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In any color, English transferware is highly collectable, but in English Pink, the ware is glorious. Much of the pink transferware potted by the 19th-century English firms was produced exclusively for the American market. The English, as do many American collectors, prefer the “old blue” and pink has never sold well in England. Yet, there must be many “closet collectors” of English Pink in this country who have squirreled the majority of this ware in the safety of their collections.

English Pink was plentiful just twenty-five years ago but today a collector must search for just a few examples. Although huge quantities of pink transferware were exported to this country, the supply, once so abundant, is seemingly becoming quite depleted. Longtime transferware dealers find it difficult to maintain an inventory of pink; one tells us English pink sells so quickly, that to avoid having nothing to offer her regular customers, she is forced to increase the prices on the pink wares she stocks. Another proclaims, “Blue is definitely on the back burner.” Yet another cites the new pattern of her sales: “Pink and green definitely top the sales list and are increasing, while blue sales have dropped a bit.

One collector, after a recent buying trip to England, recalls finding only two pieces in pink, neither one of significant age. One piece in particular, an English dealer related, came from a British woman who had acquired it in the United States and, upon returning home, found that it didn’t fit in her collection. An unnamed dealer, on a global search for the ware, purchased every piece of pink transferware in the city of Auckland, New Zealand! The popularity of English Pink is obvious and appears to be global.

What is it about English pink? In addition, why the enormous increase in the last fifty years in the number of collectors who have consciously chosen to amass pink transferware? We who love the hue are not surprised. We think the time has come; after playing second fiddle for so long, our favorite deserves the spotlight.

The world’s favorite, it seems, is blue and it was with this color that the English potteries first worked. Because of the problems with other hues in the excessive heat of the glost furnace, colors other than blue or black were all but unknown in the latter part of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century. “Blue, a pigment prepared from cobalt oxide, could withstand, and indeed required, the high fluxing temperature of the glost oven.” With constant experimentation in the first half of the 19th century, transferware manufactories, “with Spode leading the way,” were able to develop new techniques and colors were born. It is safe to assume that many variations of color were stumbled upon in an experiment or were a profitable mistake, since there was significant experimentation seeking a solution to the firing dilemma. Regardless of its source, any color other than blue is itself a variation.

By the mid-19th century, the application of patterns was not limited to one color. At that time, most transferware patterns were reputedly being printed in more than one shade. Representative pieces have been found, not only in the popular sharp blue cobalt, flow-blue cobalt, steel blue, brilliant medium blue, teal, and the rarer powder blue and turquoise, but also in bronze, forest green, mint green, pale lemon yellow, rich gold, purple, violet, plum, grape, lavender, orchid, mulberry, black, dove gray, steel gray, chocolate brown, warm brown, walnut, sepia, tan and, of course, pink, rose, and red. Pink was introduced in 1830. “Green, used from 1825, proved to be the most popular color after blue.” Green is still a highly sought color, the difference being that today it ranks second to – not the traditional blue – but to English Pink.

English Pink was plentiful just twenty-five years ago but today a collector must search for just a few examples. Although huge quantities of pink transferware were exported to this country, the supply, once so abundant, is seemingly becoming quite depleted. Longtime transferware dealers find it difficult to maintain an inventory of pink; one tells us English pink sells so quickly, that to avoid having nothing to offer her regular customers, she is forced to increase the prices on the pink wares she stocks. Another proclaims, “Blue is definitely on the back burner.” Yet another cites the new pattern of her sales: “Pink and green definitely top the sales list and are increasing, while blue sales have dropped a bit.”

One collector, after a recent buying trip to England, recalls finding only two pieces in pink, neither one of significant age. One piece in particular, an English dealer related, came from a British woman who had acquired it in the United States and, upon returning home, found that it didn’t fit in her collection. An unnamed dealer, on a global search for the ware, purchased every piece of pink transferware in the city of Auckland, New Zealand! The popularity of English Pink is obvious and appears to be global.
What is it about English pink? In addition, why the enormous increase in the last fifty years in the number of collectors who have consciously chosen to amass pink transferware? We who love the hue are not surprised. We think the time has come; after playing second fiddle for so long, our favorite deserves the spotlight.

The world’s favorite, it seems, is blue and it was with this color that the English potteries first worked. Because of the problems with other hues in the excessive heat of the glost furnace, colors other than blue or black were all but unknown in the latter part of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century. “Blue, a pigment prepared from cobalt oxide, could withstand, and indeed required, the high fluxing temperature of the glost oven.” With constant experimentation in the first half of the 19th century, transferware manufactories, “with Spode leading the way,” were able to develop new techniques and colors were born. It is safe to assume that many variations of color were stumbled upon in an experiment or were a profitable mistake, since there was significant experimentation seeking a solution to the firing dilemma. Regardless of its source, any color other than blue is itself a variation.
By the mid-19th century, the application of patterns was not limited to one color. At that time, most transferware patterns were reputedly being printed in more than one shade. Representative pieces have been found, not only in the popular sharp blue cobalt, flow-blue cobalt, steel blue, brilliant medium blue, teal, and the rarer powder blue and turquoise, but also in bronze, forest green, mint green, pale lemon yellow, rich gold, purple, violet, plum, grape, lavender, orchid, mulberry, black, dove gray, steel gray, chocolate brown, warm brown, walnut, sepia, tan and, of course, pink, rose, and red. Pink was introduced in 1830. “Green, used from 1825, proved to be the most popular color after blue.” Green is still a highly sought color, the difference being that today it ranks second to – not the traditional blue – but to English Pink.

Combinations of colors were also introduced at this same time, with varying attractiveness. English potters usually printed two colors on a single dish by printing the rim in one color and the center design with another, such as a pink center with a green rim. (A photograph of a Willow-patterned plate appeared in a Willow Collectors’ convention program with two colors, pink and cobalt blue, split neatly across the piece, each one coloring half the dish. The piece is reputedly the result of a test of 19th century glazing techniques.)

Maroon, a deep wine-red used on transferware, was obtained by using Chromium oxide (Cr2O3), which produced a variety of colors, including shades of maroon, when added to lead glaze and in combination with tin oxide. At low temperatures, maroon turned brown; at higher temperatures it produced red. In addition, the desired shade of red would turn black if the temperature in the kiln was not reduced quickly enough. In fact, heat affected the chemicals so dramatically that pinks were much more difficult to produce than the more dependable blues.

“What color is a green card? Pink, quite obviously. Which country is greener – Greenland or Iceland? Iceland, of course. By the same logic, the blackbird hen is brown, purple finches are distinctly crimson, and many greyhounds come in colors other than gray.” In addition, pink dinnerware often appears quite red.

English Pink collectors old and new have but one dilemma: Should our favorite English transferware be called red or pink? One well-known Spode dealer and connoisseur from Washington State clearly prefers to use the adjective pink rather than red. “Please don’t call it red”, he admonishes. There is no denying that, unless it is in the palest pink, most pink transferware appears to be red. Shopkeepers everywhere respond immediately to a query about red transferware, thus have probably aided collectors in labeling the ware with the bolder color.

However, according to records, the correct designation is pink. As Petra Williams tells us in her book Staffordshire, Romantic Transfer Patterns, “The old factory sheets from the Adams plant called all reds ‘pink’, and this name has been used by most cataloguers ever since.” Actually, dinnerware books state that pottery houses in Staffordshire, England, made red as well as pink ware, which leads to the logical conclusion that there are indeed at least two colors. Regardless of what they may call it, many collectors, especially in the United States, greatly prefer the pink family of colors over blue or any other.

There is, sometimes, a noticeable color difference of some pieces that clearly fit the category of English Pink. This variance is the bane of some collectors and the pleasure of others, depending largely on personal taste. The word variant does not refer to the other colors available in a particular pattern but rather to the differences in one of the colors in a single pattern. Whether a collector finds the variants attractive or not, they are nonetheless extremely interesting.

Even the range of hues manufactured by a single factory, and categorized as pink, can vary greatly. At the Adams manufactory, pink – referred to as “Adam’s pink” – ranged “from the soft coloring of ‘Bologna’ and ‘Palestine’ to the strong carmine of ‘Cyrene’ and many United States views. It was “a bright and pleasing change.” Some of the other Adams Patterns produced in pink were Andulusia, Beehive, Caldonia, Columbus, Gazelle, The Sea, The Sower and Temple Warriors.

Technology in the dinnerware industry has improved over the years, and these changes are obvious in the wares. The older pieces, even the earlier 20th-century wares have a charm that is not as evident in the newer ones – the older antique transferware simply appears to have more depth and beauty. The colors of these veterans do, nonetheless, vary from piece to piece, but since they were originally part of many different sets of dinnerware and, therefore, not fired at the same time, the variations are not surprising.

Numerous differences are commonly found: Some pieces are bluer than others; some are a very-deep red or maroon, while others may be decidedly purple. The color is definitely not mulberry, which is distinctly different. (A tip: mulberry flows; purple does not.) Less often, but not uncommon, transferware pieces appear pink , which is actually only a whitened red. They are all charming. As author Petra Williams exclaims, “… what variations and shades we find! In red there is carmine and pale pink and rose, blood red and henna.”

Transferware is, of course, found in colors other than pink, red or blue, and each one has its own following in the collecting world, just as it did with those who first purchased the ware. Although dinnerware colors vary by company and date of manufacture, there seem to be some other common colors for English transferware, plus some not-so-common ones. Wm. Adams & Sons “Stoke factory colors in the mid-1930s included blue (occasionally Canova blue), pink (occasionally Mexican pink), purple, brown, black, green (occasionally French green), mulberry, and, rarely – on cans only – yellow.”

But, for those of us who love and collect it, there is but one choice. Look out, world; here comes English Pink!

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