Author(s): Lynn Knight
The first ever full-length biography of the unique woman who changed the face of pottery and epitomised the Art Deco movement. Clarice Cliff was one of the most significant ceramic designers of the twentieth century. Her work - a 'gargantuan feast of colour' - is avidly collected and is for many the epitome of Art Deco. From the first, Clarice Cliff refused limitations. When she started work in the Potteries before the First World War, she was just another factory girl with a rolled-up pinny in her pocket and nothing much expected of her future. But by 1928, the year of the 'Flapper-vote', Clarice Cliff was launching 'Bizarre', a range of pottery as striking in appearance as in name, each piece stamped with her own signature. Women responded to the modern spirit of her work. 'Bizarre' was different at a time women hoped their lives could be different too. Clarice Cliff's tastes were magpie and eclectic: the latest European styles, ancient colourings and cottage-garden flowers were given a domestic context. The resulting look was bold, innovative and all the rage. As a working-class woman, Clarice Cliff's journey from apprentice gilder to art director was remarkable. But the life of the 'brilliant girl artist', as the press romantically dubbed her, was not without its ironies. Though a thoroughly modern career woman, she lived for years with her parents in the terraced house she had grown up in; she became a public figure but conducted a clandestine relationship with her married boss; she designed for women at home, but rarely took a day off work. In her insightful and engrossing biography of this talented, ground-breaking woman, Lynn Knight also draws a vivid portrait of Britain between the wars, and in particular of the lives of women. Fusing art, design and industry, social history and biographical detail, it is a vibrant study of an Art Deco icon whose work continues to arouse strong and conflicting passions.