My affliction for Blue Willow began about 50 years ago when I first discovered it as my grandmother’s “dishes”. I was totally fascinated at the intricate blue and white design. Many years later I learned that she purchased it at our local “5 and 10 cent” store. That never diminished its value in my mind. I remember laying down the plates carefully when my lovely, sweet grandmother allowed me to help set the table in her warm and cozy kitchen. Oh! the sweet memories of the delicious country food that she so lovingly placed on her Blue Willow…fat homemade biscuits, country ham, and vegetables from her garden…makes me starved just thinking about it!
Blue Willow is probably the most famous china pattern ever designed. It’s classic blue and white color scheme has kept it a favorite all over the world. Blue Willow is actually the oldest china pattern to still be produced today. Thomas Turner created the first Blue Willow pattern and worked under Josiah Spode. Spode was the first mass producer of the Blue Willow pattern dishes around 1790. Today, there are so many producers of this pattern worldwide and Blue Willow antiques fill thousands of antique shops and flea markets in scores of countries. So blue and white lovers… there is plenty of Blue Willow out there to collect!
The legend of the Blue Willow design unfolds on each piece of Blue Willow china; forbidden love, hope, a journey, a tragedy, and a blessing from the gods play out under the willow trees of this earthenware pattern. Part of the fascination of the willow pattern is the speculation and uncertainty over the actual story, but most agree that it is the tale of two lovers, destined to be together, even through death. The story of Kong-Se and her Chang is simply and beautifully shared in a lovely picture book, The Willow Pattern Story,by Lucienne Fontannay.
Collecting and using her vast collection of Blue Willow is a priority to my great friend and Noland Interiors client, Holli Morris of Tampa, Florida and Waynesville, North Carolina.
Don’t be afraid to use your collection and display it in the design of your home. I love mixing the blue willow pattern at Chestnut Cottage with my extensive collection of Flow Blue,
and allow yourself the joy of using this pattern everyday…perhaps for a yummy BLT Wedge Salad!
The English custom of “parlor games” appeals to those who frequent Chestnut Cottage nestled into an assortment of comfy chairs, sipping a great glass of Bordeaux around the fire. My friend Holli gave me a great (and appropriate) parlor game, The Game of the Willow Pattern Plate”. It makes a great favor for a dinner party when dining on Blue Willow.
And I would certainly be remiss if I failed to mention that the term Blue Plate Special that started in southern diners, came from the wonderful divided willow plates, often termed grill plates. They are certainly a great way to “limit portions”!
The hunt for unusual pieces of blue willow continues for this collector. Some that I have recently acquired have interesting marks, which are always fun to research.
Children’s Blue Willow sets are extremely collectible and among the highest priced. As I said in my previous post “Blue & White” ….it is never too early to start collecting!
And if blue and white doesn’t appeal to you, have a look at the great Pink Willow patterns, which can be found at our great friends at Replacements, Ltd.
I must leave you with a rather long but touching poem. Sit back, relax, sip some tea from a Blue Willow cup and enjoy!
The Willow Pattern Poem
Whilst we sit around the table,
Please allow me to relate,
The entrancing ancient fable
Of “The Willow Pattern Plate”.
Every picture tells a story,
Like the Willow Pattern Plate,
Where two lovers dwelt in glory,
And defied paternal hate.
By elopement from the castle
You observe upon the ridge,
Where the violent old rascal
Chases them across the bridge.
Tries to catch the rogue and whip him,
‘Ere he steals the daughter fair;
But the loving pair outstrip him,
Let him languish in despair.
Thrown upon their own resources,
In a junk they emigrate,
To splendid little oasis,
Near the margin of the plate.
Dwell in peace, whilst unmolested,
In most perfect harmony;
Till at length they are arrested,
By Nibs’ gendarmerie.
Then the tyrant lord appeals to
Law and lucre, with their pow’r;
Caught, confined, they have their meals too,
In that horrid little tow’r.
When the pair are executed,
To appease their lord irate,
To a pair of doves transmuted,
Still they fly upon the plate.
Every Picture tells a story,
Like the Willow Pattern blue,
And true love will reign in glory,
To Infinity! Adieu