Blue and white china is one of the most popular collectibles ever. If you add in a touch of red or an American flag, it's a great collectible for the Fourth of July weekend. Blue and white china can be incorporated into so many decorating schemes, adding a dramatic, classic statement.
My introduction to blue and white china occurred when, as a child, I received a sweet little plastic blue and white bulb holder dish late one winter. This cheap imitation, decorated with Holland scenes, was perfect for the bulbs that were housed in it. Watching the striking color of a spring bulb appear in the Dutch setting was magical.
Another reason to love blue and white china is that the scenes pictured on the plates, platters, pitchers and other pieces are fascinating. Pastoral and lovely, these scenes often include castles, cathedrals, rivers and people arranged in soft settings. With the popularity of toile fabric in home decor today, this china is enjoying new attention.
Many of the scenes are European standards, such as a Parisian chateau or English hunt scene. Others can be found that depict moments in America's history, such as the landing at Plymouth Rock or New York City's City Hall. Rims of plates and bases of pitchers are usually embellished further with Far Eastern flower themes or classic designs.
Staffordshire, England, was the hub of blue and white production. With hundreds of kilns and creators, Staffordshire has turned out award-winning porcelain since the 1700s. Factories such as Adams, Davenport, Ridgway, Rowland & Marsellus, Royal Doulton, Royal Worcester, Spode and Wedgwood are the famous names of Staffordshire.
Blue and white china is white pottery or porcelain decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment, most often cobalt oxide. The decoration is commonly applied by hand, by stenciling or by transfer-printing, although other methods of application also have been used.
For collectors who are just starting out, an encyclopedia or other reference book on china is necessary just to sort out the many different makers, marks and traits of important pieces. Blue and white includes flow blue china, which is very popular locally.
Flow blue is always attractive and can be found at antiques shows, shops and auctions. It derives its name from the manner in which the cobalt coloring is added to the white body of the china, creating that distinctive blue flowing on white, a sort of smudgy look.
Popular with kiln workers from 1825 through 1860 and again from 1880 through the turn of the 20th century, the blurring effect of the coloring occurs when a chemical vapor is released into the kiln during the process. The body of this type of china is ironstone.
The most popular pattern of blue and white china is willow. From its introduction in the late 1700s to its still popular production today, the willow pattern has earned quite a distinction in history: it is the china pattern that has been in continual production for the longest period of time - more than 215 years, according to willowcollectors.org, an international collectors' club.
Blue and white china also can be found in souvenir plates, cups and saucers, railroad china and other whimsies, meaning that if you get hooked on this collectible classification it may lead you into other collections.
But that's also what is so captivating to the blue and white addiction - it has such depth and can entertain a collector for many, many years. Like most antiques, value is dependent upon condition, age and rarity of the item, so shop with reliable dealers to be sure you're getting a piece that is worth what you paid.
For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing in care of this newspaper.