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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Signed 1929 cat drawing by Leonard T. Foujita will be sold at auction June ...ArtfixDaily, May 27th
Collectors will be dazzled by the wide array of offerings, to include antique brass candlesticks (with push-up), an antique wall candle holder, a tea caddy and writing box with mother-of-pearl inlay, Mulberry Ironstone transfer ware, white Ironstone...Read more
Ringo bank a fab findWaterloo Record, May 23rd
Generally pottery of this type (called transferware) is not as heavily collected today as it was over the last 50 years, but interest in Burns is high and extends around the world. The pair is nice to have, as finding even one in good condition today...Read more
Gold Discovery Park goes VictorianMountain Democrat, May 6th
Tanquary's gorgeous antique china, known as “transferware” because pictures were printed onto the plates, will be used to serve the Mother's Day brunch. If you think the Victorian brunch doesn't really reflect the history of the Gold Rush park, guess...Read more
Benefits and bashes: April 7-12Cincinnati.com, 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
Digging Into History: A boarding house's history unearthedFirst Coast News, March 9th
A piece of brown and white transferware china caught the crew's eye on Monday. The piece of brown and white transferware pulled from the dirt. (Photo: St. Augustine Archaeological Association). "This is really cool," someone said. Halbirt said, "It...Read more
U of L transfer Ware hops up from hard fallThe Courier-Journal, September 22nd
Extra time away from the basketball court healing his leg has Kevin Ware healthy again. An early test proved that. The former University of Louisville basketball player now at Georgia State had a close call in his first game back on the Panthers...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
Her English Transferware Etsy Shop Saved Her Family''s Home From ...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