from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. Household china decorated with a blue-on-white design depicting a willow tree and often a river.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. Articles made from willow.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. chinaware decorated with a blue Chinese design on a white background depicting a willow tree and often a river
The garden resembled the “old-fashioned plates of blue Liverpool ware,” Taylor wrote, alluding to one of the many producers of willowware, “with a representation of two Chinese houses, a willow tree, a bridge with three Chinamen walking over it, and two crows in the air.”
With respect to willowware in particular, in 1843 a British writer attested to its instructive value: The earliest record that we have of Chinese customs, is to be found in the willow pattern plate.
Thomas Turner, working for the Caughley establishment in Shropshire in the 1780s, designed a precursor to willowware.
In describing the pattern, he noted the trees with leaves “like cherries” and the “three men passing over a triangular bridge,” details that strongly suggest he was looking at Chinese-designed imitations of willowware.
In short, sales of both Canton china and willowware benefited from what we could call a “China effect.”
And the tremendous popularity of this legend had the effect of creating a vogue for willowware.
Still, with its production in England, willowware lacked one critical attribute that had contributed heavily to the success of its Chinese competitor: the mystique and romance that origin in a distant Far Eastern country could lend to an object?
Another poem on the subject suggests that many people actually believed that both willowware and the romantic willow legend came from China, not England.
Note 23: Perhaps realizing that Americans preferred to think of the willow legend as of Chinese origin, the Buffalo China Company, the first American pottery company to produce willowware, misinformed potential customers in its 1905 catalog: The legend illustrated by the Blue Willow ware decoration is centuries old.
Owners of willowware and Canton china, then, apparently took quite seriously these small designs that we now deem unrealistic and purely ornamental.
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