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….
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 (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.
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.
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?