Updated: Dec 31, 2022
When I was in my twenties I caught a disease from a dear friend, called Blueandwhitewareadosis! Yes, I like so many aesthetes throughout the centuries became enamored endlessly by Chinese blue and white. I had resisted but once you catch the bug its all over. You must succumb! Every time I go to Market I buy at least one piece, slowly amassing a collection from huge vases to pool-side melamine to salt shakers to textiles and all in between.
Since the first traces of Blue and White porcelain came to Europe from China it has been a status symbol of wealth and elegance, and, really, this still remains today, although blue and white ware has become accessible to the masses. I can think of no other trend, not even blue jeans, that transcends the centuries and transcends style to be on trend in each century and in every application from contemporary through traditional. Blue and White Ware looks as at home in the Palace of Versailles as in a rustic American cottage or a modern steel and glass home. It was the height of style in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and still is lauded in the high design catalog and style magazines of the twenty-first century. From grandma's Blue Willow china to over the top jars in the Metropolitan Museum Blue and White fits in everyone's home and with everyone's style. It is eternal and omnipresent to the point of ubiquity, but why?
Blue and White Ware was first brought to Europe as a very expensive import from the Orient. So to display it was to show one's wealth. The Dutch who were some of the first importers began to make copies of the Chinese porcelain that eventually became an important style and porcelain in its own right. Delftware is named after the Dutch city of Delft, where the first copies were made in the Low Countries of Europe. Seventy percent of the populace report blue as their favorite color so certainly this also helped blue transfer-ware become popular around the world. Also, most interior designers suggest an Asian motif for each room as a counterpoint to our Western styles. All that said it's simply popular because it's beautiful and remains so regardless of the current trends.
One dealer that I buy from still travels to China and works with many families. Creating Blue and White Ware is a family affair. Dad and mom may throw the pottery while grandmother and the older kids may paint the figures and the young boys transport the work to market. Each pattern is like a coat of arm unique to each family. Some patterns are abstract, some landscapes like the Canton pattern, some geometric and some Neatherlandish from the Dutch. No matter the form old, new, shiny or worn all blue and white blends together and with any interior. This collector never tires of Blue and White, and I hope my children's children will enjoy the pieces I have. If history teaches us anything they will still look at home in their future homes to come.
One interesting fact, Blue and White is created my using Cobalt Oxide mixed with water to paint the design. Cobalt, which originally came to China from Iraq was worth twice its weight in gold centuries ago. The Cobalt blue is able to withstand high firing temperatures and retain its color unlike many other colors.