Flow Blue dates as far back as 1835 and was produced through the early 1900's. It has
been produced in every conceivable type of wares from chamber pots to dinnerware to
tea services. It was produced in other colors such as sepia, puce, and mulberry, but
cobalt was the most popular. It has been called "flow blue", "flo blue", and "flown
Most flow blue was initially produced in England, mainly in the Staffordshire region.
Some of the potters that are more familiar are: Meigh, Grindley, The Johnson
Brothers, Meakin, New Wharf, Podmore and Walker, Samuel Alcock, Ridgway, John
Wedge Wood(he often signed his pieces "Wedgewood"), and Davenport. About 90% of
flow blue was produced in England with the rest in Germany, France, Holland,
Scotland, Wales, and Belgium. Later there were some American makers that began
producing flow blue. Some of them were French China Co., Homer Laughlin China Co.,
Mercer Pottery Co., Sebring Pottery Co., Warwick China Co., and Wheeling Pottery Co.
There are approximately 1500 patterns. A very popular theme to the patterns were
oriental, such as Willow. Some patterns were made by editing one pattern to make
another. It covered many mistakes by a potter and some pieces were so blurred that it
was hard to identify the center patterns from the border patterns.
The term "flow blue" comes from the way the cobalt blue transfer bleeds onto the
white ceramic background. Some of it is obviously blurred or is smeared looking to
an almost bearly visible flow. Although cobalt blue would flow naturally, it was
discovered later that it could be induced to flow. Flow Blue is achieved by
introducing lime or chloride of ammonia during the glaze firing. The ink would them
spread to cause the print to have a softer look. Transfer printing can also be quite
messy. The transfer ink would get on the hands and fingers of those transferring the
designs onto the pieces. So, occasionally, you will find a finger print of the
transferrer on the back of some of the pieces. Don't mistake a piece that is blue and
white for flow blue. Some seem to call any piece that is blue and white as "flow blue".
Dating of Flow Blue Patterns:
Early Victorian: c. 1835-1860 - The earliest patterns were mostly Oriental due to the
popularity of Chinese porcelain. British and American historical scenes were also
popular. There were also scenic patterns in the early flow blue pieces. They were more
of a romantic version of reality; somewhat unrealistic. The Oriental designs were
also unrealistic. Some of the oriental designs included bamboo, willow, palms, tea
houses, pagodas, apple trees bridges, porches, towers, and small customed figures.
Stylized Far-Eastern and Arabic patterns were included in the borders of the earlier
plates. Some of the border patterns also included small medallions repeated in the
Middle Victorian: 1860's - 1870's - During the Middle Victorian period, the floral
designs were predominantly in the center. Some floral patterns were also found in
the Early Victorian pieces, but they were found mostly in the Middle Victorian
period. Many patterns used during the Middle Victorian period were obtained from
many different sources and were mixed and matched to create many designs. Some
Oriental plates were found to have European flowers or Gothic devices in the
borders. Some borders had elaborate scroll works, shells, foliage, or cartouches( a
series of medallions framing small scenes or bouquets).
Statues, columns, wreaths, and urns with ferns and flowers were also added.
Late Victorian: 1880's - early 1900's - Art Nouveau designs were used during this
period. Medieval cathedrals were also used occasionally. This period was less
elaborate than the earlier periods. Japanese art was the influence during this period
also. The Art Nouveau style was curved designs taken from the natural shapes of
flowers and plants. Plates with floral transfers was found in abundance. Some of the
transfers were found on the borders; some filled the plate.
DATING FLOW BLUE
The dating of flow blue is quite extensive. Therefore, next month's newsletter will
cover the dating of flow blue with the manufacturer's marks and registrations marks.
Schroeder's Antiques and Price Guide, 18th Edition
Kovel's Antiques & Collectibles Price List, 1991
Warman's Americana & Collectibles, 8th Edition
Warman's Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide, 32nd Edition
Flow Blue, A Collector's Guide To Patterns, History, & Values Collectics
The next Nancy's Collectibles Newsletter will feature Dating Flow Blue China.