A technique of “printing” designs on ceramics (china) was developed in Staffordshire, England around 1760 called transferware. It was developed by John Sadler and Guy Green of Liverpool. Transfer printing became the answer to providing an affordable alternative to the hand painted pieces that were very expensive that only the wealthy could afford.
The transfer process begins when a design is etched on a flat copper plate then the copper plate is inked with ceramic coloring. After the plate is thoroughly inked the design would then be transferred to a tissue paper. The inked impression would then be transferred to the ceramic object. After the ceramic object is inked it would be taken to a low-temperature kiln to get fired and glazed to fix the design.
Transfer printing was originally done in single colors and the popular ones were blue, red, black, purple, green and brown. Blue pieces were the most sought after and the browns ones were considered the cheapest. The transfer printing technique was later adapted by Josiah Wedgwood in the creation of his ivory based ceramics called “Creamware”. Years later the technique advanced and allowed for the printing of double and triple colors, combinations like red and white and blue and white.
The transferware designs and patterns are varied but they often incorporate Asian people and scenery with beautiful pagodas. English manufacturers of transferware include Crown Ducal, Enoch Wood, Royal Staffordshire, Royal Crownford, Alfred Meakin, Spode, Johnson Brothers, and Mason’s with most sought after patterns including Crown Ducal’s “Bristol”, “Calico”, “Castles”, “Charlotte”, “English Chippendale”, “English Scenery”, “Friendly Village”, “Historic America”, “Italian”, “Liberty Blue”, “Old Britain Castles”, “Rose Chintz”, “Tonquin”, “Tower” and Vista”.
When collecting transferware pieces it would be advantageous to be familiar with how to date and identify an original. It is important to note the difference in marks or backstamps between time periods. From 1842 to 1883, the items carried a diamond shaped mark which contains the date the pattern was registered. After 1884, the registry adapted single numbers and registration numbers higher than 360,000 denote creation after the 1900s. Around 1860 to 1880 the word Limited or its abbreviations Lt or Ltd was added and the word Trademark was added and indicates a manufacture date after 1875. The words “Made in England” denotes the piece is created sometime in the 20th century.
Pieces from the 1700s as well as 1800s are hard to come by and aren’t usually found in antique shops but they do show up from time to time. We can readily find red and white transferware pieces in malls and online shops and though they are not valuable the designs are just as beautiful as the antique ones.
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