Antique Lamps A Bat Printed Staffordshire Lamp
The invention of transfer printing on porcelain and pottery was, without doubt, one of the most important innovations in the development of the ceramic industry.
The honor of this development goes to the English engraver, Robert Hancock, born in Birmingham (1730-1817). We first meet Robert, recorded as a copper plate engraver at York House, at Batterseas enamel works in London. Here, beautiful little copper boxes were made for the English 18th century luxury market and quite costly objects of vertu, the so-called bijouterie, scent bottles, little snuff boxes and practical wares, such as boxes to contain sewing implements, toothpicks, trays to hold pens, canisters for tea and sugar and even candlesticks, designed to imitated expensive silver pieces.
In 1756 the Battersea factory closed and we next find Robert at the Worcester porcelain factory in the same year. Robert Hancock had obviously taken his knowledge and expertise to the factory management, under the direction of Dr John Wall.
The management was highly impressed with the idea of this rapid decoration technique! Since the opening of the factory in 1751, porcelain painting had been a laborious and expensive process, undertaken by painters with coloured powdered enamels, mixed with lavender oil and brushes.
Robert was able to teach his printing skills and the process was soon mastered with the first, famous, copper plate engraved, black transfer print being produced in 1757. The subject being Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, ally and hero of the seven years war.
Transfer printing as developed at Battersea, began with the unique skill of the copper plate engraver, who deeply engraved, with a fine sharp steel, the desired design. The design was engraved in reverse!, allowing the final print to appear right way around. Pigment was then added, often mixed with oil and heated to allow the colour to run deeper into the copper plate engravings, the excess ink then wiped away with a palette knife. The copper plate, after being cleaned off with a cloth was then covered with a sheet of tissue which was dampened and pressed onto the plate. Next, the tissue was gently lifted from the plate and set carefully onto the shape to be printed. As the tissue was deftly lifted away, the design was left behind. This early printing style left the print on top of the glazed item, which was then fired to finally set the print onto the glazed surface.