It’s a Blue and White Bash Today at The Pink Pagoda!
What is it about transferware that is so appealing? Lately, the posse has become a little obsessed with it. Whenever we are out rummaging through vintage and consignment stores and antiques malls, we invariably pause to examine these little works of art.
The patina of antique platters has Ellen longing to begin a collection of blue and white ones to display on the shelves of her family room.
Blue and white transferware is ubiquitous at these establishments because it has been flowing out of factories in Staffordshire since the early 1800s. As one of the first items mass-produced for the middle-class, potteries in this English region employed artisans to create copper engravings often copied from the etchings and drawings of others. Printers would ink the engraving and cover it with transfer paper that would then be laid on raw pottery. Once the ink set, the paper would be removed, and the piece would be glazed and fired.
This process quickly produced sturdy pieces for the newly-moneyed bourgeois in Great Britain and the United States who were eager to show off their good taste. According to the Transferware Collectors Club, since the transfer process was discovered as the English were trying to copy Chinese export porcelain, well over 10,000 patterns have been created. Spode alone developed 5,000 different ones in a 33 year period in the early 1800s, though Blue Willow (the pattern in the bottom platter above) has no doubt been its most popular blue and white seller for over 230 years.
With so many patterns and surviving examples, it is hard to decide where to start a collection. A membership in The Transferware Collectors Club is probably a good place to begin if you want to invest in quality vintage and antique pieces. I can easily imagine how a small obsession could easily turn into a full-blown and expensive case of transferware-itis.
Fortunately, these old Staffordshire companies are still producing blue and white wares that you can be comfortable using on a daily basis. Though many have consolidated and some production has moved overseas, the quality of the engravings that were made in the 1800s remains, and the blue and white colors still look fresh. Recently I contracted a case of the blue and white strain of transferware-itis when kMg and I stopped in at Replacements outside of Greensboro, N.C. This dining table filled with a wide variety of new blue and white pieces had me at Hello.
Never before had I thought about mixing blue and white transferware patterns on a tabletop, but Replacements kindly provides a spot to do just that.
The table was filled with so many lovely examples of re-issued patterns. As I poked through the piles, I pulled my favorites to create this place setting (I already have cobalt glasses). The cute berry bowl on top is
by Unicorn, previously Enoch Wedgwood, a very inexpensive yet pretty piece. The mug
is Highgrove, a pattern by the Josiah Wedgwood Company (not to be confused with the Enoch Wedgwood group). Even trend-setting marketer Williams-Sonoma likes the pattern. The dessert plate
says Wood & Sons on the back with no pattern name. The sweet rose transfer surrounded by a softer cobalt and navy trim may be my favorite.
The salad plate I added is
Devon Cottage. This must be a recent restyling as it has a ©2009 date, but Devon Cottage with a white background has been in Johnson Brothers’ line for a long time. Doesn’t this mix of blues feel like chintz, which is making a comeback in the world of interiors?
Finally the dinner plate for my blended wishlist is
Moreton Old Hall from the Josiah Wedgwood group. This Portland Vase dinner plate by Spode
with its wide graphic border was also a strong contender.
Granted the modern versions of these old patterns don’t have the worn luster of the original versions, but they make a practical and stylish substitute for modern living. My life demands that everyday dishes be microwave and dishwasher safe, but I want them to be pretty too. Blue and white transferware is so timeless that it feels at home in any environment, and with the varieties available, most everyone can find a favorite pattern.
Have you contracted the blue and white strain of transferware-itis? It’s pretty contagious, especially at Replacements. If you’ve got a case of it, fortunately there are lots of way to feed the obsession. The Blue and White Bash at The Pink Pagoda is a great place to start.
April 7, 2014