China for centuries had been produced with varying levels of ornamentation through the addition of relief or colours by painting. The level of ornamentation on the dishware in a household was largely based on the social and financial standing, given that the applying textures or colours increased the time involved in their manufacture as well as percentage of rejects when the efforts did not give the desired results, thereby increasing significantly their cost. The revolution brought by transferware shook the whole of the earthenware and china industry in the UK and other markets.
Transferware involved printing on tissue paper inks that were then pressed onto blank pottery so that the pattern would transfer onto the clay surface. This process was developed in the mid-eighteenth century and quickly became popular because of the opportunity it offered more classes to acquire dinnerware with finer designs than they could have afforded with hand-painted pottery.
In the 18th century, particularly popular were the blue transferware patterns influenced by Chinese imports as seen in the Blue Willow patterns. Eventually local country, village and urban scenes were immortalized by coloured transfers such Johnson Brothers Old English Castles and Meakin’s Fairwinds.
Many of the Made in England bone china manufacturers in the 20th century chose to combine transfers with hand-painting sometimes even with raised enamel to provide more distinction to their patterns. For example, Minton did this with some of its signature patterns such as Ancestral and Suzanne.
Now almost all china patterns are produced using transferware technology, to the point that we do not indicate it in the pattern descriptions of our on-line shop unless it is used in conjuction with other techniques such as hand-colouring, hand-painted enamel, etc.
For more information about the transferware process, Sprucecraft a fairly detailed description.