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By Nash Black
Do you remember the special dishes your grandmother kept in the cabinet for family celebrations or Sunday dinners? Maybe she had only one piece – a large platter that held a holiday ham or a turkey.
Was the pattern an oriental design with a temple, a willow tree leaning over a stream, a man in a boat, a bridge, two birds, bushes, and a fence? If so, she had an example of the china pattern that holds the record of the longest unbroken line of production – Blue Willow.
Somewhere in the world manufacturers are still creating the same pattern that began in the early 1700s. Over the years, it has changed very little, if at all.
This unique patter had come to symbolize hearth, home, family, prosperity, and security. While watching TV or a movie it easy to spot when any of the actors sit down to a meal or a snack. It was John Wayne’s favorite pattern and appeared in most of his movies. It is fun to watch new productions to see if they still use the willow pattern though it may not always be blue.
The pattern is found in a rainbow of colors: red, pink, green, orange, yellow, brown, black, burgundy, lavender, and fine gold inlay. It has been produced in many countries where the clay used for the manufacture of china and porcelain is found.
This distinctive pattern is used on book covers, record albums sleeves, napkins, flatware, etched on crystal, imprinted on bathroom sinks, engraved on brass bed warmers, clothing & upholstery, soap, wallpaper, thimbles, hairbrushes, shaving mugs, and the list goes on and on.
The pattern tells a story of a young man, the girl he loves, her father, their escape from her home and their deaths. It is a tale that is associated with China, but has original literary roots in the annals of the King Arthur legends of the Britain and Ireland. It is an oriental retelling of the love story of Tristan and Isolda which occurred around the 8th century. The willow story is told in song in Shakespeare as an old folk melody. It is one of the major love stories of the ages.
You will find pieces at garage/yard/estate sales, as grocery store premiums, or in antique malls. What may begin with finding a child’s tea set or a piece you remember from way back when can become a life-long passion of collecting the Willow Pattern.