Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blue Willow in 2nd grade

"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."
This is the poem that describes the Blue Willow pottery design, a china pattern collected around the world that originated in Asia centuries ago and gained popularity in 18th century England. Many designers have created their version of Blue Willow, inspired by the original Chinese blue and white porcelain that was imported into Europe.
Photo from
As part of our Asian art unit, my second graders illustrated the poem on paper plates using blue sharpies, then explored the monochromatic possibilities by mixing tints of blue. We looked at a variety of examples to help us with our designs, and students were encouraged to put their own spin on it. Breaking down the parts and examining them has been fascinating for me and I see a new Blue Willow collection in my kitchen very soon...

I have been posting photos of these plates in progress on Instagram (@smartestartists) and it turns out that several other art teachers are either currently involved in this lesson or are planning it for the near future -  so there has been lots of great feedback. It is great to see how each one is different, yet still fits the classic design. Thanks to Use Your Coloured Pencils for sharing the paper plate idea!


  1. I've done the same last week with my 7 years old kids and they love it!!! you can see it here

  2. These are super adorable with second grade! They did an amazing job - so exciting :)

  3. Would it be possible for me to get a copy of your handouts used for this project? Thanks

    1. Hey Stacy, I didn't create an official handout - I just googled the history of Blue willow - there's lots of good info and images out there - I just printed straight from google. I'd be happy to share if only I had created one :)


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