Thursday, January 28, 2010

What is transferware and how is it made?'s cold here in Tulsa. My kids are out of school today due to the ice and snow. I like being 'snowed in' sometimes. My desk faces a window and I love to look out and see white...I love to watch the snow as it falls softly. The uninterrupted snowfall not yet disturbed with the kids footprints and the cars tracks is simply stunning. It makes me think of Colorado, where we lived for just a year, and of skiing every weekend at Breckenridge.

My son made me cheesy eggs and ham for breakfast and my daughter had hazelnut coffee freshly brewed when I got up this morning. How nice, and tasty! The kids are going sledding with some friends, so now, I must settle into working on this post. I thought I'd share with you just what transferware is and about the process of its being made. If you read my first post then you may remember that I grew fond of transferware before ever even knowing it had a name!

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Transferware is a timeless, decorative art form of pottery. It is the term given to pottery which has had a pattern applied to it by the transferring of a design from an inked, hand engraved, warmed copper plate to a wet tissue paper and then onto the body of pottery it decorates. Transferware is most commonly found on earthenware, but also on ironstone, porcelain and bone china. The majority of transferware was produced in the Staffordshire region of England.
First we begin with the copper plate and engravers tools:
copper plate

Engravers tools
The copper plate is meticulously hand engraved with a pattern using various methods such as dot punching, which creates shading and tonal variety and tools such as a burin or graver, which makes 'v' shaped grooves to contain pigment. In the 19th century, a copper plate took at least six weeks to complete.
Engraving a copper plate
When the copper plate is finished and ready for use, it is kept warm on a stove. Metallic oxide mixed with printers oil is then well rubbed into the grooves to insure a good transfer. Excess of the mixture is scraped away so that the ink remains only in the grooves of the copper plate.

Inking Copper Plate
Tissue paper, wet with a soapy solution, is then applied evenly to the warm copper plate. The plate is run through a felt covered press thus forcing the inked design onto the paper.
It is then placed back on the stove, the tissue is very carefully removed and passed to a cutter who cuts the pieces to fit particular items. The paper is then positioned onto the pottery by a skilled transferrer who smooths out any wrinkles and then rubs the paper with a stiff bristled brush so that the print is transferred to the object.

Applying the transfer
The object is then placed in a bath of cool water and the tissue paper is removed without damaging the color and design.

Running under cold water
Then off to the hardening on kiln where the print and color become fixed.
Photos of transferware process:  Country Living / Spode

A homes poetry for the day:
It was zero this morning.  I have a fire burning in my study, yellow roses and mimosa on my desk.  There is an atmosphere of festival, of release, in the house.  We are one, the house and I, and I am happy to be alone-time to think, time to be.
~May Sarton~

Monday, January 25, 2010


Having been a collector of something or other since early childhood, I found myself drawn to red toile plates around the age of 20 while decorating my first home. I had collected a few scenic plates but had never heard the term ‘transferware’ used to describe them. I just knew I’d become fond of it from a decorative aspect. It matched my home d├ęcor’ and I loved the look of the aged plates hanging on my wall or placed in my curio cabinet. As a Christmas gift one year, my husband surprised me by giving me several vintage pieces of ‘Old Britain Castles’ by Johnson Brothers. The dealer described them as vintage pieces and told my husband that you could tell the age of the piece by the unique back-stamp on the back of the plate. This intrigued me. I found myself perusing antique shops, flea markets and yard sales for these items. My collection grew slowly, and with it, my knowledge of it. While browsing online one day, I discovered that ‘transferware’ was the term for this type of pottery I had become so fond of. I spotted an auction for an oblong platter in the ‘Old Britain Castles’ pattern, bid on it and won! Coincidentally, the seller lived only a few miles away so I decided to make the drive to her home to pick up my purchase…and that is when my passion for transferware really began. She had amassed an enormous collection of Mason’s Vista. One look at her soup tureen complete with the under-plate and ladle was all it took, I was officially hooked. I fell in love with the deeper, bolder red of the Vista (it matched my house better!) as opposed to Old Britain Castles softer hues of pink. Additionally, there was an unusual variety of shapes and sizes in the Vista pattern. I couldn’t afford many of the Vista pieces, but I knew I just had to have them! I decided to get rid of some of the pieces I had collected in order to ‘trade up’ to the pieces I really wanted. I started selling online and before long I was not only selling to buy, but I was buying to sell. Over time I developed numerous contacts with sellers and dealers throughout the world and literally had stacks of plates, platters, cups and saucers, teapots, etc. sitting around my house to sell. I was storing them under sofas, in the closets, in the guest bath, and anyplace else I could until they sold. Eventually I took over one side of the garage for my transferware, all the while adding to my own collection. Before long, I’d taken over our entire garage with dishes. Today I have a 4000 square foot warehouse that houses my collection of transferware that I continue to collect and sell.

Some of the transferware at the warehouse, currently listed on Etsy:



There are many things to love about English Transferware: Its history and origins. It is one of the greatest stories of mass production ever. Each piece has a hand-made quality and is in itself a piece of art. The transferware history is interwoven with famous authors, artists and historical figures and places. Beautiful designs and patterns were all engraved and hand produced. It's impossible for me to settle on just one thing that creates such passion.

This blog is devoted to English Transferware...learning about it, collecting it, decorating with it and using it. I strive not only to offer one of the largest and best vintage collections available online, but to also provide an informational and educational experience for others who share this passion. I hope to learn from my readers as well. Whether you're a novice who simply likes "red & white" china, a decorator who uses transferware in wall displays, or an avid collector like me who just HAS to find that rarest of platters in that rarest of patterns from the 1830’s, I hope that this sight proves to be an invaluable resource for you. Enjoy and come back often!




A homes poetry for the day: 
To collect anything, no matter what, is a healthy human impulse of a man and boy, and the longer and harder the search, the greater the joy of acquisition.
~Agnes Repplier~