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KNIGHT, LYNN - Clarice Cliff

Title: Clarice Cliff
Description: Bloomsbury, London, 2005. Octavo; hardcover, with metallic green spine-titling; 328pp., with 14 full-colour plates and many monochrome illustrations. Minor wear; some spotting to the text block edges; offset to endpapers. Otherwise near fine in like dustwrapper, now professionally protected by superior non-adhesive polypropylene film. 'Knight's book is both biography and social analysis and it reads like a very sophisticated folk tale. Cliff rose from working-class Stoke-on-Trent to become art director of the firm, a figure of authority and glamour who kept a cocktail gown in her office in case of sudden need. Bizarre was introduced in 1928, the year of the flapper vote, and Knight convincingly suggests that the appeal of Cliff's razzle-dazzle pottery was linked to women's growing political confidence. At the height of demand 18,000 Bizarre pieces were being made each week. Altogether about 8.5 million were produced. ..Cliff had no overarching aesthetic agenda. Her talent was her ability to pick up and make use of a dozen different styles: Cubism, De Stijl, a bit of Ballets Russes, Art Deco ... the 1925 Paris exhibition had had enormous impact on European design and decoration, and Cliff herself had first seen Paris in, Knight surmises, 1927. There is an obvious influence of Sonia Delaunay on Cliff's pursuit of swirling movement, whorls and swaths of brilliant colour. She was adept at absorbing the features of the fashionable continental style and bringing a brasher, cruder version of modernity within reach of the aspirational middle classes. She transformed Parisian Art Deco into English department store design... Bizarre pottery provided not just a talking point but an assertion of women's independence. Cliff signed her work, an early example of celebrity design. She was promoted as a woman who designed for modern women. During the worst of unemployment in the potteries in 1932, with Wedgwood on the verge of bankruptcy, Bizarre and Wilkinson still flourished.. By 1931, Clarice Cliff, the only female art director in the Potteries, was lauded in the press as the modern entrepreneur career woman, photographed in a black cloche hat and triple row of pearls. The cliched description of Cliff was 'merry'. But there were considerable underlying tensions. She was still living at home in the Tunstall terraced house. Her relationship with the married Shorter became the subject of malicious innuendo. Even her own Bizarre girls got resentful as she was officially transformed into 'Miss Cliff'. Knight's informative, affectionate biography reveals, in telling detail, the pressures on ambitious single women in the 30s in small provincial towns. Cliff's career was ended by the war, which put a long-term ban on decorated china, and by her eventual marriage to Shorter in 1940, after his wife died. She retreated to Chetwynd, his Arts and Crafts mansion in the country, and took trips in streamlined ocean liners like the ones she once modelled." - Fiona McCarthy.


Price: AUD 33.00 = appr. US$ 22.83 Seller: Lamdha Books
- Book number: 56622

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