Collecting Blue Ridge China

Blue Ridge China, a popular hand-painted dinnerware from the 1930's through late 1950's is both an eye-catching and inexpensive collection.

Blue Ridge China, a colorful series of hand-painted china and dinnerware began in Erwin, Tennessee by Southern Potteries, Inc. in 1920. The plant closed in 1957, yet during those years, girls and women from the hills were trained to freehand paint the hundreds of designs and patterns. From 1920 - 1938, the china was primarily designs taken from sheets of decals, then applied by hand. But from 1938 to 1957, Southern Potteries began adding simple designs by hand around the decals, then did away with the decals and began designing and hand-painting the dinnerware.

Southern Potteries was adept at marketing. Blue Ridge was used in advertising other products. It was sold by Sears, given away in gas stations and super markets, and used by Quaker Oats hot cereal in their promotions. A home party plan, Stanley Home Products gave sets of Blue Ridge as hostess gifts.

Blue Ridge Dinnerware has become a sought-after collectible, both affordable and eye-catching. With as many as 400 different patterns and the variety of pieces made, there is no end to the possible collection combinations.

SHAPES

Blue Ridge collectors must learn to understand both the patterns and shapes of the various designs to be sure they are actually purchasing Blue Ridge. Because there are many shapes found with different patterns, it is necessary to mention the shape and pattern as a seller or a buyer with a specific interest.

When putting together a specific set of Blue Ridge in a particular pattern, understand that smaller pieces (fruit bowls, cups and saucers, salad plates, etc.) were often decorated using only a small part of the pattern. A large plate may have an intricate flower pattern with leaves and stem, while the cup may only have the bud of the flower.

There were 11 different shapes made:

*Candlewick - This has beaded edges

*Astor - A pattern with a narrow, cupped rim

*Pie Crust - Has a crimped edge

*Colonial - A fluted shape

*Skyline - Sleek and plain, a very streamlined look

*Clinchfield - A wide, flat rim

*Trailway - Has wide painted borders

*Rope Handle - A holloware special

*Woodcrest - Has a textured treatment

*Monticello (also called Waffle) - a border of incised squares

*Moderne - A futuristic holloware

One of the best places for researching pattern designs is the book, BLUE RIDGE CHINA TRADITIONS, by Francis & John Ruffin, published in 1999. This 240 page book includes the history of Southern Potteries in detail, shows colored photographs of many of the various patterns and shapes, backstamp designs, and a pricing guide.

BACKSTAMPING:

Southern Potteries had it's own backstamps, but there were several. Some pieces, such as many of the oblong bowls and specialty items do not have stamps, but are Blue Ridge and hand-painted.

Many stamps on the backs of the dinnerware were done in script and read, "Blue Ridge, Hand Painted, Underglaze, Southern Potteries Inc., Made in U.S.A.." Some show a picture of mountains with a pine tree in the foreground, circled by the words, "Hand Painted, Underglaze, Southern Potteries." The words, "Blue Ridge" is written across the circled picture. Later stamps included the words, "Detergent Proof and Oven Safe."

Finding numbers on the back of a Blue Ridge piece is an added bonus. Generally, the 3,000 numbers would have been introduced in the 1940's. A 4,000 number would be from the 1950's.



PATTERNS:

CLINCHFIELD - The Clinchfield name was the beginning dinnerware line in 1916, before the coming of the hand-painted Blue Ridge designs. It is well sought after by Blue Ridge collectors and more difficult to find.

FLORAL AND FOLIAGE - The largest variety of the patterns, the floral and foliage sets are easier to find and generally more reasonable in price.

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES - There were less designs and amounts of the fruit and vegetable patterns, making these beautiful pieces cherished by collectors.

SOLIDS, LINES, SHAPES, AND PLAIDS - Some were done in later years, others were created throughout the series. Often not as elaborate as the floral, foliage, fruit, or vegetable patters, but still enjoyed by collectors.

DELICATE, WHIMSICAL, AND PRACTICAL - Character mugs, patterns with intricate scenes that include people, kitchenware, and even glassware are more difficult to find and therefore costlier to collect.

FOR CHILDREN - Blue Ridge also included children's china in it's delicate dinnerware.

Blue Ridge Collectors can locate the dinnerware oftentimes at yard sales and flea markets for bargain prices. More often, they are sold at antique stores by dealers who know their value. The more unusual the piece (egg cups, relish trays, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers, tea pots, large turkey platers, etc.) can sell for hundreds of dollars. Yet, plates, small bowls, cups and saucers, can be purchased in pristine shape for $15-25 in many cases, and less if showing minor chips or cracks.

Blue Ridge collectors can concentrate on finding many pieces for one or two patterns, or, go wild with the variety of having several patterns mixed together to set a colorful table. Blue Ridge China offers one of the largest and most varied collection for just about any interest.

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