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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Decorative, heirloom turkey platters treasured for Thanksgiving feastCharleston Post Courier, November 21st
The platter is a Brown Toile Transferware Ironstone 18-by-14 vintage game bird. The turkey is 7-by-7 with vibrant blue, mauve, yellow and brown expansive feathers, a small naked head with large expansive grey wings, a farm house, plants and a border of ...Read more
Antiques & Collectibles: Don't skip Thanksgiving decor on the fast track to ...Post-Bulletin, November 21st
Turkey collectibles, such as English transferware plates and platters showing Pilgrims, Native Americans and of course the turkey, the bird of the season. So what do we serve the turkey on? A fancy platter, of course, and in some cases the complete...Read more
Tips for a stunning Thanksgiving tableMontana Standard, November 19th
Lost on how to make your table look it's best this Thanksgiving? Give these 7 tips a try! By Mary Carol Garrity, Tribune News Service Writer and Elaine Markoutsas, Tribune News Service Writer. 1of 8. Tips for a stunning Thanksgiving table. Lost on how...Read more
Purchase a set of salad plates or a platter imprinted with a turkey designHerald & Review, November 16th
Channeling 18th century styles, this 18 3/4-by-14 3/4-inch glazed porcelain Plymouth turkey platter with a harvest garland border of oak leaves and acorns looks like traditional transferware and is dishwasher and microwave safe. prev. next. Channeling...Read more
Grant to Aid Research of Transferware Medical and Toilet WaresMaine Antique Digest, November 6th
The winner of the Paul and Gladys Richards Foundation Research Grant for studies in British transferware, awarded by the Transferware Collectors Club (TCC), is Richard Halliday of Market Harborough, U.K., who will research transferware medical and...Read more
Vintage or modern, a cornucopia of turkey wares in styleGrand Island Independent, November 3rd
Traditionally, some of the more beautiful turkey plates you'll find are vintage, most of these a product of a technique called transferware. Some are Currier & Ives-ish, produced from engravings on copper plate that then are inked and transferred on...Read more
Americana and Fine Antiques Auction at Jeffrey S. Evans & AssociatesArtfixDaily, October 27th
Encyclopedia Britannia, rare literary first editions, early travel, fine bindings, &c.; Shenandoah Valley documents; 18thand 19th century ceramics including collections of Delft, Staffordshire transferware and figures, and early flow blue, &c...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