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If you don’t really like Polish Pottery, I was 100% you. If it’s not your “style”. LOL. Yes it is. You just don’t know it yet. I freaking love Polish pottery. But I didn’t always. I mean, I admired its artistic style. I even had a couple of little coffee mugs that we like to use on weekends. But it wasn’t my taste. It kind of made me think of something you’d find at grandma’s and I didn’t understand all the fuss. But you know what? Now, my Polish pottery collection makes me excited to be a grandma. I cannot wait to bust out my Polish pottery princess teapot and have a party with my granddaughter. Or rinse cherries in my Polish pottery berry strainer for my grandkids to take outside on a warm summer day. The cherries, not the strainer. Heavens no, they might break it. What I’m saying is, I will treasure my Polish pottery collection for my whole life and I’m excited to do so.
Polish pottery is a traditional style of ceramic ware made in Boleslaweic, Poland. The town’s history as a producer of ceramics goes back thousands of years. Of course, the pottery produced here has evolved over time in to the colorful, blue and white dotted patterns that are popular today. I don’t know if you can even call it “traditional”, because while the tradition of hand-painting remains, the designs are continually changing and evolving, new ones are added and old retired. This is great, because it means that somewhere out there, there is a pattern that will speak to you, no matter if Polish pottery is “your style” or not. I know, because I arrived in Boleslawiec a lone cynic in a group of experienced Polish pottery shopping women, who were giddy with excitement. I totally did not get it. But I quickly started noticing designs that sparked joy in the depths of my soul. And it was all downhill from there. I arrived with my skepticism, and left a crazed fanatic with a new collection of completely unnecessary ceramic ware. I don’t know what happened, its all a blur.
I had a wonderfully fun and experienced group of women to show me the ropes and teach me the tricks of expert Polish pottery shopping. I’m going to share some of these expert tips with you, so you too can dive in to the shops with reckless abandon. Here are my Polish Pottery best practices:
- Stay organized. You’ll be driving from shop to shop in town, if you have a fellow shopping passenger in your car bring: a sharpie, a pile of blankets, very large reusable shopping bags or boxes for the trunk. You will use your sharpie to label your packages with your name as you load them in the back, so you and your friends know whose is whose when you get home. The large shopping bags or organization bins will also keep things separate, you and your car mates can each have a designated bin, to further organize and separate your treasures. The blankets can come in handy to provide a padded ride for your fragile load.
- Plan your route. There are dozens of stores, and if you don’t have a strategy you might miss something! Had I not been with experienced shoppers I would have been lost. A good route through town starts at the north end on Kościuszki street. There is a lone store on one side of the road, start there. Then, cross the street and go through that strip of shops. Be sure to go in to the dusty antique store on the end. Its cash-only, but the man there is willing to haggle prices and you can find some really neat old non-pottery treasures. You’ll have gained some good shopping momentum by then, hop in the car and stop at the other stores on the right side of that street, before you hit the traffic circle. If you go straight through the other side of the traffic circle, there is a shop with a great sale tent out front where you can find some unique designs. Then swing by Henry’s and the three sister shops in front of that. When you’ve exhausted the stores in town, hit the shops a bit farther out, like Andy’s and Milena. You have to keep moving, and if you have two days, it can be a good idea to go to the farther out stores on day two.
- Don’t blow your budget at the first store. You’ll find repeats, but each shop has its own thing going. The sheer volume is mind-boggling. So, while browsing store after store of “dotty pottery” might sound like a cross-eyed day of torture, its not. Have patience, yours is coming. Pace yourself. Write down a list of wares you might like to take home. Example, two small serving dishes, a casserole dish, and a bathroom sink. Yes, you can buy a Polish pottery bathroom sink. If that is your jam. If you already love Polish pottery and are used to seeing Polish pottery prices in the U.S.A. you will be shocked. Shocked. When you realize the extreme markup that happens between there and Poland. Go nuts! But shop like a pace car, not like a race car.
- Do not worry about matching. This can be really hard. Joanna Gaines gives good advice that I am constantly reminding myself of, in life, and in Polish pottery. She says that if you are drawn to something, but you don’t think it “goes”, eventually your “look” will come together and it will look uniquely you. You may not find a complete matching set of dinner plates- though these are available at certain stores, if you absolutely cannot wrap your OCD head around mismatching. You might think this will drive you crazy, but you will find designs that compliment and the fun is in the hunt.
- Don’t forget to rest and eat. The concept of a “quick lunch” isn’t embraced much in Europe, so finding a quick bite can be a difficult waste of time. Ensure you are able to shop and not physically drop during business hours, by packing your own sustenance. Besides, who has time to stop and eat when your favorite treasure might be at the next store??! When you are ready to drop at the end of the day, The Blue Beetroot is a super cute, and superrrrr cozy inn with excellent, excellent food in its restaurant. They also provide a really helpful map of town marked with all shops, as well as a list of every shop that includes their business hours, currency accepted, styles. You can also click the link to their website and check out the “activities” tab for their recommendations for other, er, activities, in the area, beyond just shopping for pottery. For a dinner or lunch out, Opalkowa Chata has a good Polish menu. I recommend the potato pancake topped with beef goulash. If it makes you gain 5lbs, it was worth it.
- Give in and have fun! Let me repeat, the fun is in the hunt. People have their favorite stores, and styles. Enjoy discovering yours! Love it, or leave it, you’re at the source of Poland’s world-famous pottery, At least appreciate it for what it is and find a unique souvenir. At its best, Polish pottery is dishwasher, oven, and microwave safe. When you are shopping, especially when browsing any sale rooms or racks, check the quality sticker on the bottom. Quality is rated 1 to 5. 1 being the highest with no imperfections. 2, may have a stray brush stroke, 3 a funny bump in the ceramic, down to 5 which may have major chips or cracks, and are really only safely used as a decorative piece.
- A little extra advice. If you are traveling home via airplane, a hard-shell carry on suitcase with some extra padding around the edges is a safe way to transport your treasures.
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