andrew Muir
Lorna Bailey art ware
Gladstone Pottery Museum

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