Quintessential America

Made in England

Chintz makes a comeback for serious and casual collectors


story by lisa stamos | Photo by Jim Pershing

Top: This covered butter and cheese dish shows the Pansy pattern. Made by Lord Nelson in Staffordshire, England. Left: The Maytime pattern by Staffordshire is seen on this teacup and saucer. Middle: This creamer features the Summertime pattern by Royal Winton. Right: Mille Fleurs by Tuscan shown on a teacup and saucer.

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The term “chintz” has its origins in India (the Indian word was chintes) and was originally the name for a cotton fabric with an all-over floral print in vibrant colors. By the beginning of the Edwardian era (prior to WWI), serving and drinking tea or eating off fine English china in these floral patterns was the rage. Its revival in the 1990s as a hot collectible meant dealers and collectors hunted avidly for the prettiest or the most unusual patterns.

Chintz ceramics originated in Stoke-on-Trent, a city in England that was formed in 1910 by connecting several nearby small towns. An abundance of coal and clay in that area was the source for some of the finest ceramics ever made.

Transfer Art

The earliest chintz decorating dates to the late 1800s when the transfer process was popular. Engravers would create their designs and engrave them onto copper plates that would produce the image on tissue paper. The manufacturer’s transfer artist would transfer the design from the tissue paper to the ceramic piece, which was then rubbed to ensure consistent contact. The paper was then washed off with a sponge leaving the art on the ceramic surface.

Prior to the mid-1860s, the design left on the ceramic item was all one color. Other colors were often painted onto the transferred images. Then, a new process was discovered—lithograph printing. It was cheaper to produce, and the colors were more realistic.

The most sought-after vintage versions are from the Staffordshire factories in England. The most desirable chintz ware was produced by James Kent, Crown Ducal, Lord Nelson, Shelley, and Royal Winton.

After the Second World War, factories which had suspended production of chintz ware for the war effort began manufacturing it once again. But it had suffered from its quaintness. New buyers wanted modern china. Scandinavian furniture, plastic, and abstract art predominated the scene. By the end of the 1940s, chintz ware had lost its preeminence. Ironically, two generations later, it is once again in demand.

Today, in the early 21st century, tea drinking is experiencing a revival, as is the popularity of the tea party for entertaining small groups of friends. The appropriate teapots and serving ware should be acquired to go along with these trends. Find patterns and styles you like on the Web and in antique shops to complete or expand your collection.

The chintz dishware featured in this article is courtesy of Gwendolyn Whiston McMurray who owns Paris Market Antiques located at the Ice House Mall in downtown Barrington. Her store is a destination for antiques and vintage consignment items. For more information, call 847-756-4174.

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Quintessential Americais a recurring series of stories reflecting American values and community achievement. Some will be big stories. Some will be small. They’ll all be about Americans doing what we do best — sharing, helping, living.