Good Impressions Part 3: Pottery tissue transfers

The tissue transfer method doesn’t make an actual impression. It transfers an image from paper to clay, but I’m including it here because it requires the act of placing something on clay that remains, leaving a visual element, like impressions. I came upon tissue transfer by chance and it sounds so very cool, I wanted to include it in this series.

Modern-day: Commercial transfers are sold at supply houses and the following information was posted by Ruth Boaz. Australian Northcote Pottery Supplies carries beautiful Japanese transfers: click here. Northcote also has an instruction sheet that you can download from this URL: scroll down to #39. Pottery Supplies’ line has more variety: click here to download their catalog. Finally, Japanese Pottery Equipment: click here to see its line. I must say, I do not know why the sources I found are only in Australia. If you know of a N. American source, can you let me know? Thank you!

Historical: Boaz also suggests you take a look at the Horatio Colony Museum site to see some historic examples. “The English invention of transfer design in the 18th century coincided with the development of pottery that could rival the coveted Oriental porcelain,” according to the site. It further explains that the design was transferred “from an etched copper plate” to transfer paper. “This was achieved by first printing the etched design onto a special tissue paper with ceramic ink.” As a result, for the first time ever, working class people “could afford beautiful dinnerware for their homes.” (There is even a Transferware Collector’s Club!)

DIY Transfers: According Morgan Britt, who commented on the clayart forum, an artist named Rosette Gault gave a demonstration of her transfer technique in a workshop. “She used regular tissue paper and one of the super fine
tipped felt markers, then used a barely damp sponge to transfer the drawing to the clay,” said Britt. Dollie and Ernie Ceramics say they also use markers to transfer a design, but that the design burns out when fired, so they only use it as a guide for filling in with  underglaze. So, I guess one must simply experiment, but I think it might take a bit of trial and error to find pen ink that wouldn’t burn out. I did a little investigation and it turns out a number of makeup eyeliners contain iron oxide and some of them are like magic markers. Here are Elaine Bradley’s musings about her experiences with transfers.

So, If a person can master the technique, they will be able to do quite a bit with transfers. There are a couple of other methods happening, too, but they’re a little more obscure. You can check them out, if you’re interested. With one, you’ll have to find a screen printer who will use vitrified ink, the other you’ll have to find a Canon computer printer that uses toner with iron oxide. There are some exciting things happening in studios around the globe, though. Take a look at Potterlalab’s Flickr Photostream by clicking here. Wow! Gorgeous work… I also found a post about transfers, lino prints and other intriguing forms of decoration at Print Pattern Project‘s site. Please take a boo and good luck with your transfer projects!


Filed under Articles and Interviews, Featured Artists, How-to-do-it

6 Responses to Good Impressions Part 3: Pottery tissue transfers

  1. Hi Jan,
    This is a fantastic series of posts on the topic and a really wonderful blog overall.
    Thank you for the link to my site. I’m sorry we’re so far away in Australia, but please don’t hesitate to ask if you or your readers have any questions.
    Keep up the great work – I’m already looking forward to your next post 🙂
    Naoko (from Japanese Pottery Equipment)

    • Jan

      Hello, Naoko, I am so happy to hear from you and thank you for writing! Very glad you like the Good Impressions series…it was fun to research and write. Japanese Pottery Equipment sounds like a great workplace. I like tools and your site offers traditional tools I’d never seen before, so it was a good learning curve. Your tissue transfers are exquisite…no other word for them, so lovely. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about my blog and I will stay in touch…. I also offer my condolences about what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and how it has affected the ancient potteries of Japan. It has broken the hearts of many and I am so sorry. — Jan

  2. What a great post and such a nice surprise to see I am mentioned. Thanks and keep it up – your blog makes really good reading.

    • Jan

      Elaine, thank you so much! Tissue transfer is an area I have yet to experiment with but I love it and know I will. And your blog is amazing! Thank you for you kind comments! — Jan

  3. Helen

    Hi Jane, I am suddenly having problems with my bought commercial tissue transfers. I printed successfully for a couple of years and now my sheets of prints, still of the original batch purchased a few years ago will not print at all. I have tried soaking them in water and then printing , leaving the paper on the ceramic surface and weighting it for firing all to no avail. Have you any suggestions as I still have many sheets. They were stored in a cardboard folder inside plastic sleeves,
    Regards, Helen

  4. I have no experience with tissue transfer paper but I am willing to try. I found a supplier in the US, I am not sure how good it is and I do not know if they import the paper from Japan or if they produce it themselves. Here is the link to their website.

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