So why am I writing about Polish pottery in a quilt magazine blog? The designs we create in our quilts originate from many sources, both natural and manmade. Kaffe Fassett, in his newest book Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts, shares insight on how to train our eyes to “see” the way simple shapes from mundane objects can be translated into textile art. When I look at my small collection of colorful Polish pottery, it’s apparent that the artists who created these designs also interpreted the simple shapes around them into spectacular pieces of useable art.
According to some sources, pottery guilds were in operation as early as the 1500s in the Boleslawiec region of Poland when it was ruled by Germans and known as Bunzlau. Farmers, constrained to indoor work when the weather became cold, turned to handwork, using the warmth and light of their fireplaces. Their pottery was simple in design and coloring, decorated in a folk art technique of potato stamping. Each piece was a unique work of art.
Modern Polish pottery evolved through the centuries, including the use of designs inspired by the “eye” of a peacock feather. The school of ceramics in Bunzlau was opened in 1897 to train artists to achieve the high standards for which Polish pottery is now known around the world. Polish pottery is considered important not only for its beautiful designs but also for its durability. Made in just four factories, the pottery is created with white clay indigenous to the Boleslawiec area and prized for its workable and durable qualities. The characteristics of this clay allow it to be fired twice near 2000 degrees Farenheit, producing tough stoneware which will not crack or chip easily and can be safely used in the microwave, dishwasher, oven, and freezer. The artists who paint Polish pottery are trained for years, now using stamps made of sea sponges rather than potatoes to apply designs. The most highly accomplished artisans create their own signed pieces, designated as Unikat, meaning unique.
Here are some of the pieces I own. Because each of the authentic Polish pottery factories produce and sell specific designs, most collectors like to mix and match patterns, as I do. There are many sources for buying Polish pottery in the United States, both retail and online.