By Jane Fehrenbacher & Ken Glibbery

Collecting vintage chintz china has become a remarkable phenomenon! Chintz china, twentieth century transfer ware, which evokes images of summer gardens in full bloom and provides collectors with indoor flowers year round, has exploded onto the collectibles scene.

Over the last few years, the price and popularity of this china have experienced unprecedented growth. Collectors worldwide seek this charming floral tableware which seems to attract more and more devotees with each passing day.

The term "chintz" has its origins in India (the Indian word was chintes) where colorful patterns including richly-hued flowers and brightly plumed birds were printed on cotton fabric and imported into England from the late seventeenth century.

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When transfer printing was developed, it enabled chintz to be printed cheaply enough to reach a large market, and by the mid-1800s a number of the Staffordshire factories in England were producing chintz china which was aimed toward everyday use and the mass market. The first chintz china patterns were loose designs with larger flowers and birds; however, around 1920, patterns for chintz china were designed with more tightly placed, smaller flowers; and it was then that the collectible china which is known generically today as "chintz" began to be made. Collectible vintage chintz china was manufactured from the 1920s until the late 1960s.

Although many chintz manufacturers made goods which now are included in the Chintzware category, four of the major and most sought-after producers in England were Royal Winton, Lord Nelson Ware (Elijah Cotton Ltd.), James Kent Ltd. and Crown Ducal (A.G. Richardson). When chintz was made, it was not expensive china. It was earthenware meant to be used every day. However, the production of chintz did require an amazing amount of hand work because the designs which appear on each piece of Chintzware were transferred by hand from lithographs onto the individual pieces. The process (similar to applying decals) required meticulous cutting and matching to ensure that the joins on each piece (the places on the dish where the sheet of lithographic paper came together), were practically invisible. This handwork, along with any gilding on each piece, was done before the piece was fired. 
Today, the knowledge that some young woman spent hours carefully placing the beautiful transfer patterns on each piece of chintz makes the owner of that piece much more appreciative of his treasure. The names given to the chintz patterns are as appealing as the patterns themselves.

Royal Winton made more than fifty flowered patterns with names like "Summertime," "Sweet Pea," "June Roses" and "Old Cottage Chintz." Lord Nelson Ware made "Rosetime," "Heather" and "Briar Rose" to mention a few. 

While Crown Ducal did not stamp its chinz with pattern names, the authors of recent books have assigned names the the Crown Ducal patterns to provide a uniform method of identification where reference to old sales catalogs and other research have resulted in no actual company-assigned names. 

Lord Nelson Ware produced patterns with names such as "Primula," "Apple Blossom" and "Hydrangia."

Besides the four most sought-after makers of English chintz mentioned above, other chintz makers included Barker Bros., Ltd., Brexton, Empire, S. Ford & Co., Johnson Bros. Ltd., W.R. Midwinter, Ltd., Myott, Ridgeway, Royal Doulton, Shelley, Wade, Wedgwood, A.J. Wilkinson and Wood & Sons. Some Dutch Chintzware has also been found. Chintzware also was made in Japan, Germany and Czeckoslovakia, although these patterns are considered by many to be less collectible than the English chintz.

Chintz comes in all shapes and sizes, from complete dinner sets to tiny nut dishes. Some collectors attempt to collect a set of chintz all in one pattern and to find as many serving pieces, teapots, coffeepots and other matching pieces as possible. Because chintz has such a cozy and colorful feel, other collectors enjoy mixing the many patterns and makers and displaying them in pretty groupings around their homes.

Others focus on collecting teacups in the many different patterns or try to locate bud vases in as many patterns as possible. Whatever their choices about the focus of their chintz collections, most chintz collectors agree that there is something so warm and inviting about chintz that just seeing it each day makes them happy.

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