"Blue Willow" is one of the most popular china patterns ever produced. It illustrates a Chinese legend of unhappy lovers and the pattern portrays the main story elements of their lives.
The blue willow pattern originated in England. Thomas Minton engraved the pattern for Thomas Turner in 1780. Turner specialized in producing Chinese designs in blue under-glaze. Josiah Spode is believed to have created his own version around 1784.
Around the time the blue willow pattern was introduced, the English were fascinated by anything Chinese. Blue-and-white Chinese porcelain had been imported to Europe but was very expensive. By the 1760s a transfer method rather than hand-painting was devised and printing patterns under a glaze rather than on top meant that the pattern could be inexpensively produced. This only added to its popularity.
Spode was so successful with his blue willow pattern that many china makers began offering their own versions of the pattern.
The Love Story
The intricate engravings of the blue willow pattern illustrate the story of two Chinese lovers, who are represented in the pattern by two birds flying above a willow tree.
Variations on Blue
While the pattern was most popular in blue, many pieces were made in red, green and brown.
Today, the pattern continues to be popular and is still being manufactured.