Willow Pattern talk

'U3A Members Enjoy Talk on the History of the Willow Pattern.'

Biddulph U3A members recently enjoyed a talk on the history of the popular ceramic design, the 'Willow Pattern. The talk was given by Mr. David Copeland who, being a retired artistic director of Burleigh Ware at Middleport Pottery, is an expert on this pattern and its manufacture.

David gave the members a very informative and very fascinating account of how the 'Willow Pattern' first came into existence and, during his talk, managed to dispel two myths surrounding the 'Willow Pattern'. The first myth dispelled was that the pattern, although oriental in design, was first produced in the British Isles. rather than it being imported from China. It was the well known potter, Thomas Minton ,who introduced this pattern into mass production. Thomas had served as an engraving apprentice at the Caughley factory based in Ironbridge ,Shropshire where the pattern was developed. However, It is thought that the idea of the 'Willow Pattern ' was first devised at the Dillwyn Factory at Swansea. Thomas took this pattern to Stoke-on-Trent when he set up his own factory in 1793.

The other myth surrounding the 'Willow Pattern' that was put to rest was that the story surrounding the 'Willow Pattern' of the two tragic, Chinese lovers, Chang, the mandarin's secretary and Koong-Se, the mandarin's beautiful daughter ,was not an ancient Chinese legend. In fact it was more like;y to be a marketing ploy set up by Thomas Minton in order to make his products more appealing to the buyers. He was trying to romanticize relatively cheap, mass produced earthenware.

The 'Willow Pattern' has been in continuous production for 270 years and many of the other pottery manufactures have copied the design but all in a slightly different form. .Famous pot-banks such as Spode, Wedgwood, Davenport, William Adams amongst others have all produced the 'Willow Pattern' .The design was first produced by Burleigh Ware in 1924 and has been in production ever since. As David commented rather than being as Chinese as the Great Wall of China and chop suey it is really as 'Potteries' as pot-banks and oat-cakes!

David concluded his talk by describing how the design was actually put on the ceramic ware. He showed an engraved cylinder and a variety of different patterned, tissue-like, paper transfers.There was also display of several pieces of ceramic tableware demonstrating the different types of 'Willow Pattern.', which the members found extremely interesting particularly an original antique small plate from Swansea Pottery.

It is hoped that inviting guest speakers to come to talk to the members will become a regular feature of Biddulph U3A.