Ginger jars are a design classic, irresistibly shapely and decorative in all their blue-and-white glory. Lately, we've seen them popping up in all sorts of surprising places. Here's some background on these gorgeous collectibles.
1. They started out as storage pieces.
Originally a vessel for storing precious spices in ancient China, the beloved ginger jar long ago shrugged off its utilitarian purpose.
2. A 1600s trend ignited an entire industry.
A European craze for blue-and-white Chinese export pieces fueled the budding delftware industry, which churned out Far East-inspired items to meet demand.
3. In the 1960s, the jars became popular again among design connoisseurs.
McMillen, Inc. designed an airy ginger jar-dotted room for the imitable Babe Paley in the Bahamas. Said Paley to antiques designer John Rosselli: "You can never be too rich or too thin or have too much blue and white." Today, these ceramics are still used as visual shorthand for luxurious yet classic interiors.
4. You can find them in other hues, but the blue-and-white motif is most common — and the most inspiring.
Designer David Hicks translated the perennially popular accessory into his graphic Vase pattern. It became an instant classic, inspiring jar-adorned fabrics to this day.
5. They've earned a spot in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Don't miss the current blockbuster show about Chinese aesthetics in high fashion. If you can't make it, turn to Etsy for artists and collectors besotted with the form.
A version of this story originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Natipernavigare.