All that delftware I saw in Amsterdam last month got me thinking about the endless appeal of blue and white. In the dead of winter it looks fresh and clean, with a whisper of spring about it. The ultimate pairing for kitchens and bathrooms, never going out of fashion. There's a wiff of romance and nostaligia about it too. Throughout the 17th and 18th century, Europe was awash with imported Chinese porcelain. Highly prized and expensive they were collected by royalty and nobility. A downturn in Chinese exports coincided with a suspicious boom in homegrown European versions which were cheaper and quicker to turn around. The infamous Willow pattern, mass produced by Royal Stafford, is said to depict a woeful tale of two star crossed lovers. An exotic romance, packaged up and used to flog ceramics to British housewives for centuries. A commercial European design which unashamedly begged, borrowed and stole from original 18th century Chinese porcelain. In a twist of fate, its roaring popularity meant that even China copied the Willow pattern, albeit hand painted versions. They do say that "nothing is original," quote by Jim Jarmusch.
My own love of blue and white has amassed to quite a collection over the years. I can never resist buying piles of old Willow pattern soup bowls and plates in car boot sales. Their faded, subtle blue hues all delicately differing from one and other as they sit stacked up. Then there is Spode's iconic Blue Italian range, the epitome of the classic English kitchen, or is it? Seamlessly blending an oriental border with rural Italian scenes, I love all versions of it, old and new. Before you all get sniffy about the new versions as friends do, they have moved some of the production back to England. Then there are Linen union glass cloths in cobalt blue and white - the essential workhorses in my kitchen. Whilst Clarence Court Old Cotswold Legbar bue and pastel coloured eggs with their blue inked crowns are delicious and beautiful. Not forgetting blue and white chocolate boxes from Rococco, printed with old chocolate moulds - the true way to my heart!