Blue Willow dinnerware is a classic and well-known type of dinnerware that has been around for a very long time. It is one of those timeless collections that almost everyone has seen at some time in their lives. You may even own a set already. If not, you may decide you want one once you learn more about them. Let's learn about its rich history, ambiguous origins, and the love that has grown for this dinnerware pattern over many generations.
The History of Blue Willow Dinnerware
Blue Willow Dinnerware has been prevalent since its creation in the 1700s. No one knows the exact origin of the pattern, but credit is given to at least three creators - Thomas Minton, Thomas Turner, and Josiah Spode.
There are many legends about blue willow which claim that it originated in China, but most believe that it is of English origin. However, most designs have an oriental look to them, so they were probably inspired by Chinese design. At any rate, it has been around for a long time and has become a favorite of collectors.
Willow designs are not always blue, although blue willow is the most widely acclaimed. This transferware method of producing dinnerware is commonly featured using blue, pink, red, green, or brown colors transferred over a white background. Several manufacturers have produced and still produce blue willow designs.
Origin of the blue willow design
It is believed the design was inspired by Chinese porcelain that had paintings and patterns in cobalt blue under the glaze. These dishes were known as blue and white porcelain, and were manufactured in China and then exported to other countries.
Cobalt blue pigments came from the mining industry in the Middle East. China imported pigments as raw materials and used them in their porcelain production. At that time, China was considered the master of producing porcelain and it was one of their main exports. In fact, that is why porcelain dishes are called China today.
Some of the blue and white porcelain featured Islamic designs, but a lot of them were adorned with paintings of what was thought to be Chinese landscapes but have since been called more of a fantasy created by imagination. These Chinese creations inspired the development of the Blue Willow design.
The Chinese blue and white porcelain was most often hand-painted, while the British version is considered transferware, where the pattern is applied under glaze by transfer or stamp.
Who was the originator of the design?
The originator of the Blue Willow pattern is unknown. However, the first development of the pattern is presented to be from the Staffordshire area of England. As mentioned above, three people have been credited with the origination of the pattern. They are Thomas Minton, Thomas Turner, and Josiah Spode.
Thomas Turner is believed to be the originator of the pattern, as he specialized in creating blue under-glaze patterns with Chinese designs, although Thomas Minton is believed to be the one that did the engraving of the willow pattern on the original copper plate that was used to transfer the pattern to porcelain. Minton was an apprentice to Turner and later to Josiah Spode, who was responsible for mass distribution that led to the popularity of the pattern.
The Willow pattern was first introduced in 1780 and went into mass production in 1784. The pattern was picked up by several manufacturers, who tweaked the pattern a bit to make it different. Today, the pattern is still produced by several manufacturers and it is still widespread with slight variations, but the same recognizable look. These dishes are highly collectible, as you might suspect.
Blue Willow China
Some people call all dinnerware "China" as the term has come to be synonymous for many. This China is adorned with an intricate pattern of blue that appears on a white background, making it easy to spot among other types. Most of the Blue Willow dishes are made of porcelain, but from time to time ceramic dishes with Blue Willow designs can be found.
The elaborate pattern was very popular in the eighteenth century, and production of it has continued for over two hundred years. In fact, versions of the Blue Willow dinnerware are produced by several manufacturers today, which we will list for you below.
Blue Willow Dinnerware Sets
Blue Willow dinnerware sets are made by several dinnerware manufacturers. They are a popular choice in dinnerware and they have one thing in common. Basically, they all have the same or similar pattern, but it differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. Most of the differences are in the borders, and the shapes of pieces vary from company to company. The material used in the production can also vary.
The Blue Willow design has been around since 1780, so there are many variations to choose from when looking for a building a dinnerware set. There are even some Blue Willow dishes with gold trim for an added layer of beauty.
Spode is the company that made the pattern popular. The Spode version is said to have been created from the inspiration of the original Chinese pattern, the Mandarin. There are a lot of contradictions and legends concerning the history of the Blue Willow. Regardless of its history, the Blue Willow design contributes to beautiful dinnerware and collectibles.
Blue Willow dinnerware manufacturers
Other producers of blue willow dinnerware include Adams, Addterly, Alfred Meakin, Allerton, Barratt, Booths, Buslem, Coalport, Cuthbertson, Maddox and Sons, McCoy, Myott, Norcrest, Ridgeway, Royal China, Royal Wessex, Staffordshire, and Wood and Sons. I am quite certain that there are more, but this is a good start to finding the dinnerware that you desire.
Blue Willow plates and décor
Blue Willow plates are simply gorgeous and are definitely attractive as decorative items. It's a popular pattern to collect and display and decorate with. There are also many different types of plates with this pattern so you can get creative with décor elements of it.
In the Blue Willow dinnerware line, you will find dinner plates, salad plates, dessert plates, and platters that look wonderful when displayed in a China cabinet, in wall-hanging plate holders, or on easels. Johnson Brothers even makes Blue Willow square plates.
The Blue Willow design is available in China, of course, but there are tons of decorative items that use the design. From lamps to rugs and from aprons to wallpaper, this design is an elegant decorating theme that is easy to mix and match for excellent home décor. You can even get Blue Willow fabric, which is a plus.
A mixture of plates and platters looks wonderful as wall hangings. This can be done in a kitchen or dining room, but I have even seen collections of plates over a bed or on a living room wall.
There are plenty of Blue Willow dishes that can be used to accent the décor. These can be a Blue Willow tea set displayed on a coffee table, a vase filled with flowers displayed on a nightstand, or a divided tray used on a dresser to keep jewelry organized. There are even trinket boxes made with the Blue Willow pattern.
The Blue Willow pattern is timeless and it is so popular that you can find it in many types of home décor, not just on the dinner table. It is a great theme for kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms or dens, offices, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
Blue Willow tea sets
Blue Willow tea sets are beautiful, collectible items that are sure to become heirlooms. They are a wonderful addition to a set, but they are also great alone or in a collection of teapots.
Tea sets can be used as home décor, just like the plates are often used. They look great in a kitchen or dining room, of course, but they also make a home look inviting when used in a living area or a bedroom as part of the home décor.
Blue Willow tea sets are available in many designs from modern to antique. Vintage tea sets are easily found and there is really a great variety to choose from. Some of them, especially older vintage designs, sell for a lot of money today.
When browsing for tea sets, I found some rare items. I particularly liked the stacking tea set in the Blue Willow design. There are also tea caddies and jars, tea cozies, and tea warmers that would perfectly accompany a Blue Willow teapot with teacups and saucers.
I also found cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, and wallpaper borders that feature the Blue Willow teapot; quite perfect for a tea room. I even found children's tea sets in this pattern. There are so many different styles of tea sets in the historical Blue Willow pattern. I find collecting it inspiring.
I have a dinnerware set in Blue Willow and I'm seriously thinking about decorating a whole room, or the entire house in the Blue Willow pattern. It is a very relaxing pattern based on a love story in the colors cobalt blue and white. In my opinion, it makes beautiful home décor. And no tea set is complete without a cherished teapot.
Blue willow teapot
A Blue Willow teapot is a wonderful addition to a Blue Willow China collection. Also, there are so many variations of the teapot, made by different manufacturers, that it makes sense to just collect teapots in the pattern. Nearly all of the manufacturers of the Blue Willow design produce Blue Willow tea sets to accompany their dinnerware line.
I was amazed at the selection of antique and vintage Blue Willow teapots that are available. When browsing for teapots to see which companies made them, I found that many companies made them with various takes of the pattern. Furthermore, I also found that they are available in many shapes, from round to square, and in various designs with embossed features, some smooth and some with ridges. There were even some with gold trim and accents.
About Blue Willow Dinnerware Sets
Blue Willow dinnerware sets have an iconic look that has been beloved for centuries. These sets offer a wide variety of different plates, bowls, mugs, and teapots that are available in various sizes and styles. Traditionally, Blue Willow was crafted out of ceramic material. However, today Blue Willow is made from a variety of materials such as steel, wood, and plastic.
The intricate designs on Blue Willow pieces feature delicate cobalt-blue branches with exotic birds and mythical figures interspersed throughout the pattern. Blue Willow tableware adds a practical yet aesthetic touch to any home - making it perfect for both formal occasions or casual everyday use. Some people like to collect these sets and may have more than one dinnerware set in Blue Willow. Many collectors will also pass their sets down through generations as a family heirlooms.
Here are a couple of sets you can find today on Amazon.
Churchill Blue Willow Plates Bowls Cups 20 Piece Dinnerware Set, Made in England
Here's a beautiful set from Churchill in the classic and recognizable design. This 20-piece set has everything you need for serving a full table setting. They are made in England.
Johnson Brothers Willow Blue 4 Piece Place Setting
Here's a nice, small set from Johnson Brothers that covers one singular place setting. It has a plate, bowl, cup, and saucer. You can buy multiples of this if you want a full table setting with it.
Unique designs and looks
Each piece of Blue Willow Dinnerware is unique in its own way and stands as an enduring reminder of timeless artistry. From country cottages to contemporary condos, Blue Willow sets are sure to impress any guest with their attractive charm and endless versatility. They are so well known and easily recognizable, they're what comes to mind for a lot of people when they think about fancy or classic dinnerware.
Whether you're hosting a special event or just cooking up a cozy meal at home - Blue Willow Dinnerware will give any table setting the stylish impact it deserves! Let's take a look at how you can choose the right set for you.
Vintage Blue Willow
If you love collecting vintage sets, you can look for vintage Blue Willow sets from 1940-2003. Johnson Bros made these sets in England and many can be found secondhand today from collectible sites and eBay. Of course, there are also vintage sets from well before that and if you're lucky enough to find some of the earliest pieces still intact, they can be worth a lot of money to collectors.
They can be passed down from generation to generation or given as heirlooms since Blue Willows is known for its unique design aesthetic, durable nature, and historical importance from mythology to modern-day artistry.
Selecting a Set
As we've explained, there are many options when it comes to Blue Willow dinnerware. First, you need to decide, do you want a currently produced pattern, or do you want to collect vintage or antique dinnerware with the Blue Willow design?
The easiest way to select a dinnerware set is to seek currently produced dinnerware sets. If you want to go antique or vintage, most likely it will take some time and patience to create a whole dinnerware set.
Brands that make blue willow dishes
Currently, dinnerware sets are readily available from Johnson Brothers and Churchill China. Both of these dinnerware sets are made of earthenware. Whether you choose Johnson Bros or Churchill China, you can ensure the iconic design and highest quality that these brands have brought for many years.
There are distinct differences between these two patterns. While the center of the pattern is comparable, the borders differ as well as the shape and design of the cup. The blue of the Churchill pattern seems to be a bit brighter than the Johnson Brothers' cobalt blue pattern.
The Johnson Brothers' pattern was originally produced in England, but currently produced is made in China. The dinnerware company, now part of the Wedgwood Group, is well known for producing high-quality dinnerware. This company originated in 1883.
The Churchill Blue Willow version is made in England. This company originated in 1795 and is also known for producing high-quality dinnerware.
What Comes In A Dinnerware Set?
There are different pieces you can find in a dinnerware set from blue willow. A traditional 20-piece set, for example, will have:
- Twelve dinner plates
- Four teacups
- Four saucers
Larger dinnerware sets might have pieces in addition to the plates and teacups & saucers. There could be a butter dish or butter plate, for example. You may also have luncheon plates, which are typically smaller than dinner plates. Some sets will also have soup bowls or dessert plates.
Gift and Decorating Ideas
A Blue Willow mug can serve as the foundation of wonderful gifts and décor items that are sure to be loved by whoever you give them to. If you are into collecting, it may make sense to pick a particular piece, like a mug or Blue Willow plates, to make up a collection of the various versions of the design. These items can be used for décor as accessories that coordinate well with blue and white décor.
Of course, there are currently produced dinnerware pieces, which are easy to find, or the selection of antique or vintage China which can represent a great find.
Blue Willow mugs and gifts
Blue Willow mugs are great for setting the theme for a gift basket. The gift basket can include some mugs, coffee or tea selections, or even breakfast items. You can put items into the mug itself, or place the mug in a basket full of other beautiful gift items.
If you want to add a touch of history, you might even consider adding a Blue Willow book. There are a couple of fictional books with the title "Blue Willow". There are also Blue Willow recipe books. A collector would love a collector's valuation guide.
Fabric is available with the Blue Willow design, and kitchen items, like dish towels and potholders, can also be found. These items are great for making a gift basket complete.
A mug can also serve as the base of a flower arrangement or the all-popular candy bouquet. The possibilities are really endless and this timeless pattern serves well in creating original, homemade gift items.
If you want to step up a notch, you might consider using a Blue Willow teapot as the base of gift items. It looks wonderful filled with flowers and can serve as a long-term décor item.
Blue Willow dinnerware sets are simply gorgeous, and the pattern itself tells a story that makes it very original. Whether you go with a traditional Chinoiserie pattern or a modern contemporary take with the same blue color, you can be sure you will get something beautiful that's made to last.
Learn about this and other dinnerware manufacturers to help you decide which ones you want.
Collecting Blue Willow China
Blue Willow dinnerware sets are sought after by collectors around the world. Blue Willow porcelain is produced by many dinnerware manufacturers who create their own version of this popular pattern. If collecting blue willow, it is best to learn more about the pattern.
It's good to know what version of blue willow you desire. The manufacturer and the year of production play a role in choosing patterns that match; however, many collectors combine different patterns. Some collectors concentrate on a particular piece, like a ginger jar or blue willow tea sets, and collect all versions of the blue willow pattern, while others concentrate on completing dinnerware sets or collecting blue dinnerware from a certain era or country.
If you are interested in collecting antique or vintage blue willow, you need Blue Willow price guides or collectors' guides to help you learn more about what you have and its value: this book should help!
The Value of Blue Willow Dishes
The value of Blue Willow dishes varies, based on the piece, the manufacturer, the date of production, and so forth. The famous Blue Willow design is inspired by Chinese blue and white porcelain, which is commonly hand-painted. However, it was introduced by English porcelain dinnerware manufacturers as transferware. If your version is hand-painted, it can be worth even more than the transferware versions.
Obviously, the antique versions of Blue Willow China, including the original version, will be of more value that currently produced products or even vintage Blue Willow dinnerware.
Because of the popularity of the design, there were many copycats who made imitations of the pattern. Serious collectors also have to know how to avoid copycats and ensure they have the real thing.
For serious collectors
If you just like Blue Willow dishes, You may enjoy currently produced dinnerware sets. You can use these to display the pattern or for everyday use at your table setting. However, if you are interested in collecting for the value, it is best to consult a collector's identification and value guide.
The guide will also be helpful if you have a Blue Willow collection and are looking to liquidate it.
All Blue Willow designs are not created equal. In addition, they won't have the same value. Some dinnerware and porcelain pieces are not worth a lot. However, another piece might be the needle in a haystack that is really valuable. If you are looking at collecting or liquidating a collection, you should know what you are getting or what you have. Otherwise, buying and selling may become a fruitless effort.
When collecting dinnerware, sometimes it is best to go for individual items, like Blue Willow plates, vases, or other collectibles with the well-known design. When searching for antiques or vintage, you'll likely have a hard time finding a full set completed. However, searching for the missing pieces is part of the fun for some collectors. Additionally, even individual pieces can be worth a lot of money.
A common phrase in the collecting world is "the value of the collection is based on what the buyer is willing to pay". A piece that you have might be worth a lot to someone who needs it to complete their set.