“There’s a joy without
Canker or cork
There’s a pleasure eternally new
Tis to gloat on the glaze
And the mark
Of china that’s acient and blue.”
Andrew Lang, from the Ballad of Blue China
This ballad well describes my favorite of all blue and white, antique flow blue china. My passion for collecting flow blue has grown and evolved over the last thirty plus years. It can be found in every room of Chestnut Cottage. My most enduring passion for these years has been the hunt for this fascinating china and it is now my most valuable collection. I often joke with clients and friends that my retirement account is held in flow blue!
The term flow blue broadly describes china which has been decorated with underglazed transfer printed designs. Once applied, these designs were caused to bleed or “flow” on to the undecorated portions of the piece by introducing lime into the firing process. This gives it the softness and the melt away look that flow blue is so famous for. Flow blue was created in England in the early 1800’s. The English Victorians developed a complex social ritual of dining and the dinner party became recognized as the most reliable method of drawing and impressing a crowd. (I suppose nothing has changed about that notion!) Flow blue wares were manufactured in every imaginable combination of functionally specific pieces. The production of flow blue spread from England into France, Germany, Holland, and eventually to the United States. One of the most interesting aspects of flow blue is identifying the maker from the mark on the back and then dating the piece based on that mark.
Anyone interested in collecting flow blue should invest in a book that includes photographs identifying popular patterns and the marks of major English and non-English manufacturers.
The flow blue collection at Chestnut Cottage hangs on walls, fills cabinets and is stored in every conceivable “nook and cranny”. Why have collections if you don’t use them? Use the humble pieces, use the grand pieces! My collection of flow blue is truly suited for all seasons and all kinds of elegant entertaining.
My favorite time to use flow blue is at my Thanksgiving celebration. I love the deep indigo color with the brilliant colors of fall flowers , linens, and accessories. Several patterns of flow blue grace all of my Thanksgiving tables (usually three!).
Bone dishes , butter pats , and other serving pieces mix with two sets of flow blue dinnerware.
One of my most spectacular pieces of flow blue is my turkey platter, made by Dalton, circa 1885. This piece was given to me as a gift by my husband and hangs above an antique sideboard. On Thanksgiving morning he carefully takes it down and later it is loaded with hot turkey and dressing.
On the sideboard below is a lovely flow blue tea set for coffee following lunch, and a cake platter(that I actually put together from a round flow blue platter and a compote). On Thanksgiving, I always make my grandmother’s delicious carmel cake , which proudly sits on my “cake platter”.
Fall flowers are arranged in a flow blue punch bowl that I purchased years ago. On my kitchen bar the punch bowl is surrounded with a mix of flow blue platters, soup tureens, covered vegetable dishes and a variety of other flow blue serving pieces laden with all of the Thanksgiving trimmings. A favorite of my Thanksgiving guests is my homemade yeast “pinch bread”. Several guests request (and often hide!) leftovers for their day after Thanksgiving breakfast.
At the end of a relaxing and filling thanksgiving meal, guests relax watching football games and often eat their yummy favor, a handmade chocolate turkey from the Chocolate Fetish in Asheville, N.C.
And then after days of cooking and a successful Thanksgiving meal for 24-30 friends and family, its breakfast in bed on Friday for me!
After years of searching for a flow blue toast rack , Santa finally brought one in my stocking…thanks to my husband and a wonderful antique dealer friend.
A flow blue Thanksgiving…what a perfect way to use a collection and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for!
Better hurry and enter the Blue and White Book Giveaway. A Passion for Blue and White by Carolyne Roehm, will be won on November 15, 2010, by one of our lucky blog subscribers!