I never had much interest in amassing a china collection and storing it away in some hulking cabinet. Im a fan of dark, bold prints and heavy-duty ceramics, so hand-painted, delicate china cups in pastel colors dont really do it for me. A few years ago, however, I was house-sitting for a woman who had lots of mismatched china, and she used it every day. And all of it had patterns that looked like photocopies.
This type of pattern is called transferware. The name comes from the technique ceramics makers used to transfer an engraved design onto the ceramic surface using tissue paper. This saved them the agony of hand-painting everything (and if I may be frank, saved us the agony of those horrid hand-painted designs). Despite being made predominantly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, because of their their bold colors and realistic scenes, many of these transferware patterns look strikingly modern.
And some transferware manufacturers are modern. One of my favorite companies that made the jump from antique to vintage transferware is Johnson Brothers:
Spode also made an excellent transition to modern times:
Other cool patterns, some of which are not too expensive: