Detailed information about producing collector plates

Bryan China Company

The following is intended for anyone wanting to learn the collector plate process... from art to finished production. For purposes of this discussion, we'll assume you are an emerging artist or existing company that would like to add plates to their product line. There's no "glitz" on this page... just real information for those that are serious about learning the process.

Let's start with art ---- The first step in the process is the transformation of your art into ceramic decal. Ceramic decal is a product of silk-screening ceramic pigments onto a waterslide paper for later application to the ceramic ware. The manufacturer then screens a lacquer cover coat over the ceramic color.

Production of ceramic decal is as much of an art as a science. Bryan China Company does not produce collector plate ceramic decal. We do, however work with virtually every "collector" quality ceramic decal manufacturer in the world. Depending on your art, your budget, and your intended look... we can steer you to the right decal manufacturer for you.

Ceramic Decal ---- Before you begin, you should try to determine how you will market and the number of units you anticipate selling. The reason for this is that the price of ceramic decal drops significantly as the quantity produced increases.

There will be two components of ceramic decal price; 1. Proofing, and 2. Production of the decal. The number of colors required affects both of these. The more colors required, the greater the cost. The colors can either be spot colors, i.e., each color is mixed and printed separately, or 4 color process printing (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) plus spot colors. Generally, 4 color process printing is more cost effective.  (We've produce spot color plates with as many as 28 separate colors!) How do you know which? Let us see the art and we determine how many colors will be required. At this time, we can also provide an estimate of both proofing and production costs.

The Proof ----  The proof can be made from digital files, transparencies, or original art. The process involves actually printing test decal to work out the "bugs" and determine exactly what the plate will look like when production commences. A proof is necessary due the myriad of variables in the process.... such as the order of printing colors, the thickness of color, color consistency, fidelity.... trust us, a proof is necessary. The cost of a collector plate proof can range from $800 to $3,000 depending on size, number of colors, etc.  We provide sample ware to the decal manufacturers for testing. Upon completion of the proof, they will send us approximately 12 decal from which  we will decorate 6 and fire in a production environment. We will then send two to you, two to decal manufacturer, and we'll retain two. With your proofs, you will determine if the decal meets your expectations. If not, there are several options. The easiest is for us to refire proofs using either a different temperature or different kiln cycle. This type of solution can be appropriate to tone down or bring out reds or other colors... to improve gloss, etc. The next easiest is to approve the proof given "changes on press." This is appropriate if the decal manufacturer is fairly certain that they change a variable or two during production. This avoids reproofing. The last alternative is to reproof. The proofing process generally takes from 2 to 6 weeks and is largely dependent of the decal manufacturer's backlog. Most companies use the proof for advertising photography.

Production Decal ---- Let's assume you approve the proof and authorize production of, say, 5,000 decal. If you really need 5,000 decal... you'd better order 5,500. Not every decal will result in a finished collector plate. The decal manufacturer will produce your order and ship it to Bryan China Company. Time required for decal production is generally 2-6 weeks, again depending on the decal manufacturer's backlog. You will be required to pay for the decal and proofing as per your negotiations with the decal manufacturer. The decal will generally be printed on a sheet which measures 24"x36", 8- 8 1/4" decals per sheet. Bryan China Company will store the ceramic decal in a temperature/humidity controlled environment and await your order for finished product.

Decorating ---- Our decorating process involves soaking the ceramic decal in water, sliding it from the paper, and applying it to the chinaware using a squeegee and sponge. (i.e. waterslide decal) The decorating process requires a great deal of skill in maintaining the image's proportion since the decal is stretched during the process. The ware is then fired at temperatures approaching 1500 degrees F. The lacquer cover coat on the decal burns away, the glaze of the plate softens, and the decal pigments soak into the glaze creating a permanent bond.

We will generally provide a price to you which will include: the plate, cutting, inspecting, and decorating the decal and backstamp, numbering the back in black ceramic ink or 24k gold, application of a 2mm gold band, firing, after-fire inspection, numbering a certificate of authenticity that you provide, insertion of any collateral material you provide, packing in either a poly foam or corrugated reshipper... and finally, packing individual reshippers into a master carton. We only invoice for "good" finished plates and here's the best part... our minimum order size is 1. Timeframe for production is generally 10 days or less, depending on the order size.

Other Services ---- As a custom shop, we're prepared to help you in a variety of ways. Here are some real life customer stories to illustrate this.

Customer A - markets 2 licensed plates per year. Has sold between 5,000-15,000 plates per plate, sends us envelopes and a shipping manifest. We shrink-wrap the addressed envelopes to our poly foam reshipper, sort for bulk mail, prepare all shipping documents, and deliver to the US Post office.

Customer B - markets many plates in a variety of sizes, also markets other products unrelated to plates. We act as their warehouse for all products, fulfill all orders to both dealers and end buyers. We produce UPC labels required for retail sale.

Customer C - has marketed plates for many years. Still has ceramic decal stored at our facility that's over 10 years old. Due to the age of the decal, the color pigments have dried, making normal production methods extremely difficult. Answer: We coat the decal with special solutions that replastisizes the colors, enabling them to be used successfully many years after their expected shelf life has expired. Our in-depth knowledge and experience saves the customer "big bucks."

Customer D - New to the plate market, only wants to be a marketer, doesn't have infrastructure to handle credit cards, fulfillment... etc. Solution: We offer complete services from receiving orders, billing credit cards, depositing checks, to shipping the finished products to buyers. A one-stop solution!

Customer E - Markets plates in a series in which an end buyer receives the same plate number for each plate in the series. Solution: We maintain extensive plate numbering records, replacing all numbers on rejected plates, match specific numbers to certificates of authenticity and shipping labels.

Customer F - New to the plate market. We advise and provide necessary product labeling required by the FDA. We educate the customer regarding "made in USA" standards.

Customer G - Requires detailed weekly and monthly reporting of plates produced, components used, components received... lots of info! We comply with customer information requirements.  We have in-house expertise in database systems, spreadsheets and information reporting systems.

Customer F - Limits plate edition sizes to "X" number of firing days. Solution: We maintain detailed firing records which document actual firing time for their programs. We culminate these record and report on a monthly basis. If necessary we will hold and batch fired production to maximize the number of plates fired in the calendar day.

Stay tuned... we'll add more....

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