Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research
 

A Very English Process, Underglaze tissue printing for ceramic artists, a collaborative project to reappraise 19th Century printing skills



Authors: Hoskins, S. Huson, D.
Name of conference: NCECA 2014, 48TH Annual Conference
Place: Milwaukee, usa
Date: 19-22 March 2014
Paper Presented by: stephen hoskins
Published in: NCECA 84 Journal 2014
PDF Article: PAge 1 | PAge 2

Abstract
The standard text regarding Blue and White underglaze ceramic transfer printing ‘Penny Plain and Twopence coloured’ begins: ‘Transfer printing is a particularly English form of ceramic decoration’(1). Underglaze tissue ceramic transfer printing first developed circa 1850 and involved engraved or etched copper plates, from which tissue was printed with cobalt blue oxides- the famous 'Willow Pattern' being the best known example. Underglaze tissue has a very distinctive, subtle quality – it is an integral part of both English ceramic history and the history of copperplate engraving.

The process was common in the UK ceramics industry until the 1980s. However from the 1950s it began to be supplemented, by screenprinting, because it was relatively slow and required skilled artisans to apply the transfers. By contrast screen-printed transfers are printed on top of the glaze therefore the image will wear and fade in a dishwasher and has none of the delicate qualities and permanence of underglaze. The authors are collaborating with Burleigh Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, the last remaining company to produce ceramic tableware decorated using the traditional printed underglaze tissue method. The pottery was recently saved from closure by the Prince Charles Regeneration Trust, who wish to maintain the traditional manufacturing skills for the next 25 years.

The Centre for Fine Print Research in Bristol has been reappraising the use of the traditional 19th Century skills with modern materials and methods for producing engraved plates. There is almost no written record of the actual material and methods used in the process up to the 1950’s. This paper seeks to demonstrate how those 19th Century methods can be applied by contemporary ceramic artists, explaining ink manufacture (using oxides), heating the plate for printing, modern methods of making plates and where to obtain the elusive potters tissue, which has always been printed dry, unlike the traditional etching and engraving processes in conventional printing.

(1). Halfpenny, Pat. (1994) Penny Plain Twopence Coloured, Transfer Printing on English Ceramics, City Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent UK. ISBN: 1 874414 05 X