The Boleslawiec region has a long history of pottery making which dates back to the Middle Ages, due to the presence of rich clay deposits in the area. From this clay, which is naturally high in feldspar & silicon, artisans have long been able to make pottery with a hard, sintered surface that is acid and fire-proof and which burns to a white, or bisque, color. By overlaying this bisque with incredibly colorful designs that skilled artists have uniquely developed over many decades, this sturdy dinnerware is transformed into the most luxuriously beautiful, high-quality stoneware anywhere.
While early seventeenth century pottery from the Boleslawiec area was much different than today’s modern stoneware, certain similarities have carried through to modern times. Certain shapes, like beer steins, pickling crocks, and pitchers are as useful today as they were then. The weight of thsi stoneware separates it from most modern dinnerware today and conveys an “of-the-ages” earthen quality. While shapes are now made by using forms, thanks to Johann Gottlieb Altmann, and you’ll no longer find grooving from maker’s hands, most shapes have retained a rounded, thick form reminiscent of the days when the pottery was hand-thrown and formed on a potter’s wheel.
When the mostly white clay of the Boleslawiec region became the most popular for use in Polish pottery, pastoral scenes were at first handpainted in classicist style, similar to the style of the finely decorated porcelain of that day. Stamped-on designs, as are in use today, came into style later on and were first applied using various stamps including cut potatoes, hare’s paws, or scraps of fabric. Now, artists fashion their own stamp designs from small sponges and apply by hand a variety of colors with detailed stamping and brushstrokes. Polish pottery is now widely known for these intricately detailed designs that are truly one-of-a-kind.
Polish stoneware is purchased and collected by many today who value its quality craftsmanship — a painstaking detail in design and uniformity of shapes and patterns. Many large and small producers now compete in Boleslawiec and new designs are always emerging while traditional pieces continue to be loved by Polish pottery consumers. More than just a folk art, Polish pottery is a product with mass appeal — a product for those with a taste and appreciation for beautiful, high quality products.
Perhaps you’re an enthusiast of Polish stoneware? If so, what was your first piece of Polish pottery and what do you love most about it?