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A buyer's guide to Clarice Cliff crocus ceramics

Clarice Cliff was an English pottery designer and painter who created her best pieces during a very prolific period from 1922 to 1963. The Clarice Cliff Bizarre line and the Clarice Cliff Crocus designs of pottery fetch amazing sums of money at auctions. A Christie’s auction received £ 39,500 for a plaque with the May Avenue design.

Working at thirteen

Clarice Cliff started working in a pottery at Stoke on Trent when she was only thirteen. Unlike her other six siblings, she was lucky to get an education in art and sculpture while she was working. Clarice was ambitious and taught herself various aspects of pottery designing. She changed jobs to A J Wilkinson at Newport, Burslem. This was the turning point in her life. She was soon allowed to work with the factory designers.

Bizarre by Clarice Cliff

By 1927, Clarice Cliff had her own studio. The owners allowed her to decorate defective pieces of white tableware. She covered the defects with bright triangular designs of enamel paint and called this collection ‘Bizarre.’ Bizarre by Clarice Cliff became a famous brand of Clarice Cliff designs. It was a surprising sell-out with retailers. She soon had an assistant Gladys Scarlett to help her to paint her designs on Clarice Cliff pottery.

The Crocus range

One of the partners of the company, Colley Shorter, whom she married later, sent her for brief periods to the Royal College of Arts at Kensington, London. It was in 1928 that she created her most famous and long-lasting design which she simply called ‘Crocus.’ This flowery pattern with green stems was universally applied to kettles, tea cups, plates and gift items. The Spring, Purple and Sungleam Crocus were popular designs and used till 1968.

Red Autumn and Appliqué

Nowadays, each and every item made in this period of forty years whether a Clarice Cliff vase or a Clarice Cliff jug, is an invaluable collector’s item. Clarice Cliff wall plaques and decorative antiques with fantastic designs like ‘Red Autumn’ and ‘Appliqué’ are treasured by owners and fetch great prices at auctions. She used many variations of Art Deco, Cubist and Abstract designs to make her pottery a rage in the twentieth century. A range of tableware was even inspired by the Prince of Wales and Clarice Cliff plates with designs by famous artists like Dame Laura Knight and Duncan Grant were put up for sale by famous stores like Harrods, Bon Marche and Selfridges. After the death of her husband in 1963, Clarice became a recluse till her death in 1972. Today, she is recognised as an artist in her own right and her pottery creations are on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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