Boleslawiec Polish Stoneware Evolution


The history of manufacturing pottery in Bolesławiec goes back to the 14th century when, a layer of ceramic clay was uncovered in the vicinity of Bolesławiec beginning the folk art in the German province of Silesia now known as Boleslawiec Poland.

Early pieces from the 1700's & 1800's were storage jars made by farmers sold in the local markets.  At the end of the 19th century with increasing urbanization, industrialization and competition from other forms of pottery the potters of Bunzlauer brought new lines of pottery intended for use in the homes of city dwellers.  Experimentation began with colored glazes, sponging techniques and decorations.  The government founded the "Keramische Fachschule" (Ceramic Technical Training School) in 1898 to foster development of the art.   Thanks to rich deposits of stoneware clay and the famous “white clay” indigenous to this region nearby the Bóbr River basin, the town gained the rank of an important pottery center.

Around the latter half of the 19th century the white clay that had previously been used only for the stick motif (another artistic expression of the time) started to be used for whole vessels. The potters and ceramicists were able to change this clay into applied works of art. This was due to the innovation of Johann Gottlieb Altman, a master potter who was the first to cast dishes in molds instead of throwing them on the wheel. Altman also used a new type of lead-free glaze that enabled stamping and allowed for new motifs and designs. Patterns in the form of twigs, flowers, birds and other graphical elements were put on vessels manually, by means of specially prepared stamps. Hence, the name of the technique - stamping. Their product range is based on handmade and hand-decorated tableware and kitchenware, being an alternative to mass production which is unified and deprived of its individual character. Most of the more recognizable designs today, like the repeating circles, scales, flowers, dots, and clovers, were created at that time.  By the 19th century there were 15 big potteries operating in the town and supplying their products to all the European countries.    .

With early decorations inspired by the peacock feather (the “eyespot” pattern), farmers in the area produced the designs using carved potatoes to create patterns in earth-tone colors.  Old world stamping techniques are still used at the factory and the “Peacock’s Eye” became the universally recognized trademark decoration of the sponge ware, which is still being produced and highly sought after in the market place today.

During the 1920's Bunzlauer potters began a trend towards more colors following the Art Deco movement.  After World War II the Silesia region was annexed to Poland and the majority of the German population was expelled.  The area was rebuilt after the war and the pottery factories reopened.

 

Today, artists continue this folk art using natural sea sponge to apply the lead-free paint to their creations.  New colors, as well as variations of the traditional blue, green and sienna, have been added to the artisans color palette.  Skill levels range from Beginning Artisans who paint Classic designs such as the famous "Eye of the Peacock" to Apprentice Artisans who paint modern and contemporary designs as they strive to become Master Artisans.  When an individual is reaching the height of their career, they are elevated to Master Artisan status and not only train apprentice artists but produce “UNIKAT” (unique) or “Signature” patterns. Each UNIKAT pattern is lovingly painted with stamps and incorporates brushes to give the designs demmention and movement. Each UNIKAT is signed by the Master Artist who painted it and stamped UNIKAT on the bottom. UNIKAT patterns can be described in terms of transitional designs because they connect the new Polish Stoneware trends to the old, bringing a new found fondness and appreciation to more homes across the world.