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    

Historic Dark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Pitcher Washingtons Seat Mt VernonDark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Plate St. Catherines Hill By ClewsDark Blue Staffordshire,transferware Pitcher, Clews 1821-36, Ny ViewsHistorical Dark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Plate Landing Of Lafayette ClewsDark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Plate Villa In Regents Park LondonMedium Dark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Covered Dish Cows Circa 1825 AntiqueHistorical Dark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Plate Capitol WashingtonTransferware Farmers Arms Cider Mug Nothing Without Work Bee Farmer C1925Antique Blue & White Transferware Coffee Pot- Staffordshire- Nice-Dark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Pitcher Castle & Deer Ca 1825Historical Staffordshire, Pains Hill, Surrey, Blue Transferware Plate C1830Spode Blue Transferware ~ Italian Pattern ~ 12" Serving Platter Fine Condition Brown Aesthetic Transferware Plate ~ Water Birds 18791820 Antique Dark Blue Staffordshire Transferware Plate Clews Cows Bridge CastleVintage Johnson Bros Olde English Countryside 43 Pc Brown Transferware Wow !!!!1820 Blue & White Pearlware Transferware Cake Stand Village Church Rogers StubbsRare Antique Chinese Transfer Ware Ironstone PitcherThree Masons Vista Ironstone Dinner Plates, Brown Transfer WareStaffordshire Aesthetic Movement Brown Transferware Plate ~ Sunflowers 1883Antique Davenport Transferware Blue & White Fishing Scene Bowl - Early!1 Antique C1850 English Peruvian Horse Hunt Brown Transferware Plate Shaw HorsesPorcelain Burton & Burton Teapot Coffee Pot 2005 Red & Cream Toile Transferware Antique Crown Ducal Bristol Vegetable Serving Bowl 10 "red White TransferwareVintage Mason's Ironstone Transferware China Creamer/pitcher Vista Pink England2 Mason's Vista Ironstone Transferware 7.75" Luncheon Plates, Red/pinkStaffordshire Transferware Robinson Crusoe Motto Plate Ca 1830Spode Made In England Pink Camilla Soup Tureen Floral TransferwareCute Mid To Late 1800s Floral Green Transferware Child's Size Teapot And LidAntique Minton Semi-china Blue & White Transferware - Willow Pattern PlateAntique Romantic Staffordshire Transferware Tureen Tray Ladle Minerva Pw & CoRed & Cream Transferware Victorian Pastoral Country Farm Toile 12" Serving PlateAntigue Red Transferware PlateVintage Old Foley James Kent Butter Dish Cheese Black TransferwareAntique Rogers - Miniature Blue & White Transferware Plate - Unusual! “ Indus “ Aesthetic Transferware Plate ~ Exotic Birds 1885 #cFine Quality Early 19th Century Transferware Coffee Pots, A True BeautySix Vtg Masons Vista 10.5" Dinner Plates Red Pink Transfer-ware ChinaAntique Ironstone Brown Transferware Staffordshire Plate Neapolitan Dimmock Victorian Brown And White Transferware Ironstone Chamber PotAntique English Ironstone Flow Blue Transferware Clews 10" Plate Rare PatternVintage 6 Pc. Lot Limoges France Dollhouse Miniature Transferware Cooking PotsVintage Wedgwood Red Transfer Ware Souvenir Plate Monticello Thomas JeffersonAntique Black Transferware Miniature Plate Staffordshire Fb5Antique 1840s Staffordshire Ironstone Cup Plate Polychrome Transferware FloralsUnique Antique Chinese Miniature Plate Brown Transferware, Pagoda DesignAntique Davenport Blue & White Transferware - Fishing Scene Bowl - Early!Rhine Wedgwood Plate Blue & White Transferware10.25" Great ConditionAntique Black Early To Mid 19th Century Transferware Large PitcherBrown Transfer Ware Tureen Aesthetic Movement Flowers Cov'd Rectangular BowlLot 3 - Johnson Brothers 10" Dinner Plates "strawberry Fair" Red Transferware6 Johnson Brothers Old Britain Castles Blue Transfer Ware Mug England 1883Antique Dillon Bicolor Staffordshire Transferware Large "arabian" Cup And SaucerAntique Blue Transferware Handleless Cup & Saucer Adams Columbia NiceChild French Transferware Blue Plate Little Red Riding Hood The Wolf On Trail Antique Chelsea Tea Cup&saucer,pbs,powell Bishop & Stonier, Transferware,brown Black & Cream Transferware French Countryside Toile Bread Serving Tray W/handlesAntique Flow Black Cups Transferware Unmarked StaffordshireAntique Calico Print Transferware Ironstone Pitcher CreamerStaffordshire Transferware Cup Plate Boat Ca 1835Antique Barkers Pottery Transferware Blue & White Oriental Scene Plate - Early!

Recent News: Transferware

Source: Google News

Brenner Estate Collection Marks End of John Russell's Material Legacy
Maine Antique Digest, March 24th

On the whole, French transferware fared poorly, with much of the material simply passing and other pieces selling between $11 and $44. There were exceptions: four pieces of English black transferware in the “Canadian Sports” series did quite well—two ...Read more

As days get warmer, springtime tables go pastel
Los Angeles Times, March 20th

Sveback, who has designed a collection of faux bois bone china plates, mixes in patterned china and old-fashioned transferware to make a bolder statement. Alongside the crockery, the experts recommend flatware with a cutting edge. "Silver feels very...Read more

Garth's Eclectic Auction Comes Alive with a Big Top Vibe
ArtfixDaily, March 19th

On Friday, April 3rd, Garth's Auctioneers & Appraisers will host their spring Eclectic auction where 900 items will be offered including: postcards, lighting, primitive furniture, Victorian, painted chairs, early chests, a Brunswick 9 foot pool table...Read more

Dayton Daily News, March 17th

Explore four different antique and collectible topics including collecting fountain pens, English transfer ware china, ancient Chinese jade and collectibles and Disney memorabilia. Admission is $20 per lecture or all four lectures and lunch for $75...Read more

Digging Into History: A boarding house's history unearthed
First Coast News, March 9th

A piece of brown and white transferware china caught the crew's eye on Monday. The piece of brown and white transferware pulled from the dirt. (Photo: St. Augustine Archaeological Association). "This is really cool," someone said. Halbirt said, "It...Read more

Inside Circus Collector Howard Tibbals' Colorful Home
Sarasota, March 2nd

The glass-fronted bookcase is filled with antique blue and white English transferware, cobalt glassware, and a few antique Chinese blue and white pieces. Sharp eyes will spy two wooden plaques that read “Private” and “Wisconsin”: they're test samples...Read more

U of L transfer Ware hops up from hard fall
The 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