From Print to Plate: Views of the East on Transferware

By Chris Dickman
Founding Editor, Graphics.com

When's the last time you had a pleasurable aesthetic experience in an international airport? These realms of glass, concrete and steel seem to glory in their lack of place and time, all vaguely "modern" and forgettable, their sterile spaces lined with shops flogging products from the usual global chains. While such transient spaces provide no connection to anything fundamentally human, once in a while you'll stumble across exhibitions of art and culture.

European airports seem to have things well in hand, with notable examples being the London Heathrow Airport's T5 Gallery, which stages ongoing group exhibits and the Rijksmuseum Schiphol at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, which mounts two or three new exhibitions each year drawn from works in the famous Rijksmuseum collection.

Closer to home you'll find galleries in the airports of such cities as Atlanta, Denver and Philadelphia. But one of the most eclectic, perhaps thus representing the freewheeling nature of its host city, is the museum in the International Terminal of the San Francisco Airport. We took a look at its A World of Characters: Advertising Icons from the Warren Dotz Collection back in 2014 but this time around its focus is on objects of a very different kind — transferware from the collection of Michael Sack.

What's the heck's transferware, you ask? Well, it turns out that the English developed a fondness for the hand-painted blue and white pottery brought back from China in the 18th century. The rarity of such pieces soon resulted in domestic potteries creating knockoffs to meet demand. But even that wasn't enough so the ever-inventive British came up with an ingenious process that involved printing designs on paper and then transferring them to the plates and other ware before firing. The result? Mass-produced, genuine imitation Chinese pottery: rather ironic, when you think about it.

Be that as it may, some beautiful work was produced using this technique and the From Print to Plate exhibit, on display until March 19, 2017, would seem to contain fine examples from the early 19th century. We've included a few below and you'll find more, along with explanatory text, on the SFO Museum site.

Platter, Mausoleum of Sultan Purveiz or Indian Procession pattern c. 1810–30s
Walsh
Staffordshire, England
earthenware, blue underglaze
Collection of Michael Sack
L2016.0901.062

Platter, Tomb of the Emperor Shah Jehan (Taj Mahal) pattern c. 1824–30s
Oriental Scenery Cartouche series
maker unknown, possibly Staffordshire, England
earthenware, blue underglaze
Collection of Michael Sack
L2016.0901.003

Chestnut basket, The Chalees Satoon in the Fort of Allahabad on the River Jumna pattern c. 1810–30s
attributed to Cambrian Pottery, Swansea, Wales
earthenware, blue underglaze
Collection of Michael Sack
L2016.0901.007.01

Platter, Mandarin Opaque China pattern c. 1810–30s
maker unknown
United Kingdom
ceramic, glaze
Collection of Michael Sack
L2016.0901.075

Platter, Dooreahs or Dog Keepers Leading Out Dogs pattern c. 1815–30s
James & Ralph Clews
Staffordshire, England
earthenware, blue underglaze
Collection of Michael Sack

Platter, Part of the City of Moorshedabad pattern c. 1810–30s
Parrot Border series
maker unknown, possibly Staffordshire, England
earthenware, blue underglaze
Collection of Michael Sack

Platter, Monopteros pattern c. 1810–30s
John Rogers & Son
Staffordshire, England
earthenware, blue underglaze
Collection of Michael Sack

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