A visit to…Boleslawiec, Poland (aka Polish Pottery Heaven)

Boleslawiec, Poland (aka Polish Pottery Heaven)

Last Saturday I went to the Boleslawiec, Poland with a group of friends.  What is so special about Boleslawiec that we would leave Bydgoszcz at 04:15 in the morning and shop all day and then not get back to Bydgoszcz until 00:30 on Sunday morning?  It is Polish Pottery heaven!  This is the town where they make this BEAUTIFUL pottery!!!

 What is Polish Pottery? 

It is thought that crude pottery making in the Silesian region may have taken place as early as the 7th century. However, according to the Muzeum Ceramika (Museum of Ceramics) in Bolesławiec, Poland, the first historical record of a potterer from the town is documented in the municipal books of Swidnica in the year 1380. Drawn by the presence of Kaolin, the fine grain native white clay found in the basins of the rivers Bobr (translated means “Beaver River”) and Kwisa, potters united to form guilds in the early 1500’s. As their skills and products improved, they became recognized and patronized by the higher classes and nobility in the area. In the 18th century, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, is said to have commissioned many of the original designs – hand made and covered in a brown clay glaze often bearing the family crests, heraldic signs, city emblems or a variety of other designs embossed in white clay on their surface.

The biggest change in the pottery’s appearance (believed to be the foundation for today’s decorative Bolesławiec pottery) occurred at the hand of master potter, Johann Gottlieb Altman in the early 1830’s. Using the rich white clay to form the piece, he applied colorful designs of circles, dots, scales and clover leaves. Then, applying a clear stone glaze over top proceeded with the traditional firing at a very high temperature, between 2300°F – 3000°F. The result was a colorful and durable work of art on the white background provided by the native clay.

In 1897, the Professional School of Ceramics was established in Bolesławiec.  The many technological advances and innovative methods taught helped town of Bolesławiec to earn the reputation, “town of good clay” in the region.

In 1936, a cooperative of six ceramics workshops, entitled “Bunzlauer Brannzeng” was formed by the Professional School of Ceramics. Many wonderful pieces were produced during this period, giving Bunzlauer Pottery a reputation highly regarded in the ceramics community today. However, World War II took its toll on the Bolesławiec ceramics industry. The ceramic workshops were destroyed.

In 1946, efforts began to revive the ceramics industry in Bolesławiec. Over time, new cooperatives were formed and the skilled and talented potters in the region began rebuilding the pottery industry in Bolesławiec to what it is today.

The different types of patterns include….

Traditional Patterns

Today’s Traditional Patterns are the evolution of the original efforts of J.G. Altman. Using the “punching” technique of hand stenciling, highly skilled artists create an array of designs and colors inspired by the local environment and culture, as well as nature.

Unikat Series

Unikat (meaning “Unique”) Patterns take artistry to the next level, not only for the consumer, but for the artist as well. As an artist’s skills progress, they are encouraged to progress to a higher level with the challenge of the Unikat patterns. These designs display more intricate detail and incorporate a greater number of elements and colors. Identified by the “UNIKAT” stamp on the bottom, sometimes above the artist’s initials or name, these patterns are more time and labor intensive, involving greater stamping skills and in many cases, hand painting. 

 Signature Series

Artists achieving the highest level of artistic accomplishment, the true “masters” of their art, earn the privilege of creating their own designs from beginning to end. Since these artists are responsible for the painting of every piece produced with this design, it limits the supply, making them treasured collector items. Signature Products bear the UNIKAT stamp on the bottom along with the signature of the artist. The painstaking attention to detail and design is evident in the beauty of each Signature piece. Each piece is a work of art and shows the finest designs currently coming from the Bolesławiec ceramics community. 

 

How do they make Polish Pottery?

The extremely high quality of today’s Bolesławiec pottery can be attributed to the materials, the highly skilled local artists, and processes developed and refined over hundreds of years. The fine grain white clay, Kaolin, is of such high quality it is used to make fine porcelain dishes as well. Once processed to the right consistency it begins its metamorphosis from earth to heirloom quality stoneware. Either molded or formed on a potter’s wheel, the piece is air dried, trimmed and cleaned, then pre-burnt in preparation for the application of the final design. Originally stamped or “punched” using vegetables (primarily the potato), the artists’ tools have evolved to longer lasting media like sea sponges or rubber stamps. This time consuming process may require from one to ten different sized or shaped stencils to fill the ceramic’s surface design.  Moreover, the number of punches may reach into the thousands on a particular piece. Many of the patterns require hand painted, brushed on detail as well.The paints used are completely non-toxic, free of lead and cadmium.

 Once entirely painted with a non-toxic paint, the piece is submerged in a vat of glaze and fired in coal and gas kilns at temperatures ranging between 2300°F – 3000°F for twenty hours before cooling on racks. Once cooled, each piece is cooled and graded to insure consistently high quality prior to shipping.

 Each piece of Polish pottery is a unique piece of hand made art capable of everyday use, yet worthy of display in a prominent position in the home.

 Some of the reasons why I love Polish pottery?

Dishwasher, microwave, freezer & oven safe.

Non-toxic, free of lead and cadmium – Safe to use with any food.

Extremely durable – the glaze resists chips and scratches.

Easy to clean – the glaze provides excellent food release properties.

Retains heat and cold for extended periods.

Excellent heat distribution helps food retain moisture in cooking.

Heirloom Quality – made to be passed down from generation to generation.

You may safely use ceramics in the microwave for up to 4 minutes and in a conventional oven at temperatures up to 350°F. 

I fell in love with Polish Pottery over the years and now to live in the country where is they make is HEAVEN!!!
So here is a day in my life of Polish Pottery shopping!

Oh man, my perfect future bed & breakfast!

The view driving down.

Inside one of the stores!

Is this not beautiful pottery?

Inside one of the factories!

My favorite part of one of the store going to their clearance areas as you never know what you are going to find and what deals your are going to get!

Because with a bit of digging you might find something like I found! CRAZY!!

My oldest just wondering where to start at this store!

I LOVE this pattern!!!

One of the ladies double checking to see how much of her mad cash she still had left!

Going inside yet another store!!

One of the store’s even has a husbands area!

Quite the tree, huh?

Yet another store and another HUGE selection of pottery!

Throughout the city you will find these big pieces of pottery along the streets.

Yet another friend feeling just a bit overwhelmed with the pottery selection at yet another store.

This is what too much shopping does my oldest daughter!

One of crazy friends having a rough time deciding on what to get!

Where they paint the pottery at one of my favorite stores, Andy’s.

Now why are all of us going crazy over this stuff besides how BEAUTIFUL is it?  In America this stuff is expensive!  But here in Poland is about 1/3 to 1/2 half the price, CRAZY huh?  I know when if I go back to the USA this stuff will be out of my price range, so I am getting it while I can. Since I am here locally I am able to special order pieces that I want a lot easier too!

Now over the next few weeks I will be highlighting each of the stores(10+) that I went into and talk more about each of them individually as they each have their own designs, their own pottery shapes, as well as pro’s and con’s!

Want to find out about more Polish pottery stores located in Boleslawiec? Click HERE to see a list of all the stores I have done a blog post on!

Is there anything that you would do a 21 hour shopping trip for?

love kelley
This entry was posted in Adventures, Crafts, International Education, Just for fun, Our adventures, Poland, Polish Pottery, Shopping, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to A visit to…Boleslawiec, Poland (aka Polish Pottery Heaven)

  1. Sandra says:

    To be honest I’ve never heard about this city but I must go there casue I’m in love with those teapots! :)

  2. Sunny says:

    Thanks for the scoop! Are you still planning to write about the 10 shops you visited? I am visiting the area early February and would love to read your thoughts on the different shops. Is there much variance in the prices between shops? Did you find any shops to have better prices?

    • I still have them on my bucket list of post I need to do!! So I promise to do them sooner than later for you. As for prices, well they are all pretty much the same if you going for category 1 dishes. Andy’s is higher but their artwork is AMAZING so you are getting what you pay for as well as he charges 23% VAT because of the way Polish tax laws work he has to be a higher rate(that is another whole blog post).

  3. Sunny says:

    Thanks, Kelley!

  4. Pingback: Time to Visit...Andy's Polish Pottery Factory in Boleslawiec, Poland Never a Dull Day in Poland

  5. Mel says:

    This is the town my father grew up in and it is so beautiful. This was a great read and its great to learn more about a place I love and what it is known for. If you haven’t already been, in August every year they have a ceramics festival and its an absolute blast- its a really great chance to see what other designs there are and the parades are so much fun- the people get covered in clay and the little kids dress up as ceramics. :)

  6. Nancy says:

    We are making a trip from Switzerland through Prague and on to Poland just so I can get a set of pottery to take with me when we move back to the States. Do you recommend staying in any town nearby or in Boleslaweic? We then hope to go south to Krakow and return to Switzerland. Thank you!

  7. Dorothy Durkee says:

    What’s it like driving in and around Boleslawiec? Crowded, confusing — or kinda open and relaxed, tourist-friendly?

    Also, what about distances between shops and parking? Are there handicap spaces? Parking close enough so that folks who have minor mobility issues don’t have to walk very far?

    Thanks!

    • Driving down there is a piece of cake!! It is not that big of town so it easy to get around. Only a few of the stores are next to each other so walking would be OK but for the most part you have to drive between them. I do not recall any handicap spots at any of them. But if you check out each of the different store blog posts I mention what parking is like at each of them. Some of the stores have stairs to the second floor so that might be an issue as well.

      • Dorothy Durkee says:

        Super, thanks! What’s the drive like from Prague? Warsaw? Or over from Germany? I’m originally from New York, so I always assume the worst about travel by road.

  8. charles hoysted says:

    lovely to hea about the trip…
    have a pottery factory myself..
    have u got a list of the places u went to emails etc. r know where i get yhem
    i want to go there myself

  9. Wendy says:

    HI do you have any other suggestions for the area, restaurants, other sites to see?

  10. Marcelina says:

    Hi :) Boleslawiec is my hometown, so I have some interested information for You :) There is a big polish pottery festival, in August every year! You should see this… You can buy ceramics in lower prices and see amazing parade “With love to clay” and of course be a part of it. http://linktopoland.com/en/19th-polish-pottery-festival-in-boleslawiec/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxNWu0KulU8

    • I know all about the Pottery festival and is on my bucket list of things to do as I have had several friends go to it and talk about for weeks afterwards. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for us to got this year but next it will be a high priority for me!

  11. Wendy says:

    Do you know of I-Henry is different than Henry’s. I sort of remember a Harry’s as well from my first trip. I’m here now but can’t remember, we had a his tri last time but having a hard time finding a few of the odds n ends shops, like IHenry and Ada.thanks

  12. Lmowbray says:

    Hello! Thank you for the great information. I found answers to most of my questions right here on your blog–that ROCKS! One question I do have though is how much money I should consider bringing. Do you have a range you could provide? For example low-mid single pieces to full sets? I am most interested in serving pieces/platter and baking pieces. Maybe dinnerware?? Many thanks!!!!

    • I am glad you are enjoying my blog! Now as for how much money to take some time my friends or myself have walked away spending less than $100 but then I have friends who have spent way over $100!!! If you are wanting a full dinner set and serving pieces and baking pieces plan on spending $$$$! Hence the reason why I buy a little here and a little there, so it doesn’t kill my pocketbook all at once.

      Happy shopping and do yourself a favor and do not buy anything until you hit at least store #2 or #3 or you are going to have buyers remorse like I did my first time as the selection got better and better as I went on.

  13. Misty says:

    We are planning a family trip to Poland next week, and would love to stop in Boleslawiec to check out the pottery. You mentioned in the post on Andy’s that they can arrange for children to paint the pottery and then have it shipped. Is this possible at any other locations, as well? Our children would LOVE to do the painting! Enjoying your blog :)

    • Misty,

      They only one that I know of is at Andy’s. I would recommend though if you wanting to do it that you make reservations ahead of time as they don’t do it all the time. If you have the time, you need to do it as it is so much fun but never racking at the same time because of having deciding what design you want and where.

  14. Pingback: Pierogies, Pierogies and more Pierogies | Never a Dull Day in Poland Never a Dull Day in Poland

  15. Alicea says:

    Kelley,
    I also live in Europe and am a member of the American Women’s Club in my area. We take a trip once a year to Boleslawiec, I have been 4 or 5 times now. I am going again before the end of the year. I love Polish Pottery! My collection just keeps growing. I hope I have a granddaughter to pass it down to because I only have 1 son. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    I was in the States and few years ago and I visited a quaint little artisan town. One of the stores had Polish Pottery in it and I asked the owner if he went to Poland to buy it, he said, “no he got it from a distributor.” I started to show him about the blue label on the back and he asked me how I knew so much about the pottery, I said, “I go there once a year”. He said, ” are you a distributor?” I said, “No, I just love to shop for Polish Pottery!” by the way that one piece was probably 5 times more than I paid for it in Poland.

    • Who knows maybe your will get married one day and your new daughter-in-law might fall in love with the stuff!! I know it is crazy how expensive this stuff is in the US and my Polish friends think I am crazy for all the pottery I have.

      Have a fun time on your next shopping trip!

  16. Rahul says:

    Excellent post!
    I stumbled upon this blog while searching for places to go in Poland. These products are so lovely. I must visit this city. I will love to photograph them and also buy a lot of them (ok.. only what I can carry.. sigh) !
    Thanks a lot of putting it up! Cheers! :)

  17. Pingback: Traditional Art – Boleslawiec Stoneware | Something to Ponder About

  18. cherylhall says:

    if i wanted to purchase quite a few pieces..am i able to ship it from each store back to the US?

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