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A Quick Guide to Polish Pottery
Carey Fruzza (carey)
If you are going to Poland, you will probably see the famous hand-made pottery from the small town of Boleslawiec (pronounced bo-leh-swav-ee-ets) located in the southwest of Poland. If you are a ceramic junkie like me, you'll notice that this pottery is different from the hand-made pottery you find in places like Italy, France or Korea. The solid heaviness of the pottery and geometric designs appeal to both men and women. (My husband is just as crazy about it as I am - what a relief!)
Pots are made from a local stoneware clay that fires white. Most pottery is made from plaster molds and shapes are quite varied, like the distinctively Polish cheese lady! The beauty of these vessels is in the hand-painted designs made with small sponge stamps. Patterns swirl in exquisitely detailed geometric and floral designs. The pots themselves are lead-free, oven, dishwasher and microwave-safe.
Polish Cheese Ladies
I'm a ceramicist myself and appreciate fine craftsmanship. Even if you don't necessarily know what to look for in Polish pottery, you're in luck! All Boleslawiec pottery is clearly marked with stickers that give a "Gat." rating. "Gat." is short for gatunek which means "quality category." You'll find pots ranging from categories one through five.
It is very easy to find the best quality and I only buy "Gat 1" unless I want to hang it on the wall and the flaw is imperceptible.
Gat. 1 stamp on bottom of pottery
Some pots are "Unikat' which means they are produced as a limited edition and are usually signed by the artist. These tend to be more expensive, prized items which are usually for display only. (I use all of my Polish pottery which is the most appealing thing about it.)
There are dozens of Classic and Unikat patterns available. Many of the classic patterns are repeated throughout the factories in Boleslawiec with minor alterations. The most classic Polish pattern and the most widely available is deep blue with white dots, but there are many more detailed patterns to choose from as well.
Flying Peacocks Pattern
Where to Buy
My mom went on a shopping spree in Boleslawiec last time she visited here. One of her many purchases was a set of twelve cups. A few weeks later, she called me to tell me that a similar mug in a Sonoma, CA store was selling for a whopping $24. She bought hers for $3 each. You will find that Polish pottery in the United States is at least seven times more expensive than in Poland. The best deals to be found in Poland are in the town where the pottery is produced: Boleslawiec.
We bought all of our Polish pottery in the town of Boleslawiec, about an hour (120 km) west of the city of Wroclaw. This is where you'll find the best prices and the most staggering selection. This is probably the only town in Poland where you can pay in US dollars.
The best way to get there is by car. There are actually bus tours from Germany for all the American army wives stationed there. Maybe you could catch a ride if you happen to be in Frankfurt.
The town of Boleslawiec is charming. There is a sweet town square, more shops with ornaments, glass and linens, and even a ceramics museum. In August, the town hosts a ceremics festival which is a hoot! At the festival, large baking dishes are sold for as low as $2. Be prepared to wrangle with other Poles vying for these great prices!
Pottery Festival at Boleslawiec
If you miss the festival, not to worry! Here are my top favorite factory outlets in Boleslawiec:
Zaklady Ceramiczne Factory Shop
Manufaktura Factory Shop
Ceramika Artystyczna Factory Shop
Look in at the booth in the Sukiennica (Cloth Hall) in the middle of the square. Prices are higher here than in the town of Boleslawiec. Another store, also called Sukiennice, is located on Bracka Street, about two blocks off the square. Prices are about the same as the Cloth Hall, but there is a much larger selection.
On the 2nd floor of the department store Fenix, in Wroclaw's main square, you'll find a nice selection of pottery at reasonable prices (meaning cheaper than Krakow).
A wonderful store owned by a very friendly English-speaking woman can be found at Kim's Center. And get this: My husband couldn't leave this store without buying a dog food bowl.
A second store, called Boleslawiec, is located at ulica Prosta 2/14 (tel: +48 (22) 624 84 08).
Throughout Poland, look for the small chain store called Cepelia. This shop sells all kinds of wonderful Polish crafts, including Boleslawiec pottery.
Unfortunately, I have yet to find a shop in Boleslawiec that will ship your pottery back home. In the past, we have bought extra duffel bags and checked them in on the plane.
www.poloneapolishpottery.com: Polonea Polish Pottery. Managed by a US pottery distributor, includes a wonderful guide for the town of Boleslawiec, pottery patterns, FAQ and even a nice message board for those interested in Boleslawiec pottery. You'll see there is quite a community of Polish pottery enthusiasts out there!
www.chamberofcommerce.pl/pottery/: Boleslawiec Chamber of Commerce. See the left-hand bar for pottery examples from the main factories in Boleslawiec. It's also possible to order catalogues through this site if you can't make it to the town and want to order directly.
www.kimscenter.com.pl: Kim's Center in Warsaw.
www.bluerosepottery.com: Blue Rose Pottery, to look at Polish pottery examples
www.wildrosepottery.com: Wild Rose Polish Pottery, to look at Polish pottery examples
www.polishpotteryonline.com: Polish Pottery Online, to look at Polish pottery examples
www.polishtable.com: Polish Table, to look at Polish pottery examples
Some photos used with permission of Boleslawiec Chamber of Commerce. Other photos by the author.
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