Let me preface this post by saying that you can't go wrong with any age, style, or mix of blue & white porcelains/ceramics. While I tend to lean towards the antique reproductions, as long as YOU love it, that's all that matters. However, not all blue & white is created equal so here's a glimpse at the choices you have available.
For time's sake, we will concentrate on Chinese porcelains today. There are many other blues from Japan, Holland, England and others but for today Chinoiserie is the word of the day. Chinoiserie (pronounced sheen-wah-zuh-reez) is a style of decoration that incorporates patterns and design identified as Chinese. When you hear the word chinoiserie in can be applied to textiles or furniture but most often it conjures up visions of ginger jars, vases and statues. These can come in the form of antiques, antique reproductions, and modern pieces.
Now, there is some disagreement about when porcelain was first made in China, but the earliest piece of the smooth and impervious pottery,or primitive porcelain, was found to have come from the Shang Dynasty (about 1600 - 1046 BCE). However, clear evidence shows that there was porcelain pottery being made during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 CE). To save you a long history lesson, production of blue and white continued into the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1664 CE) and it was during this time that blue and white porcelain, from the Jingdezhen kiln, were considered the pinnacle of beauty and became the most popular.
Through the Qing Dynasty, porcelain makers in the Western World started producing porcelains as well but to this day, none are considered as prized as the Chinese work. Even now, the exquisite pieces (antique & reproductions) are made and painted by hand in the town where it all began. So how do these pieces compare to the more modern blue & white that's being produced now? Well I am glad you asked.
It is easier than ever to find blue & white and that is because manufactured pieces are being made and sold by some of your favorite big brand stores such as: Home Goods, Hobby Lobby and even Amazon. These modern "transferware" pieces are being massed produced in China without the handmade/hand painted artisanship that I adore. The pottery is also a cheaper/thinner base. While these pieces aren't as artistic and the originals and the antique reproductions, they still boast the same classic idea and are most friendly on the bank account. Believe me, I'd love to have all antiques in my home but my checkbook always says...ummm no! But I digress...
Another difference is the coloring of the white portion of the porcelains. The antiques and antique reproductions have more of a creamy white look and sometime even a celadon (grey-green glaze) appearance. I personally prefer the off-white coloring because it looks closer to the real thing...hence the reproduction term. The newer pieces have a stark white appearance, which many do search for and love. As I stated from the beginning, there is no wrong way to collect blue & white. It depends on your personal tastes and the interior look you are trying to achieve.
What is your preference? Do you opt for the antiques or reproductions or are you more of a modern white type of decorator? I'd love to see pics of your collection. One thing we can all agree on...Blue & White is Forever!