November 13, 2010

Johnson Brothers, Transferware and Toile....Past and Present!

I grew up with "Friendly Village"....china, that is! Miss Helen's china which had been inheritied from my grandmother, Estelle Elizabeth! I have loved it ever since. It evokes memories of our family dinners, holiday celebrations and the sweet, warm thoughts of childhood. Today, it is often hard to find these patterns so when I do run across a piece of Friendly Village or Johnson Brothers Brown Transferware, I snatch them up and absolutely adore mix and matching the patterns.

The resurgence of French antiques and the Shabby Chic trend has brought toile and transferware back into the forefront of home decorating again! Although toile refers to type of fabric pattern, and transferware refers to a style of collectible ceramics, the two are quite similar and are often seen paired together.

Many people like to use Friendly Village dishes, made by Johnson Brothers, in the fall and winter. This dinnerware has a pretty brown transferware pattern that has been in production since 1953. The Friendly Village pattern was made in England until 2003, since then it has been made in China. You can tell which location it was made in by the backstamp. The old backstamp read “Made in England by Johnson Bros”. The new backstamp reads “Johnson Bros England 1883″.

This is a popular set for Autumn and Winter with the New England Village type scenes and the green accented brown border of leaves, pine cones and flowers. At The Maine House,  it is a popular pattern for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. We also like to use it as everyday dishes from Fall until the end of Winter. It is ironstone, so it is fairly sturdy and dishwasher safe.
Brown Transferware Teacup and Saucer
There are 2 other variations of this pattern, one is the 50 year Anniversary pattern, produced in 2003. It has a 50 Year Anniversary banner on each plate. The other variation is the Christmas pattern. It has the same leaf and acorn border, but has Christmas scenes in the center, some with a decorated Christmas tree next to a fireplace, others are outdoor scenes.
Friendly Village has been a long-running and very popular pattern and has a full complement of dinnerware pieces. From teacups and saucers, coffee mugs, several size bowls, 2 sizes of dinner plates, square or round salad plates, to bread and butter plates for place settings.
 Many serving pieces are available such as platters, a teapot, gravy boat, butter dish, and open and covered serving bowls. You can set a very pretty table with this set! For many years this pattern was available through the Betty Crocker catalog and was fun to collect piece by piece.

This pattern has a large assortment of scenes, and each scene is identified on the backstamp. Some of the place setting pieces are available in a variety of scenes, while the serving pieces were not produced with any variations. The scenes are of fall, winter, spring and summer in the country and New England village, with names such as Covered Bridge, Stone Wall, Old Mill, Hayfield, Schoolhouse, Village Green, Autumn Mists and The Well.

Estelle's mixes our collection of Transferware (Brown, Red Toile, Blue Toile, and Black Toile) with Johnson Brothers China patterns of Friendly Village and Her Majesty.

As technology was increasing, so did the colors. By the time transferware's popularity peaked, between 1810 - 1860 the colors came forth. Blue in pale and dark colors came forth, as well as green, red, pink, purple, yellow, black and brown were available. Brown was added to the color scheme in 1852 and later, during the Aesthetic Movement, became a primary color for potters. As one contemporary collector remarked about the transferware produced at that time, “Brown was the only color they (the potteries) did very well.”

Two Perfect Autumn recipes that will be perfect for serving on these patterns!

Rustic Roasted Vegetable Tart
1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 sheet refrigerated pie pastry
1 tablespoon cornmeal
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Minced fresh basil, optional

In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, 3 tablespoons oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Transfer to an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 450° for 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and moisture has evaporated, stirring every 10 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry into a 13-in. circle. Sprinkle cornmeal over a greased 14-in. pizza pan; place pastry on prepared pan. Spoon vegetable mixture over pastry to within 1-1/2 in. of edges. Fold up edges of pastry over filling, leaving center uncovered. Brush pastry with remaining oil.
Bake at 450° for 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Cut into wedges. Garnish with basil.

Pumpkin Flan
1 cup sugar, divided
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
3 egg whites
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup flaked coconut

Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar in a 9-inch round cakepan. Cook over medium-high heat, shaking pan occasionally using oven mitts, until sugar melts and turns a light golden brown; set aside. (Mixture may crack slightly as it cools.) Heat milk and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly, until hot and frothy.

Beat eggs, egg whites, and next 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended; gradually add hot milk mixture, beating at low speed. Pour mixture over caramelized sugar, and place cakepan in a roasting pan. Pour hot water into roasting pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a knife inserted in center of flan comes out clean. Remove pan from water; cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill.

Bake coconut in a shallow pan at 350°, stirring occasionally, 5 to 6 minutes or until toasted. Cool. Loosen edges of flan with a spatula, and invert onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with coconut.

"In childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking out. 
 In memories of childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking in."
  ~Robert Brault,


  1. Dear Estelle...
    Some of the beautiful Johnson Bros. dinnerware you have shown, I have never seen before. I own the Friendly Village..and I love it. Some of it is very old. Now that you have shown me how to tell the age and where it was made..I will check mine. I do know some is very old as it belonged to my husband's mother and was shipped to us from Buck's Harbor Maine when she passed away. I charish it..it's lovely. But some of the pieces you show...I am so taken with it.
    I wish I knew where to look for find it. What a lovely blog you have...
    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  2. Wishing you a beautiful Thanksgiving Day Mona! I so enjoy your visits. I adore my pieces of Friendly Village as most of my pieces belonged to my mother and grandmother. I have reproduction pieces, however, they are not as precious to me as those which I inherited, so I identify with your feelings about the pieces you own. Hugs and blessings to your lovely family!

  3. Hello Estelle, I so enjoyed looking thru all of your site. Truly lovely. I recently started getting my Friendly Village collection together again, simply because it reminded me so much of home, Kennebunk. Now living on Long Island, N.Y. and yearn for that comforting nostalgia at times. We had this pattern in our house too. I remember particularly the tall glasses that I think came two at a time from where mother was collecting them, because it was a big deal to have milk after school in them. We also had them out in the fall......a break from the Blue Willow. I love your quotes. thank You for your talent. Blessing DiMuzio

  4. What lovely memories those are! I am ever so happy you stopped by and for taking time to share your thoughts with all of us. Wishing you a very Happy New Year ahead! I hope you visit often and enjoy Estelle's!


I so love receiving your thoughts and comments. I also hope you found something that made you smile.