Transferware is about as close as you can get to printing on ceramics. Developed in Staffordshire, England in around 1760, the technique consists of transferring a print from an engraved and inked copper plate to a sheet of paper.
The paper is then applied to the unfired clay, be it earthenware or bone china, which absorbs the ink from the paper. After the paper is removed, the clay is glazed and fired.
Staffordshire had long been a center for fine ceramics, but the Industrial Revolution made the area a center for mass-produced wares for England’s growing middle class. Transferware permitted potteries to produce far more than if they were hand painting everything, which Wedgwood and especially Spode capitalized on.
The sources for the earliest transferware designs were 18th-century blue-and-white porcelain platters and plates from China, which were very popular in England at the time. Italian scenes were also replicated in blue on white. During this early period in transferware, patterns such as Willow were introduced and quickly became entrenched in the form’s visual vocabulary.
After the War of 1812, Staffordshire potteries produced imagery calculated to appeal to American customers. Around 1820, a pottery called Ridgeway created a series of what is today regarded as Historical Blue Staffordshire, or Old Blue as it’s sometimes known, called “Beauties of America.” These handsome, patriotic pieces depicted important U.S. buildings such as City Hall in New York.
Other potteries turned out jugs and platters bearing pictures of Boston Harbor and Niagara Falls. And potter Thomas Mayer produced a highly collectible series of transferware pieces known as the “Arms of America,” which featured coats of arms for many American states.
By about 1830, some potteries were pushing the limits of blue on white by adding lime or ammonia to a kiln during firing, which made the blue glaze run or flow. These “flown” pie...
English manufacturers of antique flow blue included Wedgwood, Johnson Brothers, Minton, Royal Doulton, and Swansea. Patterns ranged from Blue Danube to Idris to the classic Willow. As for the objects themselves, they ranged from teapots to platters to vases. Even dog bowls were produced in flow blue.
One interesting subset of flow blue is the blue-marble effect. All-over patterns such as Lazuli lent itself to this look: When given the flow-blue treatment, the pattern would blur so that from afar the object resembled a piece of carved, blue-veined marble.
Today, collectors choose transferware based on the pottery, the subject, or even the border. Some like to collect only pieces with “Crown, Acorn, & Oak Leaf” borders, others prefer “Tulips,” or “Pineapple,” or “Grapevine.”
Use is the last major transferware-collecting category. Plates and bowls, of course, are good examples of objects designed for everyday use, while platters where often reserved for special occasions, which means their transferred patterns are often more elaborate and intricate.
Dessert items can range from pierced plates and baskets to footed serving dishes. Teapots and cups are also popular, as are jugs, ladles, and a category of specialized items delicately described as toilet ware.
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Recent News: Transferware
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The Grapevine (Nov. 22)Kansas.com, November 20th
Traditionally, some of the more beautiful turkey plates you'll find are vintage, most of these a product of a technique called transferware. Some are Currier & Ives-ish, produced from engravings on copper plate that then are inked and transferred on...Read more
Whistler House showcases member artistsLowell Sun, November 18th
at the University Gallery of UMass Lowell. Her work as a printer incorporates figures in a series of yoga poses with Islamic tile patterns, Japanese kimono patterns filtered through English aesthetic transfer-ware and other places of cross-cultural...Read more
An artist at homeYorkshire Post, November 14th
“It's good for holding my various bits and bobs,” says Emily, who also collects Transferware. The Victorian pottery features in Transferware Treasures, a limited edition book of her watercolours, published by Fleece Press. As well as her own work, she...Read more
Vintage or modern, a cornucopia of turkey wares in style for ThanksgivingSan Antonio Express-News, November 14th
Beautiful vintage turkey plates are typically a product of a technique called transferware. Some are like Currier & Ives drawings, produced from engravings on copper plate and then inked and transferred on tissue to the stoneware. Many are in earth...Read more
International Archaeology Day in Albany, Madison, and Cave SpringsArchaeological Institute of America Latest News, November 10th
Unearthed artifacts included pieces of clay pots, clay marbles, transferware, porcelain dinnerware, nails, glass bottles, melted lead, and coal ash. These are exciting finds for an important Underground Railroad activist for whom the only other records...Read more
Remembering K. Roland Bergner: 'a wonderful man'The Patriot-News (blog), October 25th
Model A Ford Club of America, Susquehanna Valley Region Model A Restorers Club, Schuylkill County Conservancy (founding member), Manada Conservancy, Transferware Collectors Club, Keystone Concert Band and the New Cumberland Town Band...Read more
U of L transfer Ware hops up from hard fallThe Courier-Journal, September 22nd
Extra time away from the basketball court healing his leg has Kevin Ware healthy again. An early test proved that. The former University of Louisville basketball player now at Georgia State had a close call in his first game back on the Panthers...Read more
How Vintage English Transferware Saved Nancy Roberts From Financial ...Huffington Post, October 2nd
Though it can date back to the early 1700s, English transferware has become a hot item on the vintage marketplace. (If you have any, it might be the right time to sell.) Nancy Roberts, who runs the English Transferware store on Etsy, fell in love with...Read more