THE HISTORY OF BLUE WILLOW
I have seen credit given for the willow china pattern given to at least two different people. One would be Thomas Turner who is said to have introduced the famous design in about 1780. The original copper plate for his design was engraved by Thomas Minton and is still preserved at Coalport China. The most reported story says that the willow design was the creation of Josiah Spode, a derivation of an original Chinese pattern called Mandarin. Spode developed his willow pattern sometime around 1790.
The traditional willow design always features a large beautiful Chinese home with a willow tree, small bridge with 3 figures, a humble servants house at the foot of the bridge, a small Chinese boat & of course the famous love birds above the willow tree. The romantic lore of the design could have added to it's popularity over the years.
The story goes something like this …….
Long ago, in the days when China was ruled by emperors, a Chinese mandarin, Tso Ling, lived in the magnificent pagoda under the branches of the apple tree on the right of the bridge, over which droops the famous willow tree, and in front of which is seen the graceful lines of the fence. Tso Ling was the father of a beautiful girl, Kwang-se, who was the promised bride of an old but wealthy merchant. The girl, however, fell in love with Chang, her father's clerk. The lovers eloped across the sea to the cottage on the island. The mandarin pursued and treated the lovers and was about to have them killed when the gods transformed them into a pair of turtle doves. These are seen gazing into each other's eyes at the top of the design. A lengthy and old Staffordshire poem of the pattern concludes with the verse: "In the oft quoted plate two birds are perceivable, High in the heaven above: These are the spirits of Chang and Kwang-se, A twin pair of ever in love" .
Companies That Produce Willow China Due to Spode's obvious success with the Blue Willow design, many, many pottery & china companies went on to produce some version of it. Here is a list of manufacturers that I am familiar with that produced or still do produce Blue Willow.
Adams Adderly Alfred Meakin Allerton Barratt Booths Buffalo (restaurantware & hotelware) Burslem Churchill Coalport Cuthbertson Homer Laughlin John Maddox & Sons Johnson Brothers McCoy Pottery Myott Made in China Made in Holland Made in Japan Maruta Moriyama Pottery (Japan) Norcrest Ridgeway Royal China Royal Doulton Royal Wessex Scio Pottery (Ohio) Spode Staffordshire Syracuse China (Restaurantware & Hotelware) Wedgewood Wood & Sons
VARIETY OF WILLOW ITEMS As the popularity of Blue Willow great & great over the years many companies begin to make a variety of merchandize to coordinate with the customer's china pieces. You can find just about anything in Blue Willow including but not limited to: glassware, wallpaper, linens, tablecloths & towels, flatware & cutlery, picture frames, piggy banks, cookware, enamelware, fabric, tins, needlepoint pillows & candles, switchplates, items for bed & bath, soap dishes, even paper products including paper plated & napkins!
Beside numerous price guides written to aid collectors, there is a child's story book entitled BLUE WILLOW by Doris Gates. You might enjoy recipes from The Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking.
In 2005 there was even an animated short movie made in New Zealand that tells Blue Willow's story of love & family betrayal.
The willow design is also made in red (sometimes called red transferware, or pink willow), green, brown & multicolored.
There are many Blue Willow pieces now being made in China. These are nice pieces to fill in your collection with & much more reasonable than antique or vintage pieces. There are sellers however that try to pass these newly produced items off as vintage or antique. Be sure you are buying from a reputable sellers.Also be sure what you are buying is actually blue willow. I have seen Flow Blue, Blue Onion, Blue Calico & other Blue Transferware advertised as Blue Willow.
The most valuable Blue Willow items are the early English, Staffordshire & Spode pieces. The Mid Century Made in Japan pieces are growing in popularity as well & can command a good price on unusual styles. There are quite a few restaurantware collectors out there too, so the heavy restaurant weight china usually does well.
I hope this has given you a little insight into collecting Blue Willow China ~ Have Fun!