grammy’s willow ware

There has been a huge resurgence of willow ware over the last year or so. Reproductions are readily everywhere from high-end home décor stores to Winners, and even at the Dollar Store. You can find the real thing prominently displayed at many antique and collectable stores.

According to Wikipedia, “the Willow pattern is a distinctive pattern used on ceramic and porcelain kitchenware and houseware. It was designed by Thomas Minton in about 1790, and has remained popular ever since. The pattern uses Chinese motifs, which were fashionable in England at the time it was designed, but there is no evidence that it has any direct connection with, or reference to, Chinese history or legend.”


To me, these dishes remind me of my Grammy. She had a couple of complete sets of willow ware and they were the “every day” dishes. Everything from fresh eggs from the hen house for breakfast to Christmas and Easter dinners to bedtime snacks were served on these.

Here are some tips for integrating these into your décor. Warning: on display, although lovely, these may run the risk of looking dusty and old-fashioned (think plates on a wall). Or like you live in an old country farmhouse. There are better ways to work these into your style. Unless, of course, you do actually live in an old farmhouse…

I prefer a more practical approach that adds interest, warmth, and a touch of whimsy in your day-to-day life.

1. one or two pieces – use a platter, large plate, big bowl, or cream & sugar set for serving every day meals or as part of your centerpiece. Either way, they will add a nice touch to your table.

2. mix in a number of the same pieces with your solid white dishes for a clean, pretty vintage look. Try adding all small bowls in this pattern, or all side plates, tea cups are great too. (Warning: using a complete set on it’s own will look old, instead of charming)

3. For a bolder look, mix and match with dishes in other patterns and colors. This will give you an eclectic and casual look.

4. Try this with old family china patterns as well…you’ll be surprised by how good it makes you and your guests feel.

As for me, I have only one authentic willow ware teacup & saucer. It lives by my sink and is perfect for holding rings and watches while the dishes are being done. And it brings back strong, wonderful memories every time I glance at it.

When my Grampy passed away two years ago, my family descended on “the old green house”. I don’t remember being there since my Grammy died more than 20 years before. I was surprised and much delighted to open the cupboard and find the dishes stacked exactly as they were when I had to stand on a chair to help set the table all those years ago. There were tears. Lot’s of ’em.

Whether or not you have personal memories of willow ware, it’s a great way to increase the style quotient of your table. If you’ve got some packed away, it’s time to blow off the dust. These gems were meant to be used and enjoyed everyday!

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