I have long been a fan of Clarice Cliff pottery. Alas, I don’t have a piece in my collection. I do, however, have a lovely book called Tea and Sympathy – Fabulous cakes on art deco plates that was published in 1985. This book combines wonderful afternoon tea recipes from Australia’s best known foodies with accompanying photographs of the food on Clarice Cliff crockery.
Clarice Cliff was born in 1899 in Tunstall, Staffordshire, UK and became one of the most outrageous and celebrated designers of mainstream twentieth century art. At an early age, Clarice took to the walls of her bedroom painting them orange and yellow, the ceiling a metallic gold and the furnishings orange with black relieve. She described the effect as bizarre, a word that would later attach itself to her early work. She studied at various art schools before becoming a lithographer. This field was too limited for her talent and design ambition and she experimented with hand-painted designs on warehouse stock pottery. Her work was launched on an unsuspecting Britain on the eve of the Great Depression. Her first test-run of 60 dozen pieces sold out in days.
Her crazy designs called for unusually shaped pottery and I think the shape, colours and geometric patterns are what draws me to her work. She was a firm believer that the pieces were to be used not just put in the china cabinet to be admired. I’m glad many people didn’t use their pieces too much so we have many still being bought, sold and displayed today. A selection of Clarice Cliff ceramics is on display on Level 3 of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney until December 2009.
You may be lucky to find a piece of her work at your local Antique shop or your could try Deco Downunder.