Yes, the traditional way of decorating Polish Pottery is by hand-stamping motifs as the painter rotates a piece of bisque on a turntable, repeating highly saturated, colorful patterns that must be adapted to many different shapes. Some very experienced pottery artists also hand-paint free-form designs, often signing these pieces. Both methods require great skill, artistry, and precision.
Polish Pottery has been made in the same place, in much the same way, for decades, repeating patterns that are now considered "traditional". Traditional patterns make use of motifs that are often inspired by nature, and some -- like the peacock design -- were created at a time when peacocks were considered exotic and were popular with royalty. In fact, the peacock pattern today is one of the most recognizable traditional Polish Pottery patterns. "Traditional Polish Pottery", in essence, is a way of describing this unique European stoneware that has been perfected through time and place and is truly an original.
Polish Pottery is made of white clay found in and around the town of Bołeslawiec, in the Silesian region of Poland. Glazed and fired at extremely high temperatures, it turns the clay to stone, designating it as "stoneware". It has been made in this same European town for decades using the same materials, even as frontiers and country names have changed over time.
Earlier pottery artists wanted to attract the attention of nobility to guarantee their income, and the royal blue color was highly desired for ages. Also the color to withstand a high firing temperature the best, cobalt has traditionally been the most reliable to work with. Authentic pieces were also made with green, brown, orange, and yellow, but cobalt blue against the natural white clay became recognized as the classic combination for Polish Pottery. Paint colors like red are now brighter and have become commonly used over time, but are still often incorporated into patterns with a blue rim.
Quality 1: deemed to be at the highest level of craftsmanship. These items must have no flaws in shape, glaze, painting, or color. Our customers want the very best, so we only sell Quality 1 items.
Quality 2: operable in every way, but it may have a barely noticeable blemish that would disqualify it from being top-rated, such as a small paint smudge or tiny spot where the glaze is thin. These flaws are often very hard for the average Polish Pottery buyer to find.
Quality 3: has an obvious blemish, whether it is a paint smudge, flaw in the pattern design, or a noticeable wobble when placed on a countertop. Otherwise still useable and beautiful to most buyers, it has not completed according to the standard for that item.
Quality 4: flawed in a way that may prove to render the piece unusable over time, like a handle that was only partially attached or a hairline crack that was missed during the quality control process and glazed over. These can still be as beautiful as other pieces, but may need to be treated with extra care to ensure the life of the product.
Manufacturers not only produce pottery in traditional patterns, they also encourage their artists to pursue new ideas, pushing the envelope with motifs, colors, and design. The Unikat patterns created are often complicated, highly saturated, and mostly completed by brush by a small pool of highly skilled artists. Unique to each company, they are difficult for other manufacturers to reproduce, but may provide inspiration for a modified design.
UNIKAT will appear written on the bottom of the piece, signifying it is a unique pattern. Unikat patterns vary depending on the elements used in the design - from larger to smaller motifs and the number of colors needed - and generally use a more modern style in their composition. A higher difficulty in the intricacy of designs and time needed to complete them is usually a contributing factor to Unikat items being priced higher than traditional pieces.
Skill and artistry increase with each of these levels, unlike a Quality label. The most proliferate producer of UNIKAT items is the manufacturer Ceramika Artystyczna, which has named 8 levels: U2, U3, U4, U5, U6, U7, U8, and Limited Edition.
U2: the least detailed to produce, often priced similarly to traditional patterns.
U3-U4: these pieces are priced slightly higher as “regular” pieces, with an amount of decoration that requires more time to complete
U5-U8: more intricate designs, requiring more time and expertise, often signed with the painter's initials, last name, or stamped with their full name
Limited Edition: museum quality and highly sought by collectors, these are exquisite in design and very time-intensive to produce. Their production is often capped making them “limited run” and rare pieces, and priced as such. They are mostly completed by the master designer only and may be numbered on the bottom.
Yes, many manufacturers compete with their versions of UNIKAT items. This has made the collector's market even more interesting and special and has brought the best artists to the forefront.
Signature Unikat pieces are what most collectors search for. These pieces are painted by a highly skilled artist who often created the design themselves and carried out the painting process from beginning to end. They are very unique and limited, with fine designs reflecting the particular style and creativity of the artist. Artists who paint these patterns usually hand-sign their full name.