When and Where was Blue Willow Made?

Most fine china collectors know about Blue Willow china because the design on these china sets is extremely popular among collectors. But when and where was Blue Willow china originally made?

Blue Willow china was originally designed around 1779 by Thomas Turner and Thomas Minton, who worked for the Caughly factory. Spode is believed to be the first to mass-produce Blue Willow in the 1790s. Blue Willow china was made in England originally but is now often made in Japan. The Blue Willow design is based on patterns seen on fine china from Japan imported to England.

The history of Blue Willow china is fascinating, especially because it was originally manufactured in England rather than China or Japan. More information about Blue Willow china and its origins is below.

Blue Willow Plate Photo by James Yolkowski, 2005 by James Yolkowski., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2810575

When Did Blue Willow Come Out

Blue Willow china originally came out in 1779 and soon became a staple in homes around England. There were two extremely popular patterns available: the Willow-Nankin and Broseley patterns. Because Blue Willow china was manufactured in England, it was much cheaper than the china sets that were imported from Japan. (Source)

Blue Willow china was also cheaper than the china dining sets that were imported from Japan because of how the pattern was printed onto the plates and cups. Instead of hand-painting the patterns, they were printed onto the cups and plates through the use of copper plates that had the pattern inside. (Source)

This method of printing onto china is called “transfer printing”, or “transferware”, and was created in the 1700s. It was an extremely popular method of printing in England, especially when printing intricate designs on fragile materials.

Various Blue Willow Dishes
Various Blue Willow Dishes from JunkinLuv on Etsy

Who Made the Original Blue Willow

The original Blue Willow design was made by Thomas Turner and Thomas Minton. They worked for a printing company called the Caughley Factory. The company printed a variety of designs that were also seen on china sets imported from Asia, but the Blue Willow design was one of the designs created by workers of the company.

However, items were added to the Blue Willow after the Caughley Factory stopped manufacturing Blue Willow china sets. Designers added to the design, and those added designs are still seen on Blue Willow china sets today.

Thomas Minton later apprenticed under Josiah Spode, and Spode pottery is believed to have been the first to mass-produce blue willow pieces in the 1790s in England.

What is the Original Blue Willow

The original Blue Willow design depicts a beautiful scene, based on the Blue Willow Story, that includes the following items:

  • Willow Trees
  • Apple or Orange Trees (Chinese Pine Trees)
  • Three men on a bridge
  • A Fence
  • A Boat
  • A Teahouse or Pagoda
  • Two Flying Birds

When the Blue Willow china pattern was released, customers were told the story of two star-crossed lovers who supposedly inspired the design. However, that was a marketing ploy. It worked, but after the lie was revealed, owners of Blue Willow china sets were disappointed when they found out the truth.

Is Blue Willow Made in Japan

Blue Willow china sets are currently made in Japan. Although the pattern was not originally designed or manufactured in Japan, in the 1920s Japanese china set manufacturers started including the designs on the china sets that they had available to the public.

However, Blue Willow china sets that are made in Japan look slightly different than the Blue Willow china sets that were manufactured in England. Many people find that the Japanese Blue Willow china sets have a darker and more saturated color than the England sets. (Source)

Blue Willow china sets are still being manufactured in Japan.

A Blue Willow Plate produced in Japan in the 1900s
A Blue Willow Plate produced in Japan in the 1900s
Back of a Blue Willow Plate produced in Japan in the 1900s
Back of a Blue Willow Plate produced in Japan in the 1900s

Is Blue Willow Still Made

Blue Willow china is still manufactured. It is currently made in Japan, but there are hundreds of other manufacturers located around the world. If you want to purchase a new set of Blue Willow china, find one of those manufacturers that are located near you or purchase the set that you want online.

However, if you purchase Blue Willow china sets online, make sure they are making genuine Blue Willow china. There are many companies and independent people who make inauthentic Blue Willow china sets, and their products are often subpar.

Blue Willow china sets were popular in England and around the world in the late 1700s and 1800s. These china sets were extremely popular partially because it was said that royalty had a set of Blue Willow china in her dining room and loved it. People wanted what royalty had. Whether or not that was true or just a clever marketing ploy is not currently known. (Source)

It was also popular because the England Blue Willow china sets were cheaper than china sets that were imported from Japan and China that had similar or different patterns. They also loved the supposed star-crossed lovers’ story that was behind the original design on Blue Willow china sets.

Blue Willow china sets are still extremely popular among those who use and collect china. In fact, there is a club of people who collect Blue Willow china sets.

The International Willow Collectors club meets periodically. During their conventions and meetings, these collectors show off their pieces to others who also love Blue Willow china. These collectors also sell the sets that they have and purchase new ones.

Blue Willow Covered Tureen from Real Old Willow - Made in England
Blue Willow Covered Tureen from Booths Real Old Willow – Made in England – $225 From GoldenBeeAntiques on Etsy

If you have a Blue Willow china set and want to know how old it is or how much it is worth, you should go to one of the conventions held by the International Willow Collectors club. At these conventions, there will be many people who know how to date Blue Willow china sets and can tell give an estimated valuation. You may even be able to sell it to an interested collector who is attending the convention if you decide that you want to sell your Blue Willow china set.

Alternatively, you can search for Blue Willow on sites such as ebay and Etsy to help identify and value your Blue Willow pieces.

Overall, Blue Willow china sets are sets of plates and cups that have beautiful designs on them. They are still extremely popular, even though they were originally designed and manufactured in the 1700s. They have a rich history behind them and will look wonderful in your china cabinet if you purchase a set.

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