Flow Blue (sometimes referred to as Flowing Blue or Flown Blue) was originally produced in Staffordshire, England around 1825 and became instantly popular, most notably in America, Europe and India. It was aimed primarily at the middle classes of the time, who’s newly found wealth meant they could now afford to buy decorated china, which until the advent of Flow Blue was highly expensive. White earthenware was used as a base for transfers (a technique developed in the 18th century). The earthenware was white, but unlike fine Chinese porcelain was strong and durable making it ideal for export. Popularity spread from the East coast of America westwards. Though production was mainly based in England, Germany, France and Holland also jumped on the Flow Blue bandwagon and in 1875 America witnessed its own production base through manufactories such as the Wheeling Pottery Company and the mercer Pottery Company.
The depth to the blue colouring was achieved with the use of glazes containing lead oxide overlaying a cobalt blue underglaze. The colour was applied to an earthenware base as a transfer and exposed to a chlorinated atmosphere in the kiln. Lime or ammonia chloride was typically used to produce this result. These chlorides had the effect of causing the colour to spread out and blur, hence the name Flow Blue. Cobalt oxide was used for the blue colouring while a brown colour variation was generated by the use of nickel oxide. The depth of the colour and the way in which the design ‘flows’ will typically affect price. The amount of flow was difficult to control and sets of pieces will often display varying degrees of bleed. The complexity and blur of the designs hid potting imperfections which meant there was little wastage from this respect. There are two main areas to the transfer patterns, typified in plate designs, central area and border transfer.
The early designs were originally inspired by Asian and oriental art but later the European influence was also adopted by the Flow Blue pattern designers. Floral designs and landscapes in the vedute or vista style were a popular theme with imagery lifted from topographical prints or books. Up to about 1860 Flow Blue utilitarian wares were typically panelled and very angular with overall coverage of pattern. After 1860 up to around 1885 the use of gold trim and scalloping where evident with floral or nature patterns dominating. Late Victorian Flow Blue saw the use of lighter semi-porcelain with large areas left unpatterned. The use of floral designs and patterns influenced by Japanese, Art & Crafts and Art Nouveau designs dominated right through to the 1920’s when Flow Blue began to lose favour.
Myott was not excluded from the Flow Blue scene with over 25 different patterns currently listed. Designs were influenced by the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements typically with areas left plain and scalloped edging to plates. The use of gold trim made popular at the turn of the century was used in designs such a s ‘Dudley’ which even used gilt to accentuate the body pattern. Popular patterns include ‘Crumlin’ and ‘Chatsworth’ which were manufactured for home use and export. Other Myott Flow Blue patterns include: Acton, Argyle, Bermuda, Brighton, Brooklyn, Chrysanthemum, Doris, Dudley, Flora, Grapes, Grosvenor, Indiana, Iris, Ivy, Kendall, Malboro, Monarch, Oban, Oriel, Rose, Santori, Sefton and Washington. One can notice from some of these pattern names that they were developed to appeal to the American market.
The Flow Blue International Collectors Club is based in the U.S.A. and boasts over 1,000 members from around the world. The Club’s mission is to promote and increase the collecting, interest, knowledge and enjoyment of Flow Blue and Mulberry china. Follow this link for the Club’s website and details of how to join.