Just what is transferware?
Transferware is any pottery with decorative elements applied by transferring a pattern from a copper plate to paper and then to the pottery itself. Transfer prints are found on china, ironstone, and porcelain. There are tens of thousands of transferware patterns.
One of the most recognizable and most common is Blue Willow.
While blue is the color most commonly associated with transferware, it was produced in other colors. Some of these include red, pink, purple, cranberry, brown, black, green, yellow, gray and various shades and combinations of these colors.
Transferware was originally a cheap alternative to expensive imported pieces from China. It first appeared in the late 18th century, but became extremely popular in the 1820s and 1830s. Transferware has been made continuously since that time. Most of the transferware found today was produced in the last 50 years, but earlier pieces are out there.
Alot of people are familiar with the Blue Willow pattern,some do not know it is transferware. The pattern is the most widely recognized and probably the most common as well. Many are attracted to its deep blue color and attractive pattern. The beauty of Blue Willow is that old and new can be easily mixed. The Blue Willow pattern tells its own story.
As the tale goes, long ago, a Chinese Mandarin, lived in a wonderful pagoda under an apple tree on the right side of the bridge seen in the pattern. He was the father of a beautiful girl, who was the promised bride of an old but wealthy merchant. The girl, however, fell in love with her father’s clerk. The lovers eloped across the sea to the cottage on the island. Her father pursued and caught the lovers and was about to have them killed when the gods transformed them into a pair of turtle doves, seen at the top of the design.
The Blue Willow story is a nice tale, but it has no real basis in fact. The pattern was not created to tell the story, instead the story was told after the pattern was designed. According to different sources the tale was made up by either the British or American manufacturers. A wonderful 19th Century merchandising scheme.
Blue Willow is only the beginning, however.
Dating transferware can be difficult. Many of the early pieces are unsigned. Many patterns made in Great Britain between 1842 and 1883, however, were registered with the Patent Office in London. The registration marks on the reverse of these pieces can be dated. British transferware made between 1890 and 1920 usually has “England” printed on the back. After 1920, the mark became “Made In England,” older transferware often has richer and more plentiful color than later pieces.
Values for transferware vary greatly. Early or rare pieces can run into the thousands of dollars. Price tags in the hundreds are not uncommon, but there is a great variety of transferware available in the under $30.00 price range.
Transferware to some is the most beautiful china available. Single plates and serving pieces are great for display. Partial sets are attractive on plate racks and in china cabinets. Many also like to mix and match pieces on their table or add with solid colored china. .
Another highly collected transferware is what is known as Historical transferware. Made between 1818 and 1830, these dark blue printed wares are highly regarded because they illustrate important places and commemorate historical events of the early republic. These are usually the highest priced and prized. Photo example
All photos except for the Historical Platter (photo #3) shown are available in our shop plus many more to choose from.