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 Staffordshire Blue Transferware Clews Plate 1830-403 Staffordshire Brown Transferware Items ~ Clews Genovese ~ Plus 2 Cup Plates NrSet 2 Staffordshire Emerald Flowers Mulberry Purple Transferware Serving TraysStaffordshire Emerald Flowers Mulberry Purple Transferware Pottery Handled BowlAntique Clews Black Transferware Pictur Veiw Of Newburgh Platter Tray 17.5" 1835€Very Large Brown Transferware Soup Tureen ~ Sunflowers 1883Staffordshire Pearlware ~ Fonthill Abbey ~ Enoch Wood Transferware Plate 1830Staffordshire Emerald Flowers Mulberry Purple Transferware Handled Tureen W/ LidAntique Transferware Plate "texian Campaigne" James Beech Battle Buena Vista 8"Staffordshire Aesthetic Brown Transferware Ridgways Indus Cranes 1877 Covered Antique Staffordshire Blue Transferware Toothbrush Holder Decorated InteriorAntique Staffordshire Adams Transfer Ware Caledonia #14 Platter Tray 15"1830s Red English Staffordshire Pottery Scenic Transferware Pitcher Ottoman Staffordshire Blue Transferware Pitcher Cow County Scene 1830-40Mint! Antique C1860 Coffee Pot Blue & White Transfer Ware Medina FurnivalAntique Staffordshire Aesthetic Movement Victoria Blue Transferware Teapot NrFabulous Green Transferware Tea Pot - T & J Mayer Longport Nonpareil - Ca. 18361830s Red English Staffordshire Pottery Scenic Transferware Sugar Bowl Man HorseStaffordshire ~ Lord Byron ~ Childs Plate Pink Lustre Enamel Transferware C1830Victorian Red Transferware Allerton Staffordshire Child's China Tea Set 1880 11pRare C. 1820 Red Transferware Tureen Tray Lid J&wr Stone China Ridgway BeautifulTwo Victorian Brown Transferware Heron Plates ~ Melbourne 1883Dk Blue Historical Staffordshire Transferware Cream Pitcher Fruit Basket PatternBrown Staffordshire Transferware Shell Shape Relish DishAesthetic Movement Brown Transferware Platter ~ Palmyra 1883Vintage Masons Red Vista Ironstone Transferware Serving Bowl Scalloped Edge Johnson Brothers England Red Transferware Strawberry Fair 8 Berry BowlsAntique Transferware 3 Piece Sauce Tureen Masons Blue Vista Lid UnderplateAntique Purple Transferware Plate Residence Of The Late Richard Jordan Nj Jh&coAntique Bi-color Blue & Black Transferware Plate Belzoni Ew&s Enoch Wood & SonsAntique Blue & White Transferware Sauce Tureen & Lid Castle & Lake 7x7~ Lovely Flow Blue Hound Pattern Tea & Saucer English Transferware Flo Blu DogAntique Polychrome Brown Transferware Footed Compote Bowl Indus StaffordshireAntique Ironstone Vista Pink Red Pair Egg Cups Masons China England TransferwareAntique Purple Transferware Plate "hancock House" Boston Jacksons Warranted 8"Antique Purple Transferware Plate R. Hall "carolina" Pattern C1840s 8"Chelsea Platter 11 1/2" X 8 3/4" Pbs,powell,bishop & Stonier, Transferware PlateSpode England Pink Tower Small Sugar Bowl Red TransferwareFabulous Blue Transferware Pearlware 2 Handled Dish - Marked "pearl"Clews Historical Blue Transfer Cup & Saucer, Floral & Urn, TransferwareW. Adams Athens Mulberry Transferware 14-sided Plate, 9 1/2” D, Reg. 1849Superb Staffordshire Scenic Deer Teapot Dark Blue Transferware Antique Tea Pot1830s Red English Staffordshire Pottery Scenic Transferware Pitcher PagodasAntique Staffordshire Blue Transferware Platter Podmore Walker ~ Spartan ~Vintage Royal Ironstone Memory Lane Red Transferware 8 Bread Dessert Plates Ec4 J & G Meakin Romantic England Red 7" Plates Transferware IronstoneVintage Brown Transferware Plate ~ Fox Hunt Hunting ~ Wood & Sons Plate #12 Bread Plates Royal China Memory Lane Ironstone Red Pink TransferwareVintage English Red & White Transferware Egg Cup Country Side Oak Tree Toile C.1828 New Hall Staffordshire Black Transferware Tea Bowl Pink Luster Sheep PonyFabulous Transferware Large Pitcher - Great Color - 1800'sAntique Blue & White Transferware Sauce Tureen & Lid Mansion Lake SwansEarly Staffordshire English Transferware Ancient Ruins Handled Fruit Bowl Antique Black & White Transferware Sauce / Gravy Boat Tureen & Lid 5x7Antique Transferware Child's Plate Daisy Impressed Border Green Pearlware SewellCopeland Spode Italian Handleless Cup And Saucer England Blue TransferwareAntique Victorian Child Alphabet Abc Plate Transfer Ware Boy Bait Fishing Line Staffordshire Blue Transferware Plate ~ Passion Flowers ~ Sydenham 1850Antique Allertons England Flow Blue Willow Transferware Cream Soup Bowl

Recent News: Transferware

Source: Google News

Ceramics Crack the Contemporary Art Market
New York Observer, January 24th

Works by Italian designer Piero Fornasetti now represent a sizable portion of his sales, said veteran New York dealer Earle D. Vandekar. Few slices of the art market have changed as radically, or, surprisingly, have been taken more seriously, in the...Read more

Browsing at Metro Curates and the Ceramics and Glass Fair
New York Times, January 22nd

Paul Scott, an English artist at Ferrin Contemporary, has updated English transferware, with its romantic evocations of American scenes, in the rudest possible way. “Turnpike No. 3,” a rectangular tray showing a toll plaza on the New Jersey Turnpike...Read more

The Musselmans of Murrell: Pioneer Dealers in Pennsylvania German and Early ...
Maine Antique Digest, January 14th

An undated printed broadside mailed to prospective customers lists a pine Dutch cupboard for $50 and a cherry one for $100, a “Residence of the late Richard Jordan” transferware platter in mulberry, 18½" long, was $7.50; 12 tallow candles, 60 years old...Read more

Throw a party with 'Downton Abbey' pomp and style
Detroit Free Press, January 9th

MacPherson said the Edwardians loved expensive hand-painted china and decorative transfer ware, which was new at the time. So patterned china would be most appropriate. Haul out Grandma's dishes, or borrow some from a friend. You can probably also ...Read more

Emily Sutton: Town And Country, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, until February 22
The Press, York, January 1st

mugs, a silk scarf and a cut-and-sew tea towel. • Town And Country coincides with the publication of Transferware Treasures, a limited-edition, hand-bound, fold-out book of Emily Sutton's watercolours of Victorian transferware, published by Fleece...Read more

Auction Watch: Sales ring in the new year in grand style
Tribune-Review, December 28th

8, the sale brings the wonders of the Far East with a collection of Orientalia that features vases, figurines, snuff boxes, bottles, prints transferware plates, furniture and fans in more than several dozen lots. Among the items with European origins...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: You'll be seeing red in holiday glassware
Post-Bulletin, December 26th

This time of the year you can't walk through any consignment, thrift, antique shop or flea market without seeing red glassware and red transferware. This time of the year is a great time for collectors to pick up pieces, since some antique dealers...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