The Blue Willow pattern may be the most recognizable pattern of china ever produced, with a scene that tells the tale of two lovers. Created in the late 18th century, it was applied to plates, cups, vessels, and more by manufacturers around the world, each with its own distinct variations. While the pattern was most popular in blue, pieces were also made in red, pink, green, black, and brown.
The design tells the legend of two star-crossed lovers. Long ago, a father and daughter lived in a magnificent pagoda under an apple tree. Next to the pagoda was a bridge, over which drooped a willow tree, and in front of which was a graceful fence. The daughter was promised to a wealthy merchant, but she fell in love with her father’s clerk. The lovers eloped across the sea to an island cottage and when her father found them to kill them, the gods transformed them into a pair of birds.
The story has inspired plays, books, and, of course, beautiful ceramics of all shapes and colors. After pieces of this lovely china were discarded, some made their way into the waterways, where they were tossed and smoothed by the waves. They are considered a lucky find by many beachcombers, especially a piece that shows the two love birds in flight.
Modern Blue Willow Pattern
While you dream of finding your own piece of wave-tumbled pottery with the famous Blue Willow love birds, you can decorate your home—and even your pet—with these modern and whimsical takes on the classic design.
The Willow Pattern
by B. L. Bowers
Whilst we sit around the table, Please allow me to relate,
The entrancing ancient fable, Of “The Willow Pattern Plate.”
Every picture tells a story, Like the Willow Pattern Plate,
Where two lovers dwelt in glory, And defied paternal hate.
By elopement from the castle You observe upon the ridge,
Where the violent old rascal, Chases them across the bridge.
Tries to catch the rogue and whip him, ‘Ere he steals the daughter fair;
But the loving pair outstrip him, Let him languish in despair.
Thrown upon their own resources, In a junk they emigrate,
To a splendid little oasis,,Near the margin of the plate.
Dwell in peace, whilst unmolested, In most perfect harmony;
Till at length they are arrested, by his Nibs’ gendarmerie.
Then the tyrant lord appeals to Law and lucre, with their pow’r;
Caught, confined, they have their meals too, In that horrid little tow’r.
When the pair are executed, To appease their lord irate,
To a pair of doves transmuted, Still they fly upon the plate.
Every picture tells a story, Like the Willow Pattern blue,
And true love will reign in glory, To infinity! Adieu
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2020 issue