Clarice Cliff (by Will Farmer) eBook available from Google Books (Buy here)
Clarice Cliff is one of the most instantly recognisable ceramic designers of the twentieth century. Her distinctive ‘Bizarre’ pottery, with its vibrant colour palette and dynamic patterns on equally daring forms, epitomises the mood of the Jazz Age.
During the Depression, Clarice flooded homes with colour offering her customers a glimpse of something new and exciting, far removed from the formal and staid styles of the first quarter of the century. Hers was a true success story founded on hard work, determination and an unwavering clear vision. Clarice was different, as was her ceramic art: a unique combination of inspired thought and design brilliance that created the perfect recipe for success.
Clarice was modern and fashionable woman of her time who demonstrated that she also had the skill to be a successful business-woman. As an industrial designer she had great intuition for what the public wanted, and between 1927 and 1936, at a time of high Art Deco, her shapes, colours and patterns ‘delivered’ where her competitors fell short. Whilst many other ceramics designers looked back, Clarice grabbed the ‘new’ with both hands: Art Deco, Modernism and Cubism. With an open mind and positive attitude she recognised the best qualities in these movements and developed them into commercially successful domestic wares.
Inspired by themes and ideas of art and design movements from around the world, Clarice’s longing for change was transferred to the surface of the pots she so ingeniously created. This, combined with a shrewd understanding of business, resulted in a product that unashamedly burst onto the market, introducing the consumer of the day to an entirely new style.
Such was the demand for Clarice’s work that, at its peak, the A.J.Wilkinson factory was recorded as producing 18,000 pieces a week with a turnover of £2,000, double that of her nearest competitor. Her wares were exported around the globe as far away as North and South America, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Towards the end of the 1930’s, however, Clarice, ever wise in business realised that the entire spirit of the times was about to change and that she could no longer be quite so daring or experimental. Her wares still continued to sell but had lost the dynamic flair and excitement of those early years.
Today’s modern approach to women in business makes it difficult to appreciate just how successful Clarice was. Colley Shorter, her boss and later her husband, was a genius at promotion and publicity, and the levels of interest and press coverage received by her products were unprecedented; over 360 articles and reviews of her distinctive Bizarre ware were published during the key years of 1927 to 1936. Compare this to one of her most well-known competitors of the day – Susie Cooper – who achieved barely twenty in the same period. In recent years a huge amount of new research has re-appraised Clarice the designer, the businesswoman and, most importantly, the artist.
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If anyone has Clarice Cliff we can check with our network of collectors locally and abroad if they would be interested in buying them. Clarice Cliff was sold in South Africa and we have some interesting and unique examples. Please get in touch through our contact-us form or DM / message us on Instagram, Facebook or on WhatsApp (number on the contact- us page).
Prices paid for Clarice Cliff
They fetch higher prices in the UK. Visit https://www.bananadance.com/ to get a general idea, but do remember that some Clarice Cliff crockery pieces like plates fetch very little and collectors in South Africa pay a fraction of what overseas collectors pay.
See this example of price discrepancy – but definitely an opportunity for collectors.
Same item for sale – on two opposing online platforms: bidorbuy.co.za in South Africa and bananadance.com from the UK.
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Vintage Ceramics South Africa reserve the rights to publish this extract for the purposes of research.