TRANSFERRING TO FLOW BLUE

Antiques & Collectibles Trader
August/September 1995

Transfer printing? Flow Blue? Over the next two issues of Antique and collectibles trader, two of Canada's leading specialists in Transferware and Flow Blue, John Hogan and Joe Clement of "Clement and Hogan Antiques'', Harbourfront Antique Market (416-535-3883) will be providing an in-depth explanation detailing every thing that comprises these topics.

What is Transfer Printing? In ceramics, it was a method first used in England by which designs or patterns have been engraved on copper plates, then ink, cobalt blue, is spread over the plates filling in all the grooves of the design. The copper plate is then heated and a soapy tissue paper is placed and pressed onto the engraved design. Delicately removed as not to rip the tissue, the tissue is next rubbed onto a piece of pottery in its' bisque  state. After the pottery has dried, the tissue paper is then removed by a washing technique, the design remains on the pottery, hence we have the "transfer" which is ready for glazing.This process was generally done by young girls 12-15 years old. Once this is complete, the pottery is then dipped into a prepared glass glaze to be entered into the kiln for the finished product.

The method of transfer printing was as early as 1753 on Batter sea painted enamels on copper. It has never conclusively been ascertained who invented this process. At first the printing was done over glaze in red, purple and black colors. From around 1760 the method was used for ''under glaze printing" in blue. The under glazing method was much used in Staffordshire, England and could be found elsewhere in England during the early 19th Century. Blue was the favorable color but by the late second quarter of the 19th century many other colors were becoming available and popular. Still later in the late 1850's lithographic transfers came into use. Subject matters featured birds, flowers and pictorial subjects completely printed in natural colorrs in a facsimile imitation of painting.

It is generally believed that American transferware was first made around 1840. Once transfer printing was accepted by potters as a decorative technique, it quickly became popular with the public.

The earliest patterns copied Chinese designs which are called ''Chinoiseries'', including the popular Willow pattern which was printed on "pearlware" and first used and produced by Thomas Minton in England, Circa 1790.
 
Colbalt blue was discovered to be the only color that could survive the high firing temperature necessary for under glazing the design. Print quality improved as engravers began to use dots instead of lines to create their patterns on copper for the process of transfer printing.
 
As the process of transfer printing became more widely accepted, its' benefits were increasingly appreciated. Early indication of the pottery was recognized by pressed markings in the pottery. On or about 1820 this was replaced by printed markings.
 
These marks are known as ''Cartouche'' marks. This mark identifies the potter's name, location of manufacture,  the pattern and date of manufacture.
 
For each nationality, there is an Encyclopedia published for Cartouche marks.  Such an encyclopedia for British marks is the "Encyclopedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks by Geoffrey A. Godden, Shifferer Publishing Co. Penn. USA.
 
Once you have a general skill of identifying marks you will be able to determine the important factors of your piece with accuracy.The three basic mediums of transfer printing are: Pearlware, Ironstone and Semi-Porcelain.
 
Pearlware: A white earthenware made with a high proportion of white clay and flint. It was first made by Josiah Wedgwood in 1779 as an improvement on "Creamware" and was widely copied by other potters who found it an ideal body for blue printed wares. Small quantities of cobalt oxide were usually added to the glaze to help give a white appearance; a result of the glaze running thickly against the foot rim (base of pottery)  shows up very clearly as a blue or greenish tint at the base.
 
Ironstone: It is a form of "stoneware" where ground iron slag has been mixed with clay. It was first patented in England in 1813 by Mason. Charles James Mason introduced this by the name "Patent Ironstone China"; essentially it was similar to "Stone China" introduced by Spode in 1805.
Ironstone was also given names such as "White Granite", "Opaque Porcelain" and "Flint China".
 
Semi-Porcelain: It is not true porcelain, it is earthenware that was much thinner and highly glazed to imitate china. It was a change from the heavy thick ironstone of 1830's-1870's period. Basically it was a trade name used to make the wares more salable. Consequently, it passed as bone china in appearance and texture.
 
 
The four basic categories of transferware are (1) "Romantic", (2) Oriental, (3) Floral and (4) Historical.
 
Romantic: This category is strictly fanciful or imaginary. It is not related to any specific place or event in history. It is a dreamy induced state of mind. Usually consists of castles, water, trees, birds, animals and people composites.
 
Oriental: Usually consists of imaginary scenes of the Orient depicting oriental people, costumes and activities of the far east.
 
Historical: Actual scenes of real places or events in history, buildings and people. Source is usually taken from famous illustrators and artists and given to potters to transfer on to pottery. This was done about 1790-1830 in very deep blues and was transferred in lighter blues and other colors up to about 1860.
 
Floral: Primarily a variety of flowers in different patterns.
 
At the turn of the 20th century there was a resurgence for the historical, these now were being produced as commemorative or souvenir china, which today is considered the "second wave" or re-issue of historical china. Namely one specific example of this second wave of historical china that stands out is the "Rowland and Marcellus" Series of plates, commonly referred to as "R & M" plates, from 1890-1925. These plates were made in two styles, one being the rolled edge and the other being flat with a fruit and flower border.These were transferred in very dark crisp blue and some others were very dark inky blue or flow blue. The "fruit and flower" border was taken from the early dark historical blues of the 1820-1830 period that was done by such factories as Henshall & Co.,  and Ralph Hall...just to name a few.
 
With the information provided within these pages about transfer printing, the mediums, patterns and markings... this  has laid a foundation to the Introduction of Flow Blue which will be discussed in depth in the October/November issue of Antique and Collectibles Trader.

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