Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blue Willow Dishes

One of my earliest memories was having a set of child-sized Blue Willow dishes. Although only five, I was careful to never chip or break a piece. I used milk or juice in the teapot, marshmallows in the bowls, and served vanilla wafer meals on the plates. How I loved those dishes, and how devastated I was when a visiting friend destroyed them with one accurate strike to my tot tea table loaded with the entire set. Although Santa replaced them with a set of floral china that I still have, I never felt the same about the new dishes and longed for my old Blue Willow.

Blue Willow china was put into production sometime in the late 1700’s in England. The pattern of a bridge, pagoda, Chinese servants or fishermen, and two blue birds flying above the scene were inspired by a Chinese story of a father who would not let her daughter marry her true love. The couple eloped and the father threatened to kill them when caught, but the gods saved them by changing the couple to love birds for life. The pattern became popular, and broken shards are often found in old sea wrecks, old trash dumps, and excavations sites. The pattern traveled across oceans in rolling ships and across prairies in covered wagons. The pattern was a favorite for everyday dishes of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

One day I was shopping in a local bed and breakfast gift shop that was going out of business. There I spied an adult-sized platter and vegetable dish in the Blue Willow pattern. The fact that is was stamped Made in Japan and made of the richest shade of blue enticed me further to bring it home with me. Thus, my collecting of Willow started. I now have some in every room of the house, use it on the table for daily meals, and I even have a few pieces stashed under the bed.

(Laura Ingallas Wilder's dishes on display in
Manketo, MN near the setting of her Little
House on Plum Creek story.)

My friends have helped me out knowing my love of Willow. Different ones have given me a chocolate set, a child’s plate, a platter, an odd cup here and there. My mother-in-law donated her Willow cake plate to my cause. I hand carried an unusual cup and saucer home on a flight from Vermont, and I bought a whole box of odd plates in a dusty shop in eastern Colorado. Of course, DH and I canvass flea markets looking for fresh pieces. Although you can still buy a set of Blue Willow dishes new, it is much more fun to “seek and find". Besides, the older pieces have the richest shades of blue and more detail.

Recently, neighbors down the street were downsizing. He had a few pieces of his mother’s old Blue Willow and asked me if I’d like to look. I bought a platter that was like many I have only a tiny bit more oval, along with the one rice bowl he had with a stamp on the bottom from Holland. I also bought a blue and white bowl that is not Blue Willow, but it looks to be a flow blue, old and fits right in to complement all my Willow.

1 comment:

Leann Holland said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My grandmother had a set. She past away twenty plus years ago. I don't know what happened to it. Maybe my mom knows. I need to follow up. Again, thanks for the memory.