Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blue Willow Plates in Tempera

I first saw this lesson at the Use Your Colored Pencils blog, and knew I would be using it someday. Thanks Anne! The supplies needed are minimal: white paper plates, tempera in blue/white/black, brushes and water. We practiced mixing shades and tints of blue for our designs. The cross-curricular opportunities range from poetry and storytelling, to the culture of China and its influence on pottery through out the world. 

We looked at a piece of Blue Willow china and discussed what images we saw on the plate. I then told the children about the legend which the pattern illustrates. To help remember what we saw, and to help everyone to chose elements to use in their designs, I shared the following poem:

 'Two birds flying high,
A Chinese vessel, sailing by.
A bridge with three men, sometimes four,
A willow tree, hanging o'er.
A Chinese temple, there it stands,
Built upon the river sands.
An apple tree, with apples on,
A crooked fence to end my song.'

They were asked to chose one, or a few of the elements, but some did even more! The children sketched lightly in pencil first, and then began to paint. I reminded them that the border was an important part of their design as well (the ridges of the paper plate can aid them in creating simple border designs.) Great job guys! I love them all!

If you might try a Blue Willow lesson, here are some great links to go with your planning:

Wikipedia has an article about the Blue Willow pattern:

A telling of the Blue Willow legend at:

New Zealand director Veialu Aila-Unsworth made a short animated film about the Blue Willow legend. You can view the trailer here:

And if anyone knows where I can see the entire film, PLEASE let me know!


Hope Hunter Knight said...

love these! thanks for sharing!

Phyl said...

I keep saying it - we art teachers have parallel brains! I have the book "The Willow Pattern Story" on my desk at school and a new package of heavy white paper plates in my closet, and am just trying to get my kids finished up on a couple of things so we can do this lesson.

Renée Collins said...

Thanks ladies! I've been told that this is an excellent project for the end of the year. There isn't too much prep, cleanup, and it can be accomplished in a class or two.

Phyl said...

I forgot to ask - what grade(s) did these? I'm trying to decide what grade I want to do it with. Some kids I know will love it, but I'm worried about the love story and some of the boys' reactions.

Renée Collins said...

I've done this lesson with third through fifth graders. You can condense the story to accommodate the romance factor, and focus more on the poem and history. Good luck, I'd love to see your work!

Anne Farrell said...

Thanks for linking back! These look great :)

J.ham said...


B. Knight said...

Phyl I've done this with kids up to year 7 with no problems. There's a few animated stories on line that I've used on the interactive white board and they enjoyed the animation and the gards chasing them down so don't worry about the boys!