Pretty, Perky Polish Pottery
What’s pretty, perky, and plays well with others? Why, Polish pottery, of course! I was introduced to this delightful stoneware while living in Munich. The region of Boleslawiec, Poland, where the pottery is made, is near the German border. An enterprising expat mom named Shari recognized the appeal of the pottery and made a small cottage industry of it. She began collecting the pottery during her trips to Poland and then started bringing back pieces for friends. The requests from friends became so great that she put together a booklet of designs and pieces and took orders from us fellow expats who had gone ga-ga over the stuff. She would visit the factories herself, purchase all of the orders, and even worked with the factories to develop some new designs. She made her trips to Poland especially meaningful by organizing toy collections from us expats in Munich to donate to the Polish orphanages.
I bought practically all of my Polish pottery from Shari, including my profile piece, the “pancake lady.” Now back in the U.S., Shari still sells some of these items on her website, www.pancakelady.com, and she still donates 5% of her profits to the Polish orphanages.
WHAT IT IS
Polish pottery is durable, colorful, hand-made ceramic-ware. It is oven, dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe (although it cannot go directly from freezer/refrigerator to oven or visa-versa). Covered with bright patterns, floral designs, or motifs, the pieces mix and match extremely well with each other and even with other dinnerware. It is made from the white clay of the Boleslawiec region, which is known to be particularly strong when fired. The making of this pottery began as a folk art over a century ago. Traditional colors and patterns are hand-stamped and/or painted onto the pottery; designs range from classic repeating dots, lines, and swirls, to florals, and even stars and stripes.
One of the most traditional designs is the “peacock’s eye,” a red dot surrounded by a green ring on a white circle—typically set on a cobalt blue plate. Thick lines depicting peacock feathers are also part of a classic design.
There are several factories in the Boleslawiec region; most of my pottery comes from the Zaklad Ceraciczny Stanislaw Wiza factory, or Wiza. The bottom of each piece of pottery is filled with information: it will bear the mark of the factory, the words “hand made in Poland, and a number corresponding to the artist who made the piece. Some pieces will bear the artist’s signature or the stamp “UNIKAT,” meaning “unique” or limited edition, and UNIKAT pieces usually cost more. The ceramics are not limited to dinnerware; they are also fashioned into bakeware, kitchen accessories, candle holders, cheese bells, decorative pieces, and even Christmas ornaments.
BRING IT HOME
There are many sources for buying Polish pottery, and prices can range from $2.00 to $50.00 for a mug, depending on the source and the design. (Although this style of hand-made pottery is over a hundred years old, the current surge of interest in it, especially here in the U.S., has brought about a surge in prices.)
Shari’s charming site, www.pancakelady.com offers the best prices I have seen on an internet website…in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find better prices for such wonderful pieces, even in Poland! She sells butter dishes (similar to the one pictured), syrup containers and pancake ladies in 2 different sizes, and she offers most of these items in four different designs. Her large pancake ladies, for instance, are priced at $49.95, which is the price I have seen listed for coffee mugs in many places. A site offering a nice variety of pieces at competitive prices is www.janelleimports.com. A truly ubiquitous site for Polish pottery is www.bluerosepottery.com. They offer a wide variety of pieces and prices; prices will vary according to the piece and the design. I have found several pieces at hugely discounted prices at TJMaxx and Home Goods; all of the pieces pictured on this blog above the words “bring it home” were purchased in the States at discount stores.
This large bowl cost only $12.00, this mug only $2.00, and both are signed by the artist. Costco also has occasional Polish pottery shows, and Marshalls and Tuesday Morning often carry some pieces. However, at discount stores, you will typically only find one or two pieces. You probably won’t be able to set your dinner table with what you find there, but you could supplement your table with some unique items.
One thing to look for when you’re prowling for pottery is the stamp on the bottom assuring you that the piece was hand-made in Poland. There are some factories that have sprung up which are issuing machine-made ceramics, so beware of that, especially if you are buying over eBay.
If this article hasn’t told you more than you ever cared to know about Polish pottery and you’re hankering to learn more, check out these two sources: The Polish Art Center, at www.polartcenter.com and The Poland Import Export Chamber of Commerce at www.chamberofcommerce.pl/pottery.