Friday, 30 November 2012

Flow Blue 1820s onwards

Type flow blue into a search engine and page upon page of material springs up, so much more than other types of pottery I’ve researched. The reason – the States. In the 19th century onwards the US couldn’t get enough of this stuff,  so the pre conditions for a collectors market were fulfilled, large quantities of old things in different forms which in turn has created demand for information on the internet.
Mudlarking Finds: Flow Blue Pottery Shards
Flow blue is not uncommon the Thames foreshore. I do rather like the effect, rather more romantic than the bog standard transfer ware or perhaps its relative scarcity attracts.
Mudlarking Finds: More Flow Blue
Flow Blue is a type of transfer ware. As the name suggests it’s where the blue of a transfer print bleeds or ‘flows’ onto the white body of the object, caused by adding lime, chloride or ammonia to the kiln whilst firing. The origins are not clear. Some claim discovery was accidental others an intentional development by Staffordshire potters, with Josiah Wedgewood credited with its invention.
Wedgwood Flow Blue 'Chapoo' Platter (live auctioneers)
It’s usually applied to earthenware although sometimes to Porcelain. The blues varied with the most popular being cobalt blue, mulberry was also used. Flow blue was applied to the full range of objects from full dinner service to tea ware to bedroom wash sets.
Flow Blue Tea Pot, Shapoo Pattern by Thomas Hughes 1860-1870
The degree of bleeding varied widely. When first introduced the flow was limited, later some flowed so much the original design was completely obscured. It had the advantage of hiding defects in the application of transfer or faults in moulding or glazing.
When introduced flow blue was a popular product in Britain but demand apparently quickly diminished perhaps due to the sniffy attitude of some contemporary pottery commentators with this later illustration
N. Hudson Moore, wrote in his 1903 edition of The Old China Book, "There is a certain style of design known as 'flow blue,' which has nondescript patterns, flowers, geometric designs, and which has nothing whatever of beauty or interest to recommend it..."
After WWI the States began their own industry..... The English production of flow blue hugely reduced once the export market to the US dried up after WWI, a result of the States producing their own versions.


  1. I covet all your finds! If you ever feel you have too many, you know how to find me :-)

    It's been too cold to go mudlarking, so I'm 'living' off my old finds, but suffering withdrawal symptoms...
    I love your blog, and thanks for sharing everything you find out!

  2. Thanks for that, I have been finding GNSC (General Steam Navigation Company) shards in Margate Harbour from the London to Margate run. On some pieces the blue bleeding into the glaze is as described, the good thing is I now know what I am looking at.Thanks

  3. My favourite blog, not only because it is on a subject so dear to my heart but because of the way you are presenting it, with so much research and all the right photographs. Just wonderful. Thank you a million times!

  4. I found your blog after I had walked the Thames beaches in between Olympic gamesmaker shifts. I loved the was the shingle mix 'tinkled' as boat wash waves passed by. You helped me identify my shards. Now wearing an unusual necklace of short pieces of pipe stem brightened by blue glass beads. Love your blog. Realise I have seen blue flow pottery before but thought was just poor quality pottery. Now I know better. Thank you.

  5. I have a piece of pottery blue flow & son that I can not identify. could help me if I send you some pictures?

  6. I'm afraid I'm no expert, all I can do is tell whether a piece of pottery is flow blue or not, so not worth sending me photos. This site seems good for identifying makers and for some of the history of different companies good luck, Julia.