The willow pattern is an oriental pattern, most often seen in blue and white, that features common elements from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Because it has been in existence for more than 200 years, it is the china pattern with the longest continual production in history. It finds its roots in China, where throughout the 15th through 18th centuries, the Chinese potters were exporting their porcelain wares decorated with hand-painted cobalt designs under glaze.
In the 18th century, companies like the East India Company imported the blue and white Chinese porcelains into England.
The porcelain tea services and dinnerware were purchased at auction by Chinamen (dealers in china) in London and sold to their wealthy customers.
It was so popular that Queen Mary II started her own collection and even had a special cabinet made to house her porcelains from China.
This is where we got the name for a “china cabinet.” By the mid-1700s the British potters were gaining the knowledge to produce wares in an effort to compete with the Chinese imports.
In the late 1700s an Irishman named John Brooks invented “transfer printing” which allowed pieces to be mass-produced from patterns engraved on copper plates.
This eliminated the need for the time-consuming hand painting of each piece.
In the 1790s, the East India Company ceased its importation of Chinese porcelains to London.
The Chinamen in London needed stock to supply the ever-growing demand for blue and white Chinese landscape patterns.