Cash in the attic! Why this summery jug is worth a small fortune

Posted on 14/05/2018 in Press Coverage

A rare piece of Clarice Cliff pottery unearthed from a Sutton Coalfield attic is destined for summer auction glory.

Experts from Hansons Auctioneers made the summery find – a large jug - at a free valuation event at St Chad’s Church, Hollyfield Road. They say it’s a particularly fine piece destined to make serious money.

Decorative Arts specialist John Keightley said: “It’s a rare, 1930s Art Deco Clarice Cliff Farmhouse pattern jug. It was found by the Sutton vendor languishing in the attic and brought along for free valuation. Its estimate is £1,000-£1,500 and it will go into our June 19 Decorative Arts Auction.

“The pattern has all the key elements Clarice Cliff liked to use, such as a cottage, trees and winding footpath.Pieces like this are hugely popular right now. It’s like bringing sunshine into your home.”

“When it came to talent, Clarice Cliff was ahead of her time. She had humble beginnings, one of seven children, and was born in a terraced house in Tunstall, Stoke, in 1899. But her determination to learn and master all she could took her to unusual career heights for a woman born at that time.”

At the age of 13, Cliff started working in the pottery industry as a gilder, adding gold lines on traditional wares. But she was always pushing to learn more and, once she had mastered that skill, she changed jobs to learn freehand painting. At the same time, she studied art and sculpture at Burslem School of Art.

In 1916, Cliff moved to the factory of A.J. Wilkinson at Newport, Burslem, to improve her career opportunities.

She was ambitious and acquired skills in modelling figurines and vases, gilding, keeping pattern books, hand painting and enamelling.

Her talent got her noticed and was nurtured by one of the factory owners, Colley Shorter. Though 17 years her senior they eventually married and, thanks to his support, Cliff went to the Royal College of Art and Paris.

Her wide range of skills were recognised and in 1927 she was given her own studio at the adjoining Newport Pottery which Shorter had bought in 1920.

Here Cliff was allowed to decorate some of the old defective 'glost' (white) ware in her own freehand patterns. For these she used on-glaze enamel colours, which enabled a brighter palette than underglaze colours.

She covered the imperfections in simple patterns of triangles, in a style that she called 'Bizarre'. The earliest examples had just a hand-painted mark, usually in a rust coloured paint, 'Bizarre by Clarice Cliff', sometimes with 'Newport Pottery' underneath.

To the surprise of the company’s senior salesman Ewart Oakes, when he took a car load to a major stockist, it was immediately popular.

Mr Keightley said: “That popularity has never waned. Clarice Cliff pottery is more sought after than ever and, thanks to the summery theme and colours, they jug uncovered in Sutton should do very well at auction.

“There are Clarice Cliff collectors all over the world who would be delighted to obtain this. It’s yet another great attic discovery which demonstrates why it’s so important to get items assessed.”

Hansons valuers will be back at St Chad’s Church, Hollyfield Road, Sutton Coldfield, B75 7SN, on June 12, 10am-3pm. TV celebrity Kate Bliss will be offering free jewellery, watches and silver valuations and general valuations can also be carried out. To find out more, ring Carol Jones on 07802 839915.

The Clarice Cliff jug will be sold at a Decorative Arts Auction at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, on June 19. Entries invited until June 1. To find out more, call 01283 733988 or email [email protected].