Early Transferware: Before 1830
Transfer printing refers to a technique for decorating ceramics using a printed paper tissue to transfer inks from an engraved copper plate to the clay surface. The application of this method to earthenware in the early 1800's revolutionized the English pottery industry. Suddenly potters could achieve complicated decoration despite the limited skills of the labor force. By the late 1810's, transferware was a major element in British trade around the globe. Some general characteristics help identify early transferware.
- The earliest examples feature fairly coarse printing and flat oriental landscape patterns in imitation of Chinese exports, the English potter's greatest competition.
- The products of the 1820's show more sophisticated printing and a variety of European subjects including picturesque landscapes and subjects from history, literature and the natural sciences. Prints were most often copied from previously published sources.
- Before 1830, blue is the dominant printed color, simply because cobalt pigments could most reliably withstand the temperatures of glaze firing.
Note should be made of some early transferware in colors other than blue, traditionally lumped under the loose term "Salopian" ware. Much scarcer than blue examples, these appear in black, brown and green, often enhanced by striking underglaze enamels.