This exclusive excerpt on Flow Blue china is courtesy of “Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles 2013 Price Guide” (Krause Publications, 2012).
By Ellen G. King, Past President of the Flow Blue International Collector’s Club
Flow Blue is the name applied to china of cobalt blue and white, whose color, when fired in a kiln, produced a flowing or blurred effect. The color varies from dark royal cobalt blue to navy or steel blue. The flow may be very slight to a heavy blur, where the pattern cannot be easily recognized. The blue color does not permeate through the body of the china. The amount of flow on the back of a piece is determined by the position of the item in the “sagger” (a case of fire clay) during firing.
Known patterns of flow blue were first produced around 1830 in the Staffordshire area of England. Credit is generally given to Josiah Wedgwood, who worked in that area. Many other potters followed, including Alcock, Davenport, Grindley, Johnson Brothers, Meakin, Meigh and New Wharf. They were attempting to imitate the blue and white wares brought back by the ship captains of the tea trade.
Early flow blue, 1830s to 1870s, was usually of the pearlware or ironstone variety. The later patterns, 1880s to 1900s, and the modern patterns after 1910, were of the more delicate semi-porcelains. Most flow blue was made in England but it was made in many other countries, as well. Germany, Holland, France, Spain, Wales and Scotland are also known locations. Many patterns were made in the United States by several companies: Mercer, Warwick, Sterling and the Wheeling Pottery to name a few.
Collector’s Note: The Flow Blue International Collectors’ Club Inc. has studied new vs. reproduction flow blue. There are still areas of personal judgment as yet undetermined. The general rule has been “new” indicates recent or contemporary manufacture and “reproduction” is a copy of an older pattern. Problems arise when either are sold at “old” flow blue prices.
The club continues to inform members through its conventions, newsletters and the website.
The following is a listing of “new” flow blue, produced since the 1960s.
- Blossom: Ashworth Bros., Hanley, 1962. Washbowl and pitcher made for many years now.
- Iris: By Dunn, Bennett, Burslem, has been reproduced in a full chamber set.
- Romantic Flow Blue: Blakeney Pottery, 1970s. Resembles Watteau. The old patterns never had the words “flow blue” written on them.
- Touraine: By Stanley, by far the most prolific reproduction made recently, in 2002. Again, the “England” is missing from the mark, and it is made in China. Nearly the entire dinnerware set has been made and is being sold.
- Victoria Ware: Mark is of lion and uniform, but has paper label “Made in China,” 1990s. Made in various patterns and designs, but the giveaway is the roughness on the bottoms, and much of it has a pea-green background.
- Vinranka: Upsala-Ekeby, Sweden, 1967-1968. Now discontinued and highly collectible, a full dinnerware set.
- Waldorf: By New Wharf, cups and saucers are found, but missing “England” from their mark and are made in China.
T. Rathbone: Floral pitchers (jugs) and teapots bearing a copied “T. Rathbone England” swan mark.
- Williams-Sonoma and Cracker Barrel have released a vivid blue-and-white line. Both are made in China. One line is a simplified dahlia flower on white; the other has summer bouquets. Both are well made and readily available, just not old. The reproductions are more of a threat to collectors.
In all cases, regarding new pieces and reproductions, be aware of unglazed areas on the bottoms. The foot rings are rough and too white. The reproductions, particularly the Touraine, are heavier in weight, having a distinctive thick feel. The embossing isn’t as crisp and the pieces are frequently slightly smaller in overall size than the originals.
Check the Flow Blue International Collectors’ Club Inc. website for more information or to join the club, study the books available and always work with a trusted dealer. Good dealers guarantee their merchandise and protect their customers.