Saturday, July 11, 2009

Crockery you can read...

I've loved willow pattern for as long as I can remember. But I never had any, and never even thought of owning any. If I ever have any spare money the first priority is always to buy a book!

Then one day not too many years ago I found a plate in a second hand store and took it home, and every time I looked at it I smiled.

I like the fact that there is a story to go with the picture, and that the picture is always different but based around the same elements and spatial relationships. And the pretty blue-and-white.

I grew up in a modern house where we had a red formica table and our family used to eat out of the brightly coloured melamine plasticware that was popular at the time. Anything even remotely fancy or old-fashioned wasn't used every day, in fact it was never used at all. It was stored up in a cupboard with glass doors.

Then not so long ago a NZ company started producing a new range of reasonably priced, microwave-safe and moderately sturdy willow pattern earthenware and so I'm the happy owner of a dining set of it. Currently I use nothing else. It still always makes me smile, the indulgence, the luck.

When my mother saw the plates in my kitchen, she said that she had always loved willow pattern too, but it had never occurred to her to try and acquire any, even later on in her life when she would have been able to go out and try and find some.

She told me she used to tell me the willow pattern story when I was a little girl. We had a picture book about it. Her family had a willow pattern wallpaper frieze in one of their rooms when she was a little girl.

As an adult I have since learned that the romantic "Willow Legend" was a fake, invented by British porcelain manufacturers to help them market "chinoise" tableware. I don't know if my parents ever knew that the story they loved so much was not really an authentic Chinese legend, but I do know that they identified themselves with those two lovers turned into

two turtledoves, beyond fear, beyond danger,
forever free and symbolising eternal love.


Mary McCallum said...

lovely post - at the randell cottage where writers write here in wellington the crockery is willow pattern - it seems a sign to me that you should get onto that book you want to write and apply to use the Randell for a six month stint....

The Paradoxical Cat said...

Oh Mary, you make writing a book sound so easy...

You're very inspiring! :-)