One of my favourite designers and, due to our generational differences, someone I have never met, is Clarice Cliff. I have written about her more than once over the many years of my weekly missive and I have, I am sure said rare shapes, rare patterns and rare colours are by far the most expensive of her products. I have also said that the mundane pieces never attract a great deal of interest.
However, I have never really discussed Clarice herself. What an amazing woman she was. Unlike her four sisters Sara, Hannah, Dorothy and Ethel, Clarice had a goal for herself and she was determined to achieve it.
At the age of 17, due to a shortage of workers caused by the First World War, Clarice Cliff began a job as an apprentice lithographer with the A J Wilkinson factory in Burslem. Here she began to learn the techniques of modelling, gilding and decorating. The girls who worked with Clarice at this time recalled that she was never really one of them. When they left for home Clarice stayed behind practicing and modelling because she regarded her work as more than just a job.
For a female to become a designer in the 1920’s was really unheard of and it was largely due to her incredibly strong personality, amazing talent and her association with one of the Shorter brothers who owned the factory.
When the brothers purchased Newport Pottery, the adjoining factory to their own, Colley Shorter quickly recognised Clarice Cliffs talents. He became her protector, her sponsor, and her lover. By 1927 he had set her up in her own small studio and on 21st December 1940 he married her.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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