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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Housewares: No monkeying aroundVancouver Sun, February 4th
That essence is captured in vintage chinoiserie pieces like this Olde Avon Ware Hampton transferware plate from around 1900, available from Vancouver's Spindrift Vintage through Etsy. More often seen in blue, the vibrant red hue is rare and, of course...Read more
Lovers Unite at UK's Chester Antiques ShowArtfixDaily, February 4th
They were also presented as trophies to winners of games or other competitions. They usually carry painted or transfer- ware decoration, often with a floral theme, sometimes buildings or places and with a phrase or name that reveals its original purpose...Read more
Southern Scenes from PBS's Antiques RoadshowGarden & Gun Magazine (blog), January 15th
David Lackey, an appraiser and Houston-based antiques dealer, came across his favorite piece all year—an early nineteenth century transferware jug depitcting the North Carolina harbor, Shell Castle. On the sports memorabilia front, appraiser Leila...Read more
Dennis may not be Degas, but her art catches essence of favorite thingsBellefontaine Examiner, January 15th
But she decided to scale back her ambition a touch. “Instead, I thought a still life of things I enjoy — a bottle of good wine, blue transferware, a pitcher of flowers — could work.” Although she has some experience with watercolor painting, Ms...Read more
If it's Monday, it must be St MoritzMid-Day, January 14th
But no, Rao in fact, described by a friend as a “renaissance woman,” was enlightening a select audience on early nineteenth century, 'transferware,' that is, 'china with engravings of popular touristic or exotic scenes 'transferred' on to its surface...Read more
Things to do in Mumbai todayMumbai Mirror, January 13th
What is transferware exactly, you ask? Transferware is referred to China with engravings of famous tourist attraction or exotic locales. It became popular during the early 19th century, especially in the European and North American markets. Inspiration...Read more
How Vintage English Transferware Saved Nancy Roberts From Financial Hardship ...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
Her English Transferware Etsy Shop Saved Her Family''s Home From Foreclosure ...Huffington Post, November 16th
And Nancy's main contribution to the sales were her beloved English Transferware dishes. She started selling the dishes online, and realized just how much she could make. Roberts continued to buy and sell Transferware, and eventually, turned it into a ...Read more