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    

Vintage Antique Victorian Transferware Primitive Pottery Dump Uk Ointment Jar19c. Clews Staffordshire Dark Blue Transferware Sugar Bowl Flowers In BasketBlack Mulberry China English Ironstone Transferware Plate Foliage Plate Blue Transferware Sauce Scenic Historic Staffordshire American Villa BostonBlack Mulberry China English Ironstone Transferware Plate Foliage Plate Vintage Lot Of Pottery Toothpaste Victorian Dump Dig Finds Transferware Lids UkVintage Pottery Toothpaste Pot Lid Victorian Dump Dig Finds Transferware SavarsAntique Aesthetic Small Platter Brown Transferware J.d.&c. WarwickVery Nice Antique Staffordshire Brown Transferware Oval Platter "aurora" 15"Rare! 1883 Wedgwood Seaweed Covered Dish - Aesthetic Brown TransferwareWedgwood " Fallow Deer " Porcelain Egg Cup Blue Transfer WareAntique Staffordshire Wellcombe Historical Dark Blue Transferware TrayStaffordshire Historical Blue Transferware Pitcher Circa 1840Aesthetic Brown Transferware Polychrome Victorian Plate~ Lahore 1885Antique Staffordshire Medium Blue Transferware Soup Tureen LadleAntique Enoch Wood Staffordshire Dark Blue Transferware Cup PlateHistorical Staffordshire ~ Hagley ~ Grapevine Border E. Wood Transferware PlateAntique Grindley Argos China 1907 Green Transfer Ware 13" Platter6 Brownfield Berne Aesthetic Movement Brown Transferware Rect Butter Pats, 1885Vintage Pottery Toothpaste Pot Lid Victorian Dump Dig Finds Transferware CherryAntique Staffordshire Sauce Tureen Lidded Two Handled Mulberry Transferware Vintage Victoria Ware Ironstone Transferware Blue White Teapot Tea PotWalkers China Individual Creamer Red Transferware Staffordshire Brown Transferware Shaw's Peruvian Horse Hunt Creamer 18536 Large Brownfield Berne Aesthetic Movement Brown Transferware Rect Nappies,1888A.j. Wilkinson Pastoral Davenport Purple Transferware 13 7/8" PlatterRoyal China Currier & Ives Tea Pot With Lid Teapot Blue TransferwareVintage Pottery Toothpaste Pot Lid Victorian Dump Dig Finds Transferware CleaverG & W Gildea & Walker Late Mayers Melbourne Brown Transferware 9" Square PlateC1820 Child Transferware Staffordshire Mini Tea Bowl Cup Beehive Beeskep Bee34 Piece Set Of Blue Willow Transferware Japan Cups & SaucersStaffordshire Blue Transferware Plate ~ Passion Flowers ~ Sydenham 18501 Antique English C 1800's Or Older Cup & Sm Bowl Blk & White Transferware Rare!G & W Gildea & Walker Late Mayers Melbourne Brown Transferware 9" Round PlateShenango China Red Transfer Ware Luncheon Plates Floral Restaurant Ware Set Of 5Wedgwood Aesthetic Blue Transferware Platter ~ Seaweed ~ Circa 1882Antique Clews Staffordshire Flow Blue Lidded Sugar Dish Transferware Floral Staffordshire Transferware Childs Plate Rope DancingStaffordshire Blue Transfer Ware Plate, Fisherman & Fish Wife, NrBrown Transferware Staffordshire Jacksons Warranted Washington White House PlateQueen Victoria 1897 Jubilee ~green Transferware Portrait Plate ~palaces /castlesBrown & Cream Transferware French Countryside Peacock Toile Serving Dish BowlOld Swinnertons Staffordshire Transfer Ware Pitcher Souvenir Niagara Falls Lovely Aux Au Provence Rooster / Birds Large 9 1/2" Pitcher Black TransferwareAntique Brown Transfer Ware Eon Ironstone 12 Sided Plate Windmills WooliscroftEstate- Vintage Sunderland Luster Pitcher Transfer Ware Old Castle StaffordshireVintage W. R. Midwinter 11" Rural England Dinner Plate Transferware, Excellent!Staffordshire Transferware Childs Plate Chinese Amusment My Pretty PheasntOld Hall Baltimore Pattern Earthenware Small Square Lid ~ Brown Red TransferwareBlue Transferware New York City Statue Of Liberty PlateAntique Wedgwood - Blue & White Transferware Albany Female Academy PlateLarge Antique Flow Mulberry Ironstone Transferware Platter Castle SceneryLarge Antique Flow Mulberry Davenport Ironstone Transferware Serving Bowl CyprusAntique Mid 19th Century Child's Hand Colored Transferware MugJ&g Meakin Brown Transferware Staffordshire Stratford Stage Creamer & Sugar SetSet 4 Churchill England Pink Brook Pattern Soup Cereal Bowls Transferware EucG & W Gildea & Walker Late Mayers1882 Melbourne Pattern Brown Transferware PlateMemory Lane Royal Ironstone Red Transferware Small Plates (1) Usa 1965 OhioVilleroy & Boch Transferware Plate Burgenland Central View Castle Floral BorderSet Of 5 Matching Blue Transferware English 6" Bread Plates, Nice

Recent News: Transferware

Source: Google News

Kovels: Rookwood pottery may be most famous
Winston-Salem Journal, July 24th

Souvenir plates, Duke University, blue transferware school scene, raised border, Wedgwood, 1937, 10 5/8 inches, 8 pieces, $770. Cutlery box, Federal, mahogany, string inlay, slant top, c. 1800, 15 x 9 inches, $3,185. King Features Syndicate. You may...Read more

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