The Blue Willow Pattern

Term: 4 Year: 2011
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THE BLUE WILLOW PATTERN

Years ago I participated in a Zart Art workshop in which we used the Willow Pattern as part of a design for a
piece of art work that reflected an aspect of Chinese culture. In that session we worked from photographs. However, I
had over the years bought several pieces of cheap Willow Ware from markets with the intention of one day, repeating
the same session with my students. I even bought a Willow pattern tea-towel from the Daylesford Gallery to accompany
any art work they might produce.

While searching the internet for close up examples of illustrations of the pattern ( I could find little), I came
across a blog in which an artist deconstructed the Willow Pattern. With a lot of text deconstruction in my past I
became very enthusiastic about “picture” deconstruction and so my whole school, Prep to Six, were
subjected to a full semester of Blue and White.

I was unable to do all the activities I thought of as that would have meant a whole year of blue and white and
when your grade becomes overly excited about a pattern that Spode put out in red, you get a sneaking suspicion you
are depriving them of other colours. However, when you study one colour for six months, you really begin to
understand the value of tone!

Our “deconstruction” involved knowledge of all the motifs that make up the pattern and also
comparisons of elements of these motifs between the different manufacturers: for example, the bridge, the willow
tree, the apple tree and the palace.  This was also the case with the border designs and I created several power
points using examples of plate-ware from the internet and close up photos I had taken of my own collection (which
grew enormously during the semester). I am sure a memory card game of pattern and manufacturer could easily have been
developed if time allowed.

We also studied the history of the Willow pattern, read the few books available, (such as “Blue
Willow”), and investigated any science that related to the motifs. For example, when creating art work to do
with the doves, we looked at different kinds of doves, their habits, any interesting facts about them and studied the
evolution of the feather. I bought flight, down and decorative feathers from craft suppliers for students to handle
and to demonstrate their different functions.

A lot of activities were created from the deconstruction analysis, some of which you see here, but many we simply
ran out of time to do – my students always being slower to produce than I anticipate (plus there are
sometimes  timetable disruptions that may mean two weeks before a class gets to work on their activities again).
I also found, from New Zealand, a short, beautifully executed, animated film of the Willow Pattern, which, with a
small amount of censoring, is suitable to be shown to the upper grades. If time had allowed us to, we would have
created dolls of Kung-se and Chang from the characters in the film, using the book on dolls put out by Zart Art.

I had also wanted the students to develop our own Australian style of Willow Pattern to transfer onto papier mache
ewers that I had found for sale in a craft shop. This would have been a fusion, in blue and white of course, of the
original and indigenous styles, but again, as time did not permit, I shall never really know what interesting ideas
the students may have come up with. However, someone else may become inspired by these art works and further develop
the topic.
 
Penders Grove Primary School
Suitable for Levels 1 – 4