Polish pottery is one of the best-known products of Poland. It comes from the south-west part of Poland, from Boleslawiec region where the tradition of pottery dates back to the 14th century. This area is rich in natural, high-quality white clay deposits, which local craftsmen have used for ages to create strong and beautiful stoneware.
These centuries-long, ceramic traditions are continued until today. As a result, the exceptional character of Polish pottery is still famous for its fundamental 4 elements:
- the top quality of materials used for production
- characteristic colors
- unique design
- the exceptional hand-decoration stamp technique developed in the Middle Ages
The whole manufacturing process comprises 5 steps. Read below how you could make a piece of a lovely Polish pottery by yourself.
1. Shape formation
It all starts with high-quality clay. You need to mix it thoroughly to make a plastic mass. Then you can create a body shape. There are 2 different ways of doing it. Depending on the item, you may either cast it in a gypsum mold or create it using a hand-driven or mechanical potter’s wheel. Let your product dry then, there is no point for rushing otherwise it can simply crumble.
When it is properly dry, you can easily remove it from the mold. Clean it thoroughly, get rid of all sharp edges. In case of mugs or cups, you need to attach handles.
Examine your product. Any cracks on the surface of the body mean that you can not use it for further production. But you can not throw it away either. There can’t be any losses at this stage of the process. Grind your item, turn it again into a plastic mass and form a new shape. If everything is fine, you leave your item for further drying, during which part of the water from a vessel’s body evaporates.
2. Preliminary firing
Once dry, fire your vessel at 800 degrees of Celsius. This is the first firing process. As a result, you get the product called a biscuit.
During the firing, water completely evaporates from the vessel’s body. The product becomes slightly shrunk, hard and its color changes to light grey.
After taking in out of the furnace, wait until it cools down. Check it again. If there are any cracks or scratches, throw it away (fired, damaged vessels are not suitable for shape formation process again).
Otherwise, be ready for the biggest challenge - the painting.
This is the part of the process that makes Polish pottery so exceptional. There are thousands of different patterns and new ones appear every year. The most popular designs contain traditional circles, dots and “peacock’s eyes” but also many modern ones are created to suit all tastes. Some patterns are simple, others very elaborate, but all are handmade by using unique stamping technique.
To paint your biscuit, you need stamps, brushes, and underglaze paints. If you start with the simple design, you mostly need only stamps. Nowadays stamps are made of rubber, in the past artisans crafted them from potatoes.
Dip the stamp in the paint and decorate the surface of your piece. Seems to be easy but is not. Do not worry, it takes lots of time of practice to master the painting process. Boleslawiec artisans train for years to create this amazing pottery. You apply decorations according to the designated pattern and following the relevant rules. Yet each created element is an individual, unique form as it is done manually. Depending on the design the process may require one to ten different sized and shaped stamps to fill in the surface. The number of punches may reach into the thousands on a particular piece.
For more complex patterns you have to use also brushes. The most artistic designs are painted only with brushes. Only a few artisans can do it. And only they can leave their signature next to the “Handmade in Poland” stamp at the bottom of a dish.
There are appropriate palettes of colors and stamps for each pattern. Colors range is wide, but the most recognizable for Polish pottery is cobalt color.
Both paints and glaze are non-toxic, free of lead and cadmium and they are safe for food.
When you are ready with your decoration, it is time to coat your piece with a thin protective layer of glaze. Submerge your product in a vat filled with special semi-fluid glaze. Your decoration becomes almost invisible, but do not worry. Your painting efforts were not in vain.
5. Final firing
You need to fire your painted and glazed product once again, this time in a special furnace where the temperature reaches over 1200 degrees of Celsius. This firing lasts around 15 hours.
During this last phase, the glaze changes into a thin and transparent coat like a glass. Your bright color decoration is visible in all its glory.
Glaze protects both your vessel’s body and ornament from damage. This process makes the pottery durable and provides lasting beauty that stands the test of time. The bright patterns do not fade. Pottery is resistant to scratching and chipping. It does not absorb odors and is non-stick what makes it easy to clean. You can use it in a microwave, freezer, oven, and dishwasher.
And this is the end :-). You have a piece of Polish pottery, an appealing combination of beauty and functionality. Perfect for daily use and for special occasions. It makes a great gift idea for your family or friends.