Flow Blue collector group convening in Iowa

BETTENDORF, Iowa – Flow Blue and Mulberry may sound like odd names for china. However, this variety has been around since the 1800s with thousands of patterns.

Thousands of Patterns to Pick From

With patterns numbering in the thousands, Flow Blue and Mulberry ironstone accommodates the taste of every collector. The striking patterns create beautiful vignettes on a side table or dazzle when amassed in a glass cabinet. With patterns spanning categories such as Scenic, Oriental, Art Nouveau, Floral, Advertising, Children’s pieces, Souvenir and Brushstroke, Flow Blue and Mulberry complements all types of collecting interests.

Flow Blue examples

Group of various sizes of Flow Blue pitchers of the same pattern. (Photo courtesy Flow Blue International Collectors’ Club)

Why did such a variety of patterns appear on items like dishes, chamber sets and garden accessories? The rapid expansion of the British Empire in the 1800s into Africa and Asia inspired the imaginations of common people. It inspired the travel plans of wealthy people. The unusual fabrics, spices, artifacts and porcelains that returned with travelers created a longing for faraway places and exotic things. English potters seized the romantic dream of travel abroad. Furthermore, they placed it in reach of all classes of people as fascinating yet functional items for their homes.

Transfer Printing Creates Unique Presentation

Potters discovered that transfer printing in light blues, greens, pinks and browns gave pottery a distinct quality. It appears almost photographic in the patterns. That definitive image had a certain attraction. But to appeal to the householder who dreamed of something more mysterious, a process of introducing chemicals to the kiln while firing generated a blurring of the transfer lines which leaned toward fantasy.

All manufacturers must know their consumers to market well and make a profit. It quickly became clear that British housewives found Flow Blue less desirable. With its vivid cobalt hues and Mulberry in a range from chocolaty browns to moody purples, were more sought after by American counterparts. Adapting to this observation, potteries exported much of their Flow Blue and Mulberry to America for use as everyday dishes.

This lot of 18 pieces of assortment English Mulberry ironstone flow transferware items from the 19th century sold for $60 at auction. (Image courtesy of Austin Auction Gallery.

Flow Blue Foundation

In homage to this American love of Flow Blue and Mulberry, the Flow Blue International Collectors’ Club became a reality in 1986. Its stated purpose “to stimulate, educate, and maintain interest in the collection and study of Flow Blue, Mulberry, and related fields of china…” is carried on by hundreds of members in countries around the world.

For collectors and interested enthusiasts, a highlight is the annual international convention. This year the Quad Cities is the host destination for the Flow Blue International Collectors Club convention. It is set for July 26-28 at the Isle Casino Hotel in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Convention Experience

On July 26, convention attendees will tour Quad Cities features, including a luncheon cruise on the Celebration Belle Riverboat. Convention activities also include a First Timers’ seminar, educational presentations, buying opportunities, a show of Rare & Unusual pieces, and a 300-lot auction of only Flow Blue and Mulberry items.

Those with an interest in Flow Blue or Mulberry china and a curiosity about its patterns, potters and history, are encouraged to attend. Attendees must be members of the Flow Blue International Collectors’ Club and may join via www.flowblue.org.

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