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The History of Polish Pottery

Polish pottery, as we know it today, began as folk art hundreds of years ago in the German province of Silesia. It originated in a small German town named Bunzlau, which is now the Polish city of Boleslawiec (pronounced "bol-les-slavi-etz"). Located on the Bobr River in Southwest Poland, Boleslawiec is the exclusive spot where this traditional ceramic art is produced.

The first pieces of "Bunzlauer" stoneware date back to the 1500's, however the area has a history pottery making as early as the 7th century. Farmers would often make this pottery in the winter when it was too cold for outside work. The first examples of this stoneware were crafted by hand, decorated using potatoes as stamps and then glazed with a chocolate colored material. Even at this time, each piece of stoneware was an individual work of art. It wasn't until the end of the 19th century that artists began to introduce new, more elaborate lines of pottery intended for dining and display. Then in 1898, the government established the "Keramische Fachschule" (Ceramic Technical Training School) to foster development of the art.

In the early 1900's, Bunzlauer pottery experienced a renaissance that introduced the "Jugendstil" movement--the German equivalent of Art Nouveau. During this time, the "Pfauenauge" or "Peacock's Eye" became the universally accepted trademark decoration of the stoneware. In response to the Art Deco movement, the 1920's brought a trend towards more colors. However, during World War II all the ceramic plants were eradicated and production came to a stand still. It wasn't until the 1940's that efforts began to revive the ceramic art. Today in the small village of Boleslawiec Poland, skilled artists still individually handcraft and hand paint each piece of pottery using a hand-stamping technique and free-hand design.

Features and Manufacturing Process

Polish pottery is created from white clay that is found only in the Boleslawiec region of Poland. The pottery is fired in coal and gas ovens at temperatures in excess of 2200 degrees Fahrenheit with a glaze that is lead and cadmium free. Polish pottery is known for it's versatility in that it is safe for use in the dishwasher, microwave, freezer and oven. Also, Polish Pottery is resilient to abrasives making it durable and resistant to scratching or chipping. It is this combination of function and beauty that makes Polish pottery so appealing.

Today Polish pottery is created and preserved by skilled artisans who are able to make both traditional and modern patterns. Included in these designs are signature patterns that are created by highly-skilled artisans. These "unikat" or "unique" pieces are more intricate and bear the name of the artist. Additionally, these pieces are rare and highly collectible. Since each piece is handcrafted, slight variations in color and pattern may exist. Some of the most famous of these unique designs were those commissioned by the renowned 18th century King of Prussia, Frederick the Great.

Caring for Polish Pottery

Polish pottery is freezer, oven, microwave and dishwasher safe under most circumstances. While these pieces are extremely durable, they are pottery, so care should be used.

Polish Pottery distributes heat evenly for perfect baking and is also nonstick for easy clean-up which makes it easy to care for. However, avoid sharp temperature swings from hot to cold or cold to hot as the pottery needs time to adjust to changing temperatures. Do not apply direct heat to the stoneware. It is suggested to bring frozen pieces to room temperature before putting it in the oven and to let hot pieces cool down before storing in the refrigerator. Following these guidelines will ensure that you will enjoy your beautiful stoneware for many years.

Manufactures of Polish Pottery

  • Ceramika Artystyczna- Established in 1950, Ceramika Artystyczna is renowned for producing stoneware that is of the highest quality and most exquisite decoration. This manufacturer is a co-op of artists, about 70% of whom are woman. Ceramika Artystyczna produces tableware, bakeware, kitchen items, and household accessories such as soap dispensers and vases. Both the classical and the unikat designs are highly artistic, with vibrant colors, subtle shading, and intricate details.
  • Zaklady Ceramiczne "Bolesawiec"- Established in 1946, Zaklady Ceramiczne "Boleslawiec" is the largest and oldest manufacturer of Polish Pottery. Known as "Zaklady," this manufacturer produces rich looking and feeling pottery that is beautifully decorated, consistently high in quality, and durable. Zaklady products include dinnerware, baking dishes, serving dishes, kitchen accessories, and household items such as vases, flower pots, and stoneware crocks. Based on the intricacy of the stamped design, Zaklady patterns range from traditional to unikat. Annual production totals approximately two million pieces of pottery.
  • Cer-Maz , previously known as KM, is a small family run pottery business under the direction of a young but very skilled potter Krzysztof Mazurek. Both of his parents and his brother are actively involved in running the family business. His mother is the lead pattern designer. She has over 20 years of experience as a lead artist at another pottery factory called Manufaktura. Cer-Maz is also well known for the high quality of their bisque. Their bisque is used by other pottery makers in the area. Cer-Maz is located in Warta Bolesławiecka, which is right outside of Bolesławiec and right next to other pottery shops like WR, Andy and Andar.
  • Ceramika Artystyczna "Wiza"- Ceramika Artystyczna "Wiza", known simply as Wiza, was founded in 1963 by Mr. Stanislaw Wiza. This company is unrelated to the Polish Pottery cooperative known as Ceramika Artystyczna. The Wiza factory has grown from humble beginnings under communist rule into its current status as a leading exporter of Polish Pottery, with approximately 120 employees. Wiza stoneware is high quality and durable, with a variety of decorative patterns and forms.
  • WR Unikat- Opened in 1977 by Wladyslaw Rutyna, WR Unikat is a small factory that specializes in hand-painted patterns. Today, WR Unikat has about 70 employees. WR Unikat is unique among Polish Pottery manufacturers in that they do not use the traditional hand stamped techniques to decorate their pottery, but instead paint each piece with brushes in beautiful floral patterns. All pottery from WR Unikat is described as "Unikat" because each pattern is produced exclusively by a single artist.
  • Manufaktura- Established in 1993, Manufaktura is one of the largest and fastest growing manufacturers of Polish Pottery. Creating stoneware with popular appeal in terms of price and function, Manufaktura is continually introducing new patterns and shapes. Manufaktura welcomes visitors to their factory in Boleslawiec, and proudly provides tours to interested guests to show the manufacturing process. Manufaktura produces traditional patterns as well as more intricate unikat patterns.
  • Cergor- Cergor is a small producer of Polish Pottery, but a favorite, thanks to the beautifully decorated cats and tea light houses produced by the artistic owner. Cergor is located in a small house-like factory in a small village just outside of Boleslawiec.
  • Ceramika Millena- Established in 1998, Ceramika Millena is a family owned stoneware studio located just outside Boleslawiec. Using local clay, they produce fine Polish Pottery in unique floral and patterned decorations.
  • Zaland Ceramiczny VENA- VENA is a new, small producer of Polish Pottery. VENA is located in Brzeg, which is approximately 100 miles east of Boleslawiec. VENA pottery is noted for its colorful, floral decorations.
  • Ceramika Artystyczna GD- Ceramika Artystyczna GD is a small producer of Polish Pottery that was established in 2004. Their products are finely decorated in floral motifs of rich, vibrant colors.

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