Boleslawiec (former German town of Bunzlau) is a picturesque town by the river Bobr in Poland. It has been an important center of ceramics manufacturers for centuries. It is due to the unique natural sources of clay used to make heat-resistant and leakproof dishes. In this region, there are sources of a special clay used for glazing, mainly for glossy brown surfaces (glaze).
The first mention of a potter from Boleslawiec can be found in books of the town Svídnice from 1380. The oldest dish that is still in existence dates back to 1640.
In the second half of the 17th century, new types of bottles and pitchers emerged in Boleslawiec. They were of melon-like shapes with ribbed decoration and covered with smooth and semi-glossy, brown or green enamel made of local clay. (This typical shape from Boleslawiec gave rise to the Czech words “buclák” or “buclatý”, which means being plump or chubby).
In the second half of the 18th century, the pitchers with brown glaze started to be decorated with white unglazed clay. These pitchers usually have a tin lid and a date or initials to mark their origin. In addition to wine and beer pitchers, tea or coffee pots, mugs, cups, jars, and inkpots were becoming more and more popular.
Jan Gotlieb Altmann introduced major changes to the production process at the beginning of the 19th century. It was in particular the use of sanitary and safe glaze (feldspar-based) instead of previously used lead glaze to coat the insides of dishes. He was the first one to make dishes of white clay, which up to then had been used only to decorate the brown glaze. He created many classic forms and started to use gold and cobalt to decorate the dishes. In 1844, at the International World Exposition in London, he was awarded a gold medal for his work.
In the second half of the 19th century, white clay was already a standard material for making dishes. To be able to compete with the porcelain that was becoming very popular in Europe, the Boleslawiec ceramics started using stamp decoration technique, the most common shapes being circles, dots, peacock-eye ornament, and clover leaves. The prevailing colors were cobalt blue, green, brown, and ocher. This decoration method was used until World War II..
IIIn 1897, a school of ceramics was founded in Boleslawiec, which later proved to be an essential contribution to the development of this craft in the region. The director of the school was Dr. Wilhelm Pukall from Berlin. Apart from education and training, the school supported the introduction of new manufacturing techniques and methods. These changes affected the whole manufacturing process. The composition as well as processing of raw materials was changed. Shapes were made using plaster molds, which lead to identical sizes of numerous dishes and to more perfect and smooth surfaces. The process also improved thanks to new furnace constructions and new methods of decorating and glazing. Among the companies that collaborated with the school most actively were Reinhold and Paul und Sohn, and they became the foundations for manufacture established after the war. As a result of these changes, the products gained significantly higher quality, competitiveness, and value.
Up until 1939, there were around 20 ceramic workshops in Boleslawiec, producing not only dishes, but also stoneware pipes, containers for the chemical industry, and architecture elements. Further development was interrupted by World War II during which the town was partly destroyed and the workshops were destroyed completely.
To restore the ceramic industry in the region, a professor of the Krakow school of art, Tadeusz Szafran, was recruited. As early as 1946, the first dish was made in the re-opened Reinhold manufacture. In 1949, the production in Paul und Sohn (producer of art ceramic) was renewed.
Ceramika Artystyczna was established a year later based on the principles and experience of Paul und Sohn. The artistic patronage was taken over by renowned artists from the college of fine arts in Wroclaw. Graduates of this school later became renowned artists and managers at Ceramika Artystyczna.