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Whenever given the opportunity to go out and about, I like to keep an eye out for English transferware. Whether poking around an estate sale, flea market or antique shop, it’s one of those collectibles that you just know it when you see it, but wonder how it was made and why.

The method for transferring a pattern from an inked copperplate, to tissue, to pottery and then firing, was developed in the second half of the 18th century, in the Staffordshire district of England. Up to this point, patterned tableware was only found in the most affluent of households, as it was all hand painted and quite expensive. This new process allowed the newly emerging British middle class, the ability to afford a little bit of pretty for their tables. You know me, I’m all for that!

Originally potters got their inspiration from the hand painted blue and white Chinese porcelain designs that were popular of that era, and still remain today. As time went by, patterns evolved, styles changed, and a myriad of themes and colors became available.

People collect for different reasons. My dear friend, Maria McLennen, collects for business and for pleasure. She’s the owner of the drool worthy, aptly named business, Covet, a purveyor of one-of-a-kind antiques and vintage goods. (Her booth at the Stratford Antiques Center in Stratford, CT is jaw dropping gorgeous, so don’t forget to wear your chinstrap when you visit!)

I did a feature story on her beautiful home in the Summer 2014 issue of NMCH, (https://noramurphycountryhouse.com/magazine/summer-2014/country-house-style/), and a separate article on her lovely country kitchen, “The Hang” for the Summer 2015 issue, https://noramurphycountryhouse.com/magazine/summer-2015/country-house-kitchen/.

When Maria collects, she’s discerning about which pieces she acquires, making sure that they are as clear and clean as possible. No chips. No discolorations. Some slight cut marks, left from knives of satisfying meals of long ago, are to be expected on plates, as well as a little crackle. Her manner of showcasing her personal collection of brown transferware is enviable. Unified by color, not pattern or theme, in a custom built glass fronted cupboard, the look is simple, clean and uncluttered. Gorgeous.

I, on the other hand, have the luxury of collecting for me. Far from being a purist, I can take a more more whimsical approach. I collect because I love the history, the stories, the mix of patterns and shapes. The scenes depicted. Little individual gems of art that I put into the line of active duty. I can buy a piece that’s not so perfect, and therefore not so expensive.

So, my advice to you my dear friend, find something that speaks to you and go from there.

Happy collecting!

Love, Nora


  1. Tina on August 18, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Wooza! Beautiful photography and words!

  2. Victoria on August 18, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Love, love, love transferware and that black and cream piece is definitely drool worthy!
    Is it a biscuit barrel? I have never seen one out of transferware.

  3. Kate on August 18, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Those are lovely pieces! So pretty!

    I collect red transferware (but lately have been picking up a few brown ones). I love anything floral or with berries, American rural scenes, and I especially love to collect pieces with depictions of places our family has visited on vacations. It not only adds to my collection, but is a sweet reminder of good family times!

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