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Flow Blue china was made from the early 1800s until just after the turn of the century. Since the 1700s, English pottery makers had tried to copy Chinese porcelain which exhibited many characteristics of what was to become known as Flow Blue. Chinese porcelain was quite expensive at the time as a luxury item. English potteries developed a type of salt-glaze earthenware which looked somewhat like porcelain due to the unique white hue that they produced. It could then be decorated with Chinese inspired designs and sold at much lower cost than Chinese porcelain. Transfer printing was invented around 1775 as a new method for decorating pottery. A copper plate was engraved with the design and warmed, at which point paint was rubbed onto the plate and any excess removed with a small knife. Damp tissue paper was then pressed carefully against the plate, then lifted up and pressed onto the pottery to which the transfer was being made. The transfer was then rubbed in using flannel after placing the pattern to be transferred in the correct position. Then, the piece was placed in water where the tissue paper floated off, leaving the design transferred to the piece. It was lightly heated to dry the paint, then glazed. While some firms had their own engravers who produced the designs, most smaller companies used engraving firms specializing in such services.

Because the Chinese porcelain that they were seeking to emulate had blue designs, the English also used blue, the only color they were certain would survive the glazing. The Staffordshire region had well over 100 potteries producing this ware by the early 1800s, originally pioneered by Josiah Spode. Cobalt oxide is the base pigment used in Flow Blue, discovered in the mid 1500s. They discovered that cobalt oxide dye would sink into the porous earthenware and blurred further during the glazing. Around 1820, they also discovered that the flow of the blue dye could be enhanced by using lime or ammonia chloride in the glazing process. The degree of blur varied greatly among manufacturers, and the flowing effect conveniently hid most manufacturing flaws in the blanks. Josiah Wedgwood is generally recognized as the creator of Flow Blue pottery in the 1820s. Early Flow Blue designs were mostly oriental although other scenics were also produced. Scenes of all types were usually romanticized visions of foreign lands, often mixing cultures and with the sole purpose to create desirability in the products. After 1850, styles became quite ornate and the scenes depicted even more fanciful. While some think that Flow Blue was discovered by accident, most experts believe that the development of the blurring technique and its use in production was quite intentional, a technique which produced works still in high demand today.

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