Wonderful Willow Pattern

The Willow Pattern (or Blue Willow) is a well-loved classic blue and white china pattern. It was originally designed by a Thomas Minton, in England in 1790. The pattern was inspired by similar pieces which the English imported from China in the 1700’s.

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One of the broken willow pattern pieces I had. All the elements of the story can be clearly seen here.

In order to promote Minton’s original design, stories were invented using the various elements of the pattern. These stories were English in origin and were not true Chinese fables. The most popular story was as follows (this is an extract from a Wikipedia article on the subject:

Once there was a wealthy Madarin, who had a beautiful daughter (Koong-se). She had fallen in love with her father’s humble accounting assistant (Chang), angering her father (it was inappropriate for them to marry due to their difference in social class). He dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to keep the lovers apart. The Mandarin was planning for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke. The Duke arrived by boat to claim his bride, bearing a box of jewels as a gift. The wedding was to take place on the day the blossom fell from the willow tree. 

On the eve of the daughter’s wedding to the Duke, the young accountant, disguised as a servant, slipped into the palace unnoticed. As the lovers escaped with the jewels, the alarm was raised. They ran over a bridge, chased by the Mandarin, whip in hand. They eventually escaped on the Duke’s ship to the safety of a secluded island, where they lived happily for years. But one day, the Duke learned of their refuge. Hungry for revenge, he sent soldiers, who captured the lovers and put them to death. The gods, moved by their plight, transformed the lovers into a pair of doves (possibly a later addition to the tale, since the birds do not appear on the earliest willow pattern plates).

A charming collection

This design has remained popular for more than 200 years and has been re-produced by almost all of the major porcelain and china manufacturers in England. The pattern has been made in all sorts of different colours but the classic royal blue and white remains a favourite.

I have been fortunate to obtain some beautiful Willow Pattern plates (and some other classic blue and white china) in the past week. These will be for sale at the House of Heart from next week. Any damaged pieces I find I make into pendants and the Willow Pattern pendants are always popular with our customers.

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Here is a pendant I made a while ago with the two birds.

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This is a pendant made with the boat scene