Where and What is Boleslawiec?
Boleslawiec is a city in southwestern Poland, and tourism is a major industry there. A big reason the tourists come is to buy their world-renowned ceramics from “Ceramic City.” Artifacts found in the area show that the industry of ceramics there began as long ago as the Middle Ages. In the 1600s, guilds or unions for the pottery craft formed. Historical pieces dating back from the earliest days are typically jugs or pitchers and have with a brown glaze with the initials of the crafters on the bottom.
A Little More History of Polish Pottery
Designs changed over time, and the use of raised flowers replaced the plain brown glaze Leaves were on a white stem with the brown glazed background. The white stems were not painted but rather made from white clay. The 18th and 19th centuries brought about some changes in designs including the use of flowers, birds, and the Boleslawiec emblem. In the 1900's white clay replaced the brown clay. Johann Gottlieb Altman brought about that change. He developed the method of casting items instead of using a potter’s wheel which was the practice up to that time. A new glaze, one that was lead-free, also allowed for new and creative designs. Today the typical patterns found on the pottery include dots, flowers, circles, scales, and clovers.
A ceramics schools started in Boleslawiec in 1897. Under the leadership of headmaster, Dr. Wilhelm Pukall, the school was responsible for the growth of the industry. Famous artists working in the late 1800s and early 1900s include Hugo Reinhold and Carl Werner. New and exciting patterns and the use of a wider array of colors, glazing, and techniques involving stencils came about. Six more schools formed. Their works can still be found today and are typically brown pots with white patterns on them.
World War II saw the end of many of Poland’s ceramic workshops, but a good number returned after the war. The State University of Fine Arts in Wroclaw formed a cooperative of talented potters who kept the standard of artistic achievement high.
Polish Pottery Today
Today, look for the beautiful ceramic pieces from Boleslawiec using the names Boleslawiec Pottery, Polish Pottery, or Polish Stoneware. Artists working in factories or small venues produce most of the works. The white and brown stoneware can still be found. However, what you will find in searching modern-day pieces is more of a trend towards motifs of yellow, dark blue, green, brown, purple and red on cream or white backgrounds. The words “Hand made in Poland " are on the bottom of authentic Boleslawiec pottery. Those dots and floral patterns are still popular and bring forth that tradition of the past. Adding to the variety in designs, "peacocks eye" and "windmills" are now also popular.
The beautiful pottery is growing in popularity in the United States but still maintains its greater fan clubs in Germany and Eastern Europe. Collectors worldwide look for the pieces. However, Polish Pottery pieces are not only for putting on a collector’s shelf, but are usable in everyday life. A quick search of pieces shows plates, bowls, serving pieces, toothbrush holders, storage containers, teapots, and the list goes on. The price range of pieces is great. A cup or saucer sells for probably twenty dollars or so, but pieces can range up to five hundred U.S. dollars and beyond. The most skillful crafters complete the pieces from start to finish and sign the bottom. Hand-painting is a standard and the technique used is one in which sponges and brushes create the beautiful designs.