This blog post shares information about collecting brown transferware including its history, makers, and how to determine its age.
Brown transferware is one of my favorite items to collect. As an antiques dealer, I am always keeping an eye out for unique pieces or for complete sets. This collectible is always fun to use during the fall and particularly as part of your Thanksgiving dining room table.
Of course, transferware comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Flow blue transferware, a dark royal blue, was extremely popular for a long time. Other popular examples include:
- red transferware,
- white transferware,
- black transferware,and
- blue transferware.
There have even been recent productions of old, well known, transferware patterns. Not surprisingly, some of the transferware produced in the 1960s and 1970s, which are considered vintage items, are making a come back.
In this post I will share with you what I have learned over the years about collecting brown transferware. So let’s jump in.
Collecting Brown Transferware
According to Randolph Street Market, transferware is a style of ceramics, including pottery, that uses transfer printing. This is a decorative technique which was developed in England, in the mid-18th century, particularly around Staffordshire England.
The process starts with an engraved copper plate similar to those used for making paper engravings. The plate is used to print the pattern on tissue paper, then the tissue paper transfers the wet ink to the ceramic surface. The ceramic is then fired in a low-temperature kiln to fix the pattern.
Where was it made?
One of the first things to determine when you are looking at a piece of transferware is where it was made. As noted above, early pieces of transferware made in the late 1800s were typically produced in England. While there are some manufacturers of transferware in the USA, the majority are still from the United Kingdom. It has been estimated that 90% of transferware is made in England and hence these pieces are often referred to as English transferware.
The production of transferware started in as part of the industrial revolution and this china was initially purchased by the middle class.
What is the pattern?
The pattern used in producing transferware can also be a key to identifying its origins and age. There is a previous blog post I wrote about Aesthetic Movement Transferware. This style of transferware was popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It typically includes a combination of nature themed images such as birds, leaves and flowers with some form of oriental design. When you see aesthetic movement transferware, there is a good bet it is antique and was made in England.
As a point of comparison, later patterns of transferware tended to focus on historical events, man made buildings or ships. The pattern Fair Winds depicts ships and was a popular pattern in the 1970s. This pattern was produced by Alfred Meakin and can still be easily found.
Spode produced and still produces a very popular brown transferware pattern known as Woodland. These are beautiful dishes to use for holiday events. Delamere is another well known pattern produced by Spode.
Blue Willow , although not brown transferware, was another popular pattern collected in the 1960s-1970s. My grandmother collected Blue Willow china and it was on her wedding registry.
Patterns are applied to a variety of pieces including dinner plates, sugar bowls, platters, serving bowls and tea cups. People can spend many years establishing a transferware collection of a particular pattern name.
When was it made?
Most of the transferware was made in the 19th century and you can usually date pieces by knowing a few key facts. The site Antique Marks, has a very comprehensive write up on how to identify the date of a piece of pottery or ceramic.
In general, any piece that has a stamped or impressed diamond shape on the bottom is definitely an antique.
In 1891 the Mckinley Tariff Act of America required all imports to America to bear the name of the country of origin. So, transferware stamped or printed with the word – England – would have been produced on or after 1891.
If a piece is stamped “Made in England” is was produced after 1921. By way of example, this Furnivals Quail platter was produced after 1921, although the pattern started being made in 1913.
Well known producers of antique transferware include:
- Alfred Meakin
- Johnson Brothers
- Masons; and
If the finish is too shiny or glossy, you may be looking at new pieces of transferware. There are many stores where you can buy newly produced transferware patterns including some discount stores like Home Goods, TJ Maxx or Marshalls.
A good example of a new brown transferware is Martha Stewart’s Danish Fern. Although this pattern has been discontinued, it was produced in 2002.
Another good example of recently produced brown transferware includes pieces by Two’s Company which produced transferware in the early 2000s.
How I Use Transferware
You won’t be surprised to learn that I use a variety of transferware patterns. I often mix and match my own collection of brown transferware with simple white china. Also, I like to mix and match the patterns, so long as they are all the same color. My only “rule” is that all the dinner plates must have the same pattern and be the same size. However, I will mix and match patterns for platters, pitchers, and bowls.
Some of my favorite patterns include Furnival’s Quail, Asiatic Pheasants, Woodland Animals and anything from the Aesthetic Movement.
I love any piece that incorporates pastoral scenes and natural elements.
Transferware platters are my favorite item to collect and I am always keeping an eye out for them when I am hunting for antique and vintage items. I use these platters during the holiday season to serve food, and to hold decorations, or a vase of flowers, or even some small items in the bathroom. Of course, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to use this china, you can incorporate it into every use.
My second favorite item to collect is antique pitchers. Nothing looks better than a group of pitchers on a shelf or in a cupboard.
Where I Find Transferware
As a dealer, admittedly I have access to sources that some of you do not. Sometimes private individuals reach out to me to ask if I am interested in buying a few pieces or a set. However, I also have acquired some great pieces from flea markets, antique shops, thrift stores, and yard sales. My advice is to always keep your eyes open. Please keep in mind to look carefully at any transferware pieces you find since it may have fine lines, chips, cracks or discoloration. Another good source for finding these pieces is at various antique markets or vintage markets.
The price range for transferware can vary depending upon age, condition and rarity of the piece. A small tea cup can be as little as $5 while large platters or tureens can cost upward of $1,000. Most pieces can be purchased for less than $100. My advice is to buy what you love and what you can afford.
Thank you for stopping by the blog today.
If you liked this post, you may also like this post on English Advertising Pots.
Below are some brown transferware pieces that I found on Etsy. Wishing you happy brown transferware shopping!