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Antique Blue Flow Butter Pat

Antique Blue Flow Butter Pat


"If you're afraid of butter, use cream."

~ Julia Child

Where would we be without butter?! Indeed, throughout most of human civilization, butter has been seen as a symbol of good living.  Many believe that ancient nomadic people first discovered the miracle of butter. It is thought that while traveling long distances, nomads would attach sacks containing milk to their pack animals and the cream was eventually churned into butter. 

Butter rose to prominence in the Middle Ages, when it became a commonly-used product throughout northern Europe. Though the upper classes considered it peasant food, they also ate it periodically. Back then, the consumption of butter was prohibited during Lent. Many people in northern Europe chose to pay the fee imposed by the Catholic church that allowed them to eat butter. This is why the tower on the Rouen Cathedral in France is nicknamed the "Butter Tower".

Whether formed into a stick as is typical in the United States, or a block as is more common in Europe, butter is essential in any well-stocked kitchen and on any well-laid dining table. As is true with so many of our culinary customs, serving slices (often called pats) of butter on a small plate at each place setting was part of the Victorian era's obsession with having a specific, purposeful method of serving every type of food. And thus, the butter pat was born! 

Butter pats had their hay day from about 1850 to 1920, though some restaurants and railroads were still using them well into the 1950s and 60s. On one hand, they are the definition of Victorian and Edwardian excess culture. On the other hand, they are their own individual pieces of artwork made out of a utilitarian dish.  

Found at market, we are so pleased to present a small collection of very rare Victorian Flow Blue Butter Pats produced by the venerable W.H. Grindley potters of Stoke on Trent, England in their beloved Argyle pattern. With a delicately scalloped edge, each little blue-white porcelain plate is decorated with dreamy, inky-blue feather-like swirls. An embossed decorative flourish dresses the rim and is embellished with hand-applied gleaming gold brushstrokes.

Full of authentic antique charm, these butter pats are also great for a pinch of salt or pepper, a squirt of ketchup or mustard or as a little ring dish next to the sink. Of course you can always impress your guests and set the table with sliced butter on antique English china butter pats!

Sold Individually. Strictly limited quantities (at listing, a total of 6 butter pats are available) and subject to prior sale. 3.25" diameter.  Handwash only. In gently used, good antique condition.

Learn More About Flow Blue

In the late 18th century, Chinese porcelain was an extremely sought-after product in England. The rich blue patterns, hand-painted on a bright white background, were very expensive and limited to the wealthier class.

It took over 100 years for English potters to duplicate the salt-glazed earthenware that created the brilliant white background, along with the application of cobalt oxide, the compound that produced the blue color in transfer printing inks. Cobalt oxide tends to bleed slightly when pieces are glazed and re-fired. The bleeding produced designs that appeared handcrafted, hid minor cosmetic defects, and thus looked more expensive. The blue could be made to “flow” even more by adding a cup of lime or ammonium chloride to the kiln during glazing.

It was sometimes difficult to control the amount of “flow.” Manufacturers ended up with large stocks of factory seconds rejected because the patterns were too blurry. Factory seconds were shipped to the US and sold cheaply in the American market. Here, flow blue became especially popular with the middle class who could now afford to buy these decorative items.

By the late 1800’s, more than 1500 patterns were available in flow blue. Early flow blue patterns mimicked Chinese imports, featuring imagery such as pagodas, temples, and mountains. Later, English pastoral scenes and floral motifs became fashionable.

Around 1915, most English manufacturers stopped making flow blue. The cobalt used by English potters came from Saxony in Germany, and World War I effectively cut off this supply.

(Flow Blue History courtesy of "Rhapsody in Flow Blue: The History of a Plate" by Mari Isa)

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