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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Antiques & Collectibles: Tea tradition traverses generations
Post-Bulletin, April 23rd

Some are hand-painted with florals in pastel colors and glazed and some others can be decorated with a transferware technique. Some that were made in Germany, dating back to the 1800s, can be small but weigh almost 2 pounds. Today collectors display ...Read more

MiVT: Laura Zindel Design
WCAX, April 4th

Zindel transfers her whimsical drawings onto handmade dishware using a transferware technique. "All of these are designed to have the maximum amount of white space which is the canvas," she said. Pieces range in price from $42 for a mug to $600 for a ...Read more

Wilton Spring Antiques Show
ArtfixDaily, April 2nd

will offer tall case clocks, American furniture and accessories plus all of our dedicated returning dealers presenting fine prints and maps, folk art, exceptional fine art, early Staffordshire and transfer ware ceramics, Asian arts, mid century and...Read more

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Atlanta Magazine, March 2nd

The key to discovering treasures at Scott Antique Market is to use your imagination. At least, that seems to be the lesson as we explore the mammoth Atlanta market with Eddie Ross, who's served as decorating editor for Better Homes & Gardens and Martha ...Read more

Southern Scenes from PBS's Antiques Roadshow
Garden & 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

In the 18th century, the Bodhi tree was a 'tree of the Hindus'
Deccan Chronicle, August 26th

This was in response to a question from an audience member, at the end of her talk titled India on Transferware: Objects of Fascination and Rao added, "We all need to come up for oxygen from time to time. Collecting transferware is my diversion and I...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