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    

Rare Staffordshire ~ Spotted Wood Quail ~ Dark Blue Transferware Cup & Saucer Historical Staffordshire ~ Castle Garden ~ Dark Blue Transferware Cup Plate NrFine Historical Staffordshire ~ Pittsfield Mass ~ Dark Blue Transferware Plate Rare Historical Staffordshire ~ Boston Athenaeum ~ Dark Blue Transferware Plate Historical Staffordshire ~ Boston Octagon Church~ Dark Blue Transferware Bowl NrAntique Transferware ? Flow Blue ? Blue & Cream Scenery Serving Platter 12 1/2 "Antique Pearlware Transferware Child's Christening Mug "henry"Early Pearlware Child's Staffordshire Transferware Mug UnmarkedMulticolored Wedgwood Brown Transferware Tazza Compote ~ Seaweed 1883Historic Blue Transferware, Ridgway, "city Hall, New York" C. 18202 Antique Brown Transferware English Ironstone Butter Pats-daffodilAntique Wedgwood Beatrice Open Handle Cake Plate Brown Transferware Aesthetic1800's Black Aesthetic Transferware Tureen - Victoria DesignChilds Transferware Biscuit Jar Nursery Rhymes Old Mother Hubbard C1888 Set 7 Antique Wedgwood Beatrice 8" Plates Brown Transferware Aesthetic Florals1800's Blue Transferware Square Tureen Ridgway OrientalTransferware Childs Teapot Lady With Umbrella Dog John Carr Northumberland 1870Antique Blue Willow Serving Platter Royal Venton Burslem England TransferwareMinton 1880's Green Transferware Wash Set Genevese Pattern, Chamber Pot & BucketHuge Antique Blue And White Transferware Asiatic Pheasants Turkey PlatterAntique Staffordshire ? Brown Transferware Teapot Man Playing Lute Music WomanAntique Blue Willow Serving Platter Brown Steventon Burslem England TransferwareNice! Vintage Blue Transferware Turkey Platter – Eight SidedWindsor Large Brown Transferware Ironstone Pitcher, Duck And QuailLovely 1836-41 Minton Boyle Devon Blue Transferware Meat Platter/tray VgcAntique "belzoni" Red Transferware Plate By Enoch Wood & Sons 9"Antique Creamware Mug Brown Transferware Windsor Castle Unmarked Staffordshire?4 Antique Blue Staffordshire Childs Toy Plates Early 19th C. TransferwareAntique Copeland Spode Blue Tower Transferware Plate - English Literature ~ 1903Antique Copeland Spode Transferware Plate~blue Tower ~ Potter At His Wheel ~1901Pair Of Red Staffordshire Transferware Plates Adelaides Bower Circa 1835 10&1/2"Htf 12” Oval Serving Platter Villeroy & Boch China Transferware Rusticana RedAntique Copeland Spode Transferware Plate Blue Tower - English Literature ~1902Antique Spode Copeland Transferware Plate Blue Tower - English Literature SeriesAntique Copeland Spode Blue Tower Transferware Plate ~ English Literature _ 1903Antique Copeland Spode Transferware Plate Blue Tower - English Literature ~ 1901Red Toile Transferware Footed Pitcher 7 " Tall W CattleVintage W. Adams Red Transferware Old English Rural Scene Ironstone Bowl EnglandVtg Antique Jacob Furnival Transfer Ware Ironstone Blue Platter Castle Scenery English Red Transferware "mini" Lot 2 Wood & Sons, 2 Royal Crownford, 1 UnmarkedFurnivals Antique England Transferware China Quail Blue Double Egg Cup1862-1904 1800's Bwm & Co Blue Transferware Covered Soap Dish, Lid & InsertPurple 10" Old English Staffordshire Transfer Ware Plate*old Mill*mitchell InVintage Transferware Villeroy & Boch Fason Fason Mini China Teapot Lid CreamerPorcelain Burton Burton Red Cream Toile Large Coffee Small Tea Pot TransferwareAntique Tyndale & Mitchell No 219 Transferware Pitcher Lake LogoStaffordshire Pastoral Red Transferware Dinner Plate Circa 1930 - Lot #1Antique Reflections By I. Godinger & Co. Brown Rose Chintz Transferware Teapot2 Mason's Vista Red Transferware 7.75" Dessert Plates EnglandAntique Copeland Spode Blue Tower Transferware Plate - English Literature - 19023 Stunning Churchill England Red Pink Transferware Roses Salad Plates 1890 Copeland Child Staffordshire Transferware Tea Set Cup Plate Horse Bull DuckRed Aflred Meakin England "tintern" Transferware Pitcher19th Century Brown Transferware Plate ~ Parrot With Palm Tree 1880Antique T & R Boote England Brown Transferware 8" Pitcher "summer Time" 19th C Vtg Copeland Spode Florence Butter Pat England Brown Transferware Tea Caddy7 Pcs Antique English Polychrome Transferware~poonah ~cups~pitcher~platesCat Lovers Wall Plate~wedding Gift~blue Transferware Plate~england~cats In LoveAntique Mulberry Transferware Platter - "washington Vase" Early Staffordshire Chinosoire Style Transferware Plate By Fenton Stone Works.

Recent News: Transferware

Source: Google News

Benefits and bashes: April 7-12, April 7th

Topics: ancient Chinese jade pendants and amulets, vintage fountain pens, antique transferware/China, Disney collectibles, current antiques market. Benefits Warren County Historical Society. $75 full day, $25 luncheon, $20 lecture. Registration required...Read more

Puzzle jugs old bar practical joke
Tyler Morning Telegraph, April 6th

n Toothpick, 14K yellow textured gold case, retractable, 1 3/4 inches, $205. n Candy container, Easter Bunny, pushing wheelbarrow, bunny's head removes, 11 inches, $295. n ABC plate, Red Riding Hood, grandmother, brown transferware, Brownhills Pottery ...Read more

Smart bar patrons, puzzled by holey jugs, knew sipping secret
Columbus Dispatch, April 5th

ABC plate, Red Riding Hood, grandmother, brown transferware, Brownhills Pottery, 1880s, 7 inches, $300. • Bohemian glass, claret jug, ruby glass, enameled overlay, opalescent panel, scrollwork, gilt, 131/4 by 51/4 inches, $370. Terry Kovel and Kim...Read more

Kovels: Puzzle jugs play tricks on bar patrons
Winston-Salem Journal, April 2nd

This puzzle jug was made in the 18th century in Savona, Italy. The handle is decorated with a rabbit, dog and foliage. The front has the saying "Chi Beve Nopca" meaning "Who drinks is a fool." It was sold in 2013 by Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in Mt...Read more

Easy tips for stylish Passover place settings
Jewish Journal, April 1st

Case in point: transferware. These old-fashioned dishes were once relegated to cardboard boxes in the storage locker. Now there are collector's clubs, and they're even used as artwork in trendy hotels. Again, mix and match. Mixing older china with more ...Read more

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