A China Story


My sister and I had a few doll dishes. They would hold several dandelion stems or a handful of wrinkled toadstools—enough, anyway, for us to imagine we were dining in a fancy restaurant, especially when we set our silver plastic vase with the yellow plastic roses on the card table.

My favorite was a tin plate, slightly bigger than a fifty-cent piece, printed with the Blue Willow design. You know the one—a blue scene on a white background. A temple with curly eaves, a willow tree, two birds in flight, three figures crossing a bridge and a boat on the waves. I used to study it and wonder what the story was. Were the people on the bridge going fishing or running away?

For my newest story-painting—commissioned for a little girl named Katy– I chose kiwi-birds wearing kimonos. They are climbing a grassy knoll and carrying birthday items toward a Blue Willow inspired pagoda. I also borrowed some of the china pattern’s plants and tree to dress the scene.

Wikipedia states that Blue Willow and other similar china patterns, called chinoiserie. were inspired by royal oriental works of art. Originally hand-painted, the designs had become so popular by the late 1700’s that china-producing firms developed a transfer method that made mass-production possible. Blue Willow dishes have remained a favorite for over two hundred years—Wikipedia tells us that newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s wife prized her gold-rimmed set.

Best of all? There is a story! The china companies invented one to sell dishes to story-lovers like me.  Click here to read it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willow_pattern

Here’s to fine dining on storybook china.

Now, how would you like your toadstools?