History of Blue Willow Dishes


"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.

Early Popularity

  • 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.

Many Makers

  • 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.

Current Popularity

  • Today, the pattern continues to be popular and is still being manufactured.

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  • Photo Credit willow plates image by Edsweb from Fotolia.com
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