Antiques Column with Michael Dowse: Bringing something new to the world of ceramics

Clarice Cliff ceramics are some of the most recognisable and collectable from the 20th century, with different shapes, patterns and designs attracting different collectors.

Cliff (1899-1972) learned her trade at Linguard Webster & Co where she worked as an apprentice decorator before moving to AJ Wilkinson Ltd of Burslem in 1916.

It was here that her talents were finally acknowledged when factory owner Colley Shorter gave her her own studio in the Newport Pottery in the mid-1920s.

Clarice Cliff designs were brightly coloured, geometric patterns that had never been seen before with her first range; Bizarre Ware launching in 1928.

She painted many of the wares herself but her popularity and success saw the necessity for a team of painters to be trained up by her. This team of women is often referred to as the Bizarre Girls.

As time went on, and their skills in depicting Cliff’s designs increased, they were given a certain amount of free reign and this can be seen in wares where the designs are slightly altered from the original. Examples like this are keenly collected.

Popular patterns include Poplar, Crocus and Coral Firs, although collectability is defined also by shape, rarity and colour.

The colour orange is common while purple is generally rarer.

Sugar sifters or honey pots, for example, may be the focus of a collection with the conical sugar sifter launched in 1931 being one of the most iconic designs of Cliff’s career.

Alternatively plates, which are relatively cheaper to acquire and show off Cliff’s designs particularly well, may act as a basis for a beginner collector.