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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

The Bowes Museum: Ceramics

This gallery showcases highlights from the 5,000 items in the museum's ceramics collection dating from 1500-1900. I… [read review or visit site]

Ceramics at The V&A

Ceramics at The V&A

A great reference on ceramics from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Learn about different ceramics techniques and st… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Brown Transfer Ware Pitcher Oriental Scene Pagoda StaffordshireFine Staffordshire Pearlware ~fishermen W Nets~ Blue Transferware Hamilton PlateFine Staffordshire Pearlware ~ Philosopher ~ Blue Transferware Hamilton Bowl NrPiping Shepherd Blue Transferware Platter Sheep Pastoral Shepherdess Flageolet 1876 Ridgway Nautical Staffordshire Transferware Pitcher Nantasket Clovelly NrLarge Antique Tj & T Mayer Longport Staffordshire Transferware Foot Tub BasinStaffordshire Aesthetic Transferware Soup Plate ~ Exotic Birds 1885Johnson Brothers Friendly Village Transferware Butter Dish Green Red HolidayAntique Red Transferware Staffordshire Small Size Platter "the Sea" By AdamsAntique Wallis Gimson Brown Transferware Platter, Garfield Pattern.lovely!Red Pink Crown Ducal Bristol Transferware England Oval Platter Floral Toile BirdFurnivals Quail Pattern Brown Transferware China PlatterA Very Rare Antique English Transferware "giraffe" Platter, Ridgway, Circa 1836Vtg Harvard University Shields 1936 Tercentenary Bowl Wedgwood Red TransferwareAntique Handleless Tea Cup Saucer Bowl Blue Transferware Figural Shepherd SheepFurnivals Quail Pattern Brown Transferware China JugRoyal Staffordshire Clarice Cliff Purple Transferware - Rural Scenes Plate 10"Moore Leason Clyde Brown Transferware Plates, 8” Dia, Set Of 5, 1890s6 Place Settings - 30 Pcs! Vntg Shenango Inca Ware Red Floral Avon TransferwareVintage Johnson Bros Pink Willow Teapot Made In England TransferwareAntique Black Transferware Staffordshire "the Sea" Plate By Adams Vintage Mason's Vista Red/pink Transferware Ironstone Oval Platter 14"Vintage Mason's Vista England Transfer Ware Pink Red Pitcher Ironstone 5 1/2"Catalogue Of English Ceramics Transferware Museum Show Mexico 1996 All Color NrCrown Ducal Bristol Pink Transferware Soup/cereal Bowls Set Of 2Vintage Flow Blue Transfer Ware Bowl, Lusitania Royal Semi PorcelainBurleigh Brown Transferware Prunus Dutch JugsVintage Aesthetic Transferware Pitcher Vintage And Most Unusual 8" Tall WhiteVintage Brown White Transferware Ironstone Soup Bowl Burslem Bodley EnglandBerry Bowl Set Of 4 ~1880 T & R Boote England "lahore" Red Brown TransferwareVintage Pottery Toothpaste Pot Lid Victorian Dump Dig Finds Transferware SavarsAntique Mason's Vista Butter Pat - Early Mark - Pink/red Transferware -excellentOld Brown Transferware Demi Tasse Cup & Saucer Avona H.s. & H Aestheic VictorianDinner Plate ~1880 T & R Boote England "lahore" Red Brown TransferwareJohnson Brothers Friendly Village Transferware Gravy Bowl Boat Brown HolidayFoot-long Antique Blue Staffordshire Transferware Ladle For Tureen Chinese MotifJ. W. Ridgway "india Temple" Transferware Dinner Plate - Ca 1815-30 - 10 " J. Heath Ontario Lake Scenery Blue Transferware Ironstone Cup And Saucer 1845-53Furnivals Quail Pattern Brown Transferware China Covered Vegetable TureenFurnivals Mulberry Transferware Plate Cotton Plant Staffordshire Flow Blue RareAesthetic Movement Era Transferware Tazza Compote ~ Primrose 1881Antique Staffordshire Child Teapot Pearl Black Transferware Dollhouse MiniatureLiberty Blue Blue Transfer Ware Creamer & Sugar Container Used [cin91]Vintage Pottery Toothpaste Pot Lid Victorian Dump Dig Finds Transferware CleaverUnique Vintage Sun Valley Idaho Plate Red Transferware Staffordshire Ware PerfecVintage Arizona Souvenir Plate Johnson Bros England Transfer Ware Blue & WhiteVintage Mason's Ascot England Blue Transferware Handled Tray 11 X 9Antique Transfer Ware Bowl, Luneville France Woods Ware Red Transferware English Scenery Milk Pitcher (enoch Woods)Queen Victoria 1897 Jubilee ~green Transferware Portrait Plate ~palaces /castlesAntique 1883 Made In England New Wharf Pottery Algeria Vase Blue TransferwareVintage Iroquois China Transferware Of Pigs Syracuse N.y. F-1Set 4 P. Begout & Co. Maastricht "fruit" Plates Black & White Transferware 8"Pink Transferware Alfred Meakin English Bridges Pink Dinner Plates - 2 Plates Antique Style Advertising Transferware Schnipp's Tonsorial Saloon Crock & LidAntique Bowl With Handle Blue Transferware - Shell ShapeSwinnertons Blue Transferware Silverdale Soup Bowl / Hanley EnglandLarge Antique White Ironstone Powell & Bishop Pitcher Brown Transferware C. 1878(10) Antique Green Staffordshire Transferware Flosculous 9" Luncheon PlatesAntique Green Staffordshire Transferware Flosculous Serving Platter 10 3/4"

Recent News: Transferware

Source: Google News

Rookwood in business but older pottery most valuable
HeraldNet, July 24th

Chair, Charles & Ray Eames, yellow fiberglass, enameled steel, Herman Miller Furniture Co., 1940s, 32 x 25 inches, $625. Souvenir plates, Duke University, blue transferware school scene, raised border, Wedgwood, 1937, 10 5/8 inches, 8 pieces, $770...Read more

Look what we found: A set of stemware that's pretty in pink
Palm Beach Post, July 18th

Why they're special: Back before shabby was chic, my grandmother did the unthinkable at a garden club contest: She created a table setting that consisted of pink transferware dishes and pink Tiffin Flanders pattern stemware. The judges were shocked...Read more

At Home Living: Add an antique touch to your home
Topeka Capital Journal, July 11th

Brown transfer ware of differing patterns makes a bold statement against +today's wall colors. All framed alike, Grandmother's colorful handkerchiefs make an eye-catching wall. So go antiquing, don't be intimidated, and bring home something you really...Read more

Summer Estate Auction
Maine Antique Digest, July 10th

Chinese mandarin temple vases, Fitzhugh covered tureen, 2 Rose Medallion punch bowls, Imari, temple vases, transferware, decorated stoneware, Mettlach stein, Lalique, Hawkes, Burmese, Peach Blow, Amberina, Crown Milano, Mt. Wash, Nippon, and ...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: 'Summertime blues' can put you in a pleasant mood
Post-Bulletin, June 27th

We are also told that blue and white transferware is one of the most popular color choices made and one of the most sought-after patterns by antique collectors today. The "Transferware Collectors Club" can be found online at and...Read more