Polish pottery is a generic term used to describe the pottery that comes out of the town of Boleslawiec, in Poland. Pottery has been prevalent in Europe since thousands of years and Poland has been a major contributor to the pottery scene with its own specialized form. Even though Polish pottery is actually known as Boleslawiec pottery, the world recognizes it by the name "Polish pottery". It is, however, also known as Polish stoneware!
Known for its natural clay deposits, the Boleslawiec region has a massive history of excavating clay and, from it, producing some of the finest pieces of craftsmanship over the generations. Polish pottery has a unique colour, which is white and creamy, and blue, stoneware that has b become the trademark of this city. Known as the MiastoCeramiki or Town of Ceramics, Boleslawiec revolves around pottery and these wares are an integral part of the city's economy.
Despite the relatively small amount of people practicing Polish pottery around the world, there has been a sudden resurgence of this art-form, especially with the United States of America taking interest in it.
The Story behind Polish Pottery
Pottery has been a part of Poland's culture since the 14th century, with potters and ceramic artists being prevalent in written records. That said, there have been records of pottery being a part of the region since the middle ages. By the time the 17th century came around, potters in Poland had decided to form a guild, especially in the Boleslawiec area. Then came the period where these potters determined their own style of work and created something that people still love today.
First came the brown glazing that was used on pitchers and jugs. These wares also came with tin lids, in some cases, although most of the creations were open. In all cases, the maker always put in their initials and the date on which they created the piece.
By the middle of the 18th century, things were beginning to take a turn towards motifs and Polish pottery was finding itself in a phase where raised flowers on stems were becoming extremely popular. Effectively, the pattern needed to have some kind of a stick in it. In most cases, the sticks would be in white or off-white colours, contrasting with the dark brown glaze on those pots. Soon, other emblems started coming into the market and Adam & Eve found their way onto these pottery wares.
During the second half of the 19th century, Polish pottery underwent another significant change when the white clay, originally used to create the motifs and the patterns, began being used as the main clay that built the ware. A lead-free glaze was introduced into the equation, allowing these potters to begin stamping their designs onto the pot and even creating new motifs and designs. Repeating circles and flowers became extremely popular at the time and, today, are seen on a variety of different pottery and earthenware.
The Push for Polish Pottery
The natural clay found in the Boleslawiec region is known to be rich in feldspar and silicon. As a result, the clay fires at around 1,100 to 1,300 degree centigrade, is brown in colour and has a rougher texture as compared to something like porcelain. This clay form is available in abundance near the region and makes it quite easy for pottery to take hold of the entire place.
It has also led to the creation of several schools for pottery and ceramics in the region. Not only have these schools helped teach people about the finer points of the art, it has also enabled them to research into newer techniques and find ways of making Polish pottery better and more attractive. In the early days of pottery schools, only sons of potters were accepted, who later went on to start their own workshops.
Amongst these schools, there was the one that belonged to three potters, Julius Paul, Hugo Reinhold and Carl Werner. This school led to the creation of methods for stencilling, matte glazing and gilding. These techniques turned around the world of Polish pottery and led to the creation of the kind of work that we see and enjoy today.
There is a lot of German influence in Polish pottery today, especially due to the after-effects of the Second World War. However, the town of Boleslawiec is still known for producing traditional and brilliant forms of Polish pottery, all of which are as brilliant as those that made this specific art-form interesting in the first place. If you are looking to simply buy some of these Polish pottery pieces, make sure they have "Made in Poland" stamped on their bottom. The colours are still as unique as ever, with the brilliance of the traditional patterns maintaining their old world charm.
With a love for making or buying Polish pottery, you just cannot go wrong!