Manufaktura Pottery Tour - Bolesławiec
I must admit, like I mentioned in my previous post, I did not know about Polish pottery. I was lucky enough to have a friend introduce me to it and now I am hooked! There are five quality levels for handmade Polish pottery, 1-5. The best being "Quality 1" is exported to the US and other countries while "Quality 2-5" are sold in the local factory outlets and also any leftover pottery from export is also sold in the factory outlets. The pottery sold in the States costs at least two times as much as it is in Poland and a lot of the time, more than that. The pottery is handmade in factories and my friend was able to get us into a tour of one of the factories.
I found the tour very interesting and it helped that it was in English. We went to "Manufaktura" for our tour, which was located in Bolesławiec, Poland. I believe the guide said there are three factories in the Bolesławiec-area that are associated with Manufaktura. I included a link to company down below, if you care to read more. The tour was about an hour long. I learned that there are basically four steps to the handmade pottery process: shaping/molding the clay, firing, painting and glazing, and then the final firing. The first stop on the tour was the shaping area. We watched a worker shaping the clay into the various shapes of plates, mugs, dishes, figurines, etc. A pink line is painted/put onto each piece (this will disappear later in the process, as I recall) signaling a piece can move on in the process. If the shape is not right, the clay can be reused and remolded. Next, the pottery is ready to be baked/fired in the oven at 900 degrees Celsius for 8 hours. During this baking, the pottery pieces are stacked on one another. After the baking, the pottery is put into a water bath to find any cracks that may have appeared. If there are cracks, the pottery does not move onto the next point, which is painting the pattern. The paint is mineral based and therefore can rub off on your fingers. So, the painters are only allowed to touch the rim and the bottom of the pottery. The painters are given a pattern/design to follow and sometimes these are seasonal other times it is the traditional blue and white pattern which most people are familiar with. Patterns/designs are specific to a certain factory; each factory has their own designs and shapes for their specific handmade pottery and in some instances, these can be rare. For this particular factory, the key was a blue rim around the top of the piece of pottery. I was amazed at the intricacy of the designs on the pottery. After painting, the pieces are glazed and then baked again. The baking this time occurs at 1250 degrees Celsius for 13 hours. During this baking, the pottery cannot touch because the glaze will cause the pieces to stick together, so each piece is carefully arranged on the cart. Once the pieces are done, they are reviewed for any flaws, which could be an extra polka dot or flower, etc. Each piece is given one of the quality ratings above during this review. To my untrained eye, I could not tell the difference between and Quality 1 and 3, but there is a price difference. On some pieces, if you look at the bottom, the painter will have signed the piece. After we finished the tour, we did a little more pottery shopping and then departed for yet another acclaimed pottery shop, Andy Pottery. I also included a link to Andy Pottery below, too.
Shop inside Manufaktura:
I was able to purchase some pottery at the factory outlets, some at Manufaktura and at Andy Pottery. There were so many options in shape, size, and pattern to choose from, it is definitely overwhelming. The pottery is dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe, but I think it is just too pretty to eat off of, ha! I really enjoyed the tour and learned quite a bit.
On to Slovakia...