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You can pick up odd pieces of Flowing Blue in almost any antique shop, but it takes some patience to assemble a tea set. However, once you get a few pieces together you will feel the charm and you'll be off on a new hobby. Flowing Blue (also called Flow or Flown) china is available and within the price range of the average collector's purse. Perhaps Flowing Blue, because of the similarity of its patterns, is not so interesting to collect as some other kinds of china, but it is decorative for the dining table and with patient search it is possible to assemble a complete dinner service.
Flowing Blue is a stone china decorated with oriental patterns. It was first made in Staffordshire from about 1825, while the old blue china with historical scenes was still being made and before light-toned scenic china became popular. The stone china base of Flowing Blue distinguished it from the softer pottery base of old blue or light-toned scenic china. Flowing color is produced by action of volatile chlorides upon ceramic colors. The designs are applied to the china surface with ceramic colors, and in the kiln they are exposed to a chloridated atmosphere. The vapor causes the color to spread and blur. The value of the piece is determined by the depth of color and the way the color spreads. Sometimes the pattern is too blurred to be attractive. Although Flowing Blue is the popular and most pleasing color, many of the same patterns were also made in Flowing Brown and Flowing Purple. Cobalt oxide is used for blue, and nickel oxide for brown. The china base for flowing color was stone, usually ironstone, and thus pieces are often marked "Pearl Stone" or "Stone China" or something similar, in addition to the name of the pattern and the maker.
The design motifs of the various Flowing Blue patterns are of oriental inspiration. The majority of the patterns include a temple, a bridge, and a tree. The tree may be a bamboo, a willow, or a flowering tree. Often a boat is included. The motifs are assembled and arranged differently by each designer, and thus the patterns of the various manufacturers vary although they include similar motifs. Also, although the motifs are oriental, the interpretation is Western in spirit and the border is often definitely English in motif as well as feeling. This difference is readily seen by comparing a piece of Flowing Blue with a piece of English Willow ware which is decidedly oriental in feeling.
Many of the well-known potteries made Flowing Blue. William Turner in his book William Adams, an Old English Potter, says, "The flown blue ware of Adams had the reputation of being the best in the trade." Kyber and Tonquin are two patterns in Adams Flowing Blue. The name of the pattern is usually printed on the back of the article and "Adams" is impressed in the ware. Davenport also made excellent Flowing Blue and Brown. The color is dark and the printing good. It is marked with the impressed anchor and "Davenport" impressed. Cypress is a brown Davenport pattern and Amoy is made in Flowing Blue.
E. and J. Mayer of Longport also made fine Flowing Blue, which was imported into America in 1830- Patterns by Mayer include Arabesque, Oregon, and Formosa. The color of Mayer Flowing Blue is strong and clear, the patterns are attractive, and the dark and light well distributed. Fine scroll borders enclose the patterns and the pieces are marked with both the name of the maker and the pattern name.
The best-known Flowing Blue patterns made by Wedgwood are Knight Templar and Chapoo. Chapoo resembles other Flowing Blue designs, the pattern including a temple, a boat and trees, but the trees are flowering in contrast to the palm tree in Adams's Kyber and the bamboo trees in Mayer's Formosa. Chapoo also has a flower border.
Ridgway made several patterns in Flowing Blue, including Oriental and Temple. These are marked with the name of the pattern printed and "Stoneware J.R." or "J.W.R." Ridgway worked between 1814 and 1830.
A pattern called Scinde was made both by J. and J. Alcock and by T. Walker. It is a typical pattern of chinoiserie.
Podmore, Walker & Company also made Flowing Blue. Their bestknown designs are Manila, Temple, and Corean. The pieces are marked P.W. & Co." and sometimes "Pearl Stone Ware." This firm worked between 1842 and 1862.
Other well-known makers of Flowing Blue were E. Challinor & Company of Fenton, who worked after 1850. They made the patterns Pellew and Kin Shaw. These are marked "E. C. & Co." or "E. Challinor." Bab cock made the pattern Chen-Si, and Dixon Phillips manufactured Nonparel in brown. The pattern Troy is marked "C. M.," which may be for the potter Charles Meigh. Barlow was another well-known maker of Flowing Blue.
A group of patterns in Flowing Blue are of Gothic inspiration. These patterns include ruins of old English Gothic buildings and English gardens instead of the usual oriental motifs, and have a graceful border of grapes and grape leaves. Aside from this they are similar to the other patterns of Flowing Blue. The patterns with Gothic motifs are Gothic, Rhine, Rhone, and Coburg, and were made by "J.F. & Co." Rhine is marked "Rhine, Kao-in Ware, J. F. & Co."
Several patterns of Flowing Blue were made by Dillwyn at Swansea in 1838 or later. These include a light-blue print with Chinese scenerywater, rocks, pagodas, sailing boats, a willow tree, and trellis steps. The pattern is called Whampoa and is marked with the name "Dillwyn" impressed over "Swansea," the printed mark "Improved Stoneware, Dillwyn & Co." and a rococo scroll with the name "Whampoa" above. A bold conventional pattern of flowers, foliage, and interlacing stems was also made in Flowing Blue. There is a beaded border, and the plates have a waved edge. Pieces are marked "D" (impressed) and Q which is the transferer's mark.
From the list of the many potteries which made Flowing Blue it would seem that Flowing Blue was a popular ware and a great amount of it must have been made. Also the fact that Flowing Blue and Flowing Brown have been found advertised together indicates that the brown, which has always been considered to be of later date, was made at the same time as the blue although it was never so popular even though many of the same patterns were available.
Flowing Blue was popular in 19th-century America, as evidenced by the following advertisement from the New York Commercial Advertiser, November 2, 1844: "Flowing Blue toilet sets, also Dining sets of the Flowing Blue."
A late pattern of Flowing Blue, which has no relation to the old Flowing Blue except that it was made by the same process, is called IN-lorning Glory. It is a simple naturalistic floral pattern and does not have the oriental feeling or the depth of color of the older patterns. It is marked "Lancaster."
Flowing Blue was also made in Holland about 1850. This ware is marked "Maastricht China" or "Repout & Co. Maastricht Holland." The patterns are Siam, Timur, and Petrus. There is also a decorative blue flower and leaf pattern similar to the designs on earlier hand-painted earthenware.