Saturday, August 20, 2011

About Polish Pottery has recently added several raised cat dishes in lovely, elaborate folk-art designs. They’re a little pricey for cat dishes, and there’s a reason for that. Here’s the story behind these ultra-premium cat dishes:

Due to its plentiful natural clay deposits, the Silesia region of Poland has been known for its pottery and ceramics for centuries, with examples from the early Middle Ages having been uncovered in archaeological digs. Boleslaviec is one of the towns in which ceramic pieces have been made for over a thousand years. There, artisans hand craft pottery among the finest in the world. Potters in the town formed a guild way back in the early 17th century.

Over 200 years after the original potters’ guild in Boleslaviec, a master potter named Johann Gottlieb Altman developed a method of casting the pieces instead of throwing them on a wheel, as well as a lead-free glaze that opened the door to new designs including the repeating circles, flowers, and dots you see on the pieces available on After his innovations, larger pottery factories employing many artists arose in the town. Most of the area's factories and pottery schools were destroyed during World War II, but were enthusiastically rebuilt afterward to return to their former excellence. One of the oldest and largest factories in Boleslaviec is multi-award-winning Zaklady Ceramiczne Boleslaviec, from which our pieces originate.

The high content of feldspar and silicon, as well as the great density, of the clay in this region put it in a class by itself for making into strong, durable stoneware. Once shaped and fired at very high temperatures (2,246° Farenheit!), it becomes porous and ready for glazing. A second firing sets the glaze in place and makes the pieces watertight. In our modern world, that also makes them microwave-, freezer- and dishwasher-safe. (Although you should avoid going directly from one temperature extreme to another with them, or the glaze may crack. The factory recommends letting a piece that has been in the refrigerator or freezer warm to room temperature before heating it.)

Intricate decoration in predominant colors of cobalt blue and creamy white are one of the distinctive characteristics of today’s Polish pottery. Three artists -- Julius Paul, Hugo Reinhold and Carl Werner -- revolutionized design again around the turn of the last century by using more brilliant colors, stenciling, and different types of finishes. Recurring motifs in contemporary pieces include the classic dots and florals, windmills, speckles and the popular “peacock’s eye”. They are painted onto each piece by hand using sponge stamps and brushes. The artists' punch technique is unique to ceramics made in Boleslaviec. The style of today’s pieces draws from Polish, Czech, and German traditions and is known in German as Bunzlauer Geschirr.

In the Zaklady factory's line, there are four levels of patterns, each a little more elaborate and difficult to create than the one below it. They are "Classic", "Upper Classic" or "Upper Standard", "DU" or "Subtle", and "Artistic" or "Unikat (unique) Signature". The raised cat dishes we feature are from the first three groups. While patterns in the Unikat line are gorgeous, our supplier felt that the cost of them would be prohibitive for most people buying cat dishes, no matter how spoiled their cats are!

People collect Polish pottery all over the world, with many early pieces being shown in museums. There has been great interest among U.S. collectors lately in Polish pottery, and many pieces are created for everyday use as well as collecting. Each dish is still hand crafted, with mugs and cups selling for $20-$40 apiece. Specialty plates can sell for $500 or more! Now, don’t the pieces we have on seem like a bargain?

To take a look at the Polish pottery raised cat dishes we offer, follow these links: We have eight Standard and Upper Standard designs of raised cat dishes, as well as three Subtle pattern raised cat dishes with more intricate designs. All are in limited supply, so order quickly for the best selection!

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