I’m having a bit of a crush on transferware these days…….which is odd, because it’s been nailed to my walls or stacked high on my tables for the last 30 years. The charm of a scrolly printed scene of nature, seaside, or domestic life, all captured on a plate still appeal to me, and it seems, many others.
Looking like “toile” fabric, the “transfer printed image” is first carved onto a copper plate. Next, the copper is “inked” and the ink printed onto tissue paper, and lastly transferred to all sorts of dishes, cups, pitchers, bowls, tureens, and more.
Many colors exist, but the wildly popular blue outnumbers the others. In the 1980’s, blue fell briefly out of favor, with brown taking first place. Red, pink, ( really just red ink at the end of a run, looking faded), lavender ( called mulberry), green, teal, black and the elusive yellow, are all commonly seen at antique fairs and adorn walls across the globe. Type in “transferware” on your electronic device and three days later you may be found drowning in the stuff.
But there is a link between my horticultural profession and these delightfully detailed dishes: each time I discover a new pattern with some variety of plant life painstakingly reproduced there by the Victorians some 100 years ago, I am reminded of the beauty of God’s creation, captured on a plate! The botanical accuracy is astounding- and much like Redoute’s “precise rendering” of roses and other flowers; they could be used in a classroom. Oftentimes, as with botanical drawings, all stages of plant life are included: seed, leaf, flower, fruit and cone.
Equally charming as the illustrations on the front, are the names on the bottoms. “Backstamps” as they are commonly called, are works of art in miniature. Besides the pattern name, the backstamp can include the maker, the pottery of origin, the date, and other information pertinent more to the serious collector than me.
Names like Ivy, Daffodil, Azalea, Camellia, Jessamine, Rose, Lily & Rose, Apple Blossom, Fushia, May Bloom, May Day, Floribel, Bouquet, Trellis, all enthrall the horticulturist within me and provide vivid landscape inspiration for my next garden. My childhood is revisited with these names: Gossamer, Fairy, Fairy Dell, Maidenhair Fern, ( the fern of choice for fairies who live in the Dell ), Enchanted Garden, Festival….. all words your third grade teacher might put on a list and have you write a story about. The girls would be thrilled and the boys would groan.
My dishes have served us well over the years; decorated our home, lined flower beds as edging, been shattered into thousands of pieces for my broken china classes, and have even graced our table for their primary purpose: to be a receptacle for food and the fellowship that occurs around a meal, sharing stories and heartaches and happiness, and nourishing our souls as well as our bellies. The oft heard phrase “if walls could talk” holds no interest for me. I wish these dishes could talk.
Mirror made with Laurie’s favorite “backstamps” and porcelain dresser flowers