English transferware is one of my favorite “smalls.” Smalls“ in the antique trade refers to non furniture items. Sometimes “collectables” refer to newer items that people collect. I love English transferware because I have sold so much of it through the years and it is relatively plentiful in England if you get out to the antique fairs and look for it. If you read some of my articles on where to buy antiques, you might have seen that England is my favorite place to shop for antiques. If you are willing to shop hard and know where to shop, it is unbelievable how much you can buy on a ten day buying trip.
Brief History of English Transferware
If you are not familiar with English transferware, I will give a quick history and description. Before transferware, skilled artisans had to do the decorations by hand, which was expensive and time consuming.English transferware was produced by first creating the design on a copper plate, similar to the ones on printing blocks. Then a special kind of paper was placed on the inked copper plate. Then the piece of paper with the still wet ink was applied and transferred to the piece of pottery which was then placed into water to get the paper off. It then was glazed and refired. Thus the name came from transferring the pattern from paper to pottery.
The process was developed in the late eighteenth century in the Staffordshire region of England. By about 1820 it really started gaining in popularity. All of the major potteries started using this process and everyone had their own patterns. Blue and white was by far the most popular color, but through the years many other colors were produced. Some of these included brown, green, red, black. pink, mulberry, yellow, gray, purple, and variations of these. There were literally thousands of patterns developed by the many potteries. English transferware has been continually produced since then. Not all pieces were marked with the manufacturer‘s stamp. But if you get one of the good books published on marks, you can identify many of the potteries and patterns by their marks. Some can also be dated. My favorite books for this are Kovels Book of Marks. Between 1890-1920, u8sually the name “England” will appear and after 1920 “Made in England” will appear.
Popular Colors of English Transferware
The last few years (now early 2011), brown transferware has been the “in” color, although blue and white will always have a following because of the vast amount of blue and white transferware produced. For the fans of “The Nate Berkus Show,” he recently showed part of his brown transferware collection on the show. But the color of choice has changed several times through the years. There was a time that red transferware was most in demand. Sometimes it was certain patterns. I remember when everyone wanted transferware with castles, and then it was castles. Then black transferware and mulberry transfer ware were the colors people wanted, but neither of these lasted very long. There will always be customers for the different colors, but now I would be buying brown transfer ware and blue transferware.
Now that you know the colors that are popular now, but this could change, which pieces should you buy. You can never go wrong with English transferware platters and plates. It is much easier for collectors of transferware to display platters and plates than bowls. That doesn’t mean you should not buy other pieces, but plates and platters sell the fastest. In fact you should buy some of the other pieces to make you own display stand out. To me there is nothing prettier than to have a large English transferware soup tureen sitting in the middle of a display. Other covered tureens and bowls also are impressive. But platters and plates look so elegant hung on a wall or displayed on an English antique dresser.
The pattern of English transferware that can be found the easiest is blue willow. Nearly every major pottery had a pattern of blue willow transferware. I can’t tell you how many pieces of blue willow we have sold through the years. But it is still popular and I suppose always will be. The Queen of England still uses blue willow transfer ware to this day. We know this because one of her chefs, Darren McGrady, that worked in her kitchens for fourteen years before he left to become Princess Diana’s personal chef the last four years of her life after she left Charles, came into our store. He borrowed some blue willow for some photos for his cookbook. You might enjoy reading the book to learn some of the foods he prepared for both the Queen, Princess Diana, and he also cooked for four U.S. Presidents. The book is “Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen.” All of the stories about his time working for the Queen, Princess Diana and the two boys make it more than just a cookbook. But you can learn how to prepare food fit for a queen, because it was.
Another popular pattern was Asiatic Pheasant. It was also a blue and white transferware pattern, but a much lighter blue than most blue transferware. That was the second most popular pattern. We seemed to carry more of this than most antique stores or malls did, and we sold a ton of it. You will find customers that want particular shades of a color. This is especially true with brown tansferware. Some want the very dark brown where others like a lighter shade, although the darker shade seemed to be the most popular.
I hope that if you have not tried selling or collecting English transfer ware before that you will now consider it. There are some wonderful English transferware dinnerware patterns that look beautiful on any table. Let us know if you have any other questions by dropping us a line in the contact form.