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Transferware with Rural Scenes in Many Colors

Picture Plates is a term I have coined to describe plates with mural-type scenes on them. These are a form of transferware, denoting the process off transferring the design onto the originally plain pottery before the final glazing. They come in many colors; although the best known may be the blue and white combinations such as Blue Willow, Blue Onion and Flow Blue. I’ve branched out a bit to include pastoral patterns with colors other than blue and white. Some of the more familiar producers are Johnson Brothers and Staffordshire. I now have a few odd pieces in red, green and brown with white as well as my favorite blue and whites.

Some of the Plates, Like this One, Seem to Invite You In...

Transferware comes in a wide variety of styles and designs. The picture plates I collect, are mostly floral and rural scenes and patterns.

Brown and White Platter with a Hunting Scene

The Detail in Some of the Old Plates Really Amazes Me

Most of the picture plates I collect seem to be made of ironstone, a heavier duty, more rugged, pottery than china or porcelain. These plates are intended for everyday use. They don’t often have gilded, fluted or open-work edges like many other decorative plate patterns do. I have very few if any, in pristine condition, those would be, I understand, worth money to professional collectors. Some of mine are newer, picked up here and there, and the rest are old and well-used and well- loved. A chip or hairline crack here and there attest to that. Their well-worn condition makes me comfortable using them and adds to their character I think. The oval hunting scene platter above looks like it has a bullet hole in it ! (All part of the storytelling aspect!) Because they are not perfect, I’m not worried using them daily.

The Cracks and Chips Just Add to the Character, New and Old Blend Together

When my sons were young children, we used to play a game at mealtimes. Once they’d eaten enough dinner to ‘see the picture’ on the plate, then they would tell a story about what the picture revealed to them. We made a hobby of looking for various ‘picture plates’ at yard sales, never paying more than a quarter per plate. In this way, we’ve assembled an interesting collection.

The mural pattern plates come in a variety of themes, including cityscapes and portraits. They are produced in several countries. Some transferware pieces are American in origin. Blue Willow is a Chinese tale interpreted originally in England and now produced in many other countries as well. Being a country girl at heart, the patterns I like best are the rural scenes, and the pastoral scenes are nearly the only ones I collect, with a few considered exceptions. Many of those I grew up with, have Currier and Ives or similar prints on them. Some have British farm and village scenery; some are idyllic American farm scenes, I like to imagine they are in New England. I’ve even found a few interesting plates from a series called Lochs of Scotland.

Lochs of Scotland

Undersides of Some Transferware Pieces

I have no qualms about mixing and matching pieces from varying patterns or colors; in fact, I think it makes meals more interesting to combine them. It is not unusual for one of these plates to start a conversation, like; where do you think this picture is supposed to be? Do you think this is a real place? How old is this pattern? On many of the older plates especially, I find the undersides of the dishes to be almost as decorative and interesting as the topsides.

Currier and Ives Pattern of My Childhood, Each Piece is Different but Coordinated

A trend I’ve noticed with these picture plate sets is, often each piece in the set has a different version of the pattern. For instance, the dinner plate may have a harvest scene, the side dish may have a planting scene and the soup bowl may have a view of a barn or farmhouse. They are all coordinated but individual, creating a sort of mural or montage when all are used together and making them especially interesting to me. The set above, is the pattern I grew up with as a child. Each piece in the set is related but different. They are almost too appealing to put food on!

Not all the Dishes are Plates, This Old Serving Bowl is Very Versatile

I still look for picture plates now whenever I attend a yard or church sale, out of habit mostly, but curiosity as well. There are so many potential stories out there on plates, just waiting to be found and told! What stories do your dinner plates tell ?

Currier and Ives' Harvest Time, I Like to Think it's in New England

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