Arts & Literature
The Beauty of Polish Pottery
by Michell Spoden
Polish people have always been known to be respectful to artists from everywhere. As learners of the arts, they have throughout centuries followed the artistic and cultural trends of other countries. At many times this advancement of the arts had much more value than that of politics or money. Although Poland is diverse in its attitudes it still loves to keep its culture. We’ll learn more from Daniel Danner, owner of The Polish Pottery Outlet located in Englewood, Colorado.
Daniel Danner: I’m 54 years young, born in the United States, of mixed descent. My blood pulses with American Indian (Osage), German, and French ancestry as far as I know. At this time, we don’t know where in Germany our family originated, but there is a possibility that it was in the area that the Polish pottery is manufactured. It was at one time part of Prussia and then, Germany, before being awarded to Poland as part of the Potsdam Conference following World War II.
Michell: Please reflect with us on the reason that you love polish art?
Daniel Danner: My love for Polish art began while living in Poland between 1995 and 1999. My love for art began at birth, I believe. My grandmother, the Osage Indian was an accomplished painter. I had a passion for painting during my early teen years.
While living in Poland, I traveled Europe and was exposed to many different forms of art. Amongst my journeys, I viewed the work of “the masters” at The Louvre and the Impressionist Museum in Paris, to mention a few. Most of the Polish art I was exposed to and loved most of all was more along the lines of “crafty” art. Unfortunately, much of Poland’s fine art was stolen and spread throughout Europe during World War II.
I truly appreciated the “spirit” I sensed in the type of art that I saw in Poland. Even more, I enjoyed the great sense of humor that came through in their art. Plain and simple, it is easy to love!
Michell: Why did you decide that you wanted to sell polish pottery?
Daniel Danner: While living in Poland, the thought of importing a variety of their arts and crafts crossed my mind many times. I saw so many beautiful things that I realized most people living in the United States would never be exposed to.
In Poland, I spent much of the time as a full time father. I cooked for our family of five and used the pottery on a daily basis. Seldom have I come across such a high quality product that is both beautiful and functional. The pottery is microwavable, oven safe, dishwasher safe, and freezer safe. But, in Poland we did not lived without a dishwasher, so I especially appreciated the ease with which the pottery cleaned up.
I had often thought of importing the pottery to the United States and opening a business. Yet, I credit my partner, Waldemar Wasiluk, for opening the door. He had put together an investment group and was investigating the purchase of one of the oldest pottery manufacturers in Boleslawiec. For bureaucratic reasons, the purchase did not take place, but by the time the deal fell through we had gotten so far in our discussions, I decided to fly to Poland. Waldek and I met and interviewed the top three manufacturers at the time.
We chose to represent “Manufaktura” in starting our business. We started our business in 2005 based out of the back of a warehouse tucked away in an industrial complex in Englewood, Colorado. Over the past 8 years we have continued to grow and have moved locations 3 times. We finally landed at our current location in 2009. In the fall of 2012, we expanded to over 5000 square feet of space filled with inventory offering Polish pottery, wooden boxes, ornaments, and beautiful paper napkins- all made in Poland.
Michell: Can you please share with us what a polish potter does when producing its piece?
Daniel Danner: Since owning “The Polish Pottery Outlet,” I have had the good fortune to be able to tour many of the pottery manufacturers in Boleslawiec. The process may vary slightly between manufacturers, but in essence, each manufacturer has their own source and mix of the wonderful clay that makes Boleslawiec stoneware. The clay is mined, mixed with water to consistency they refer to as, “Plastik” – the malleable clay that is placed in the form and shaped. The clay dries and is removed from the mold. The edges are trimmed and surfaces smoothed. Then, it goes into the oven for the first firing at over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit to create “the bisque”. The bisque is then decorated by the individual artists using stamps and paint brushes.
Once, decorated, the item is dipped in glaze and put on the baking racks. It is then fired at over 2200 degrees Fahrenheit for twelve to seventeen hours. The result is a beautiful piece of stoneware with a super slick glaze that is every bit as durable as it is functional.
Michell: Please share with us a bit about the Polish culture.
Daniel Danner: I have a huge respect for the Polish as a people. They have endured incredible hardships; have lived through multiple enemy occupations and territory changes; and have emerged as one of the stronger economies in Europe. The Catholic religion remains the predominant religion in the country. From my experience, the Polish are hard working; very artistic; extremely hospitable; and have a great sense of humor.
I draw many parallels between Polish history and American Indian history. Without expounding on the historical parallels, I can say that both are very proud people as a result.
Before moving to Poland, I was told that “if you make a friend of a Pole, you have a friend for life”. Truer words were never spoken, and I can say I have made several life-long friendships throughout my time in Poland. The Polish are probably one of the United States’ greatest allies in Europe at this time and I feel honored to help support their artists and economy through our efforts at The Polish Pottery Outlet.
Michell: Why is art important to polish people?
Daniel Danner: Art is important to everyone. It is expression and can transport you to another place and time. It can take many forms and is prevalent in many aspects of Polish life. I believe it is such a predominate part of Polish society for many reasons. Polish art has been used to document the tragedy in their history, as well as, periods of prosperity. It provided an outlet to vent political frustrations and express their sense of humor during times of oppression. It has been used to carry on Polish tradition and family traditions in Poland.
My theory is that the lack of employment and the policies of Communism afforded the time needed for a large number of Polish people to pursue art as a way to fill idle time and a means of potential income. It will be interesting to see the influence of western values and capitalism on Poland’s arts and crafts industry. In the meantime, there exists a large population of very creative and skilled artisans in Poland. The town of Boleslawiec has grown around the Polish Pottery industry and has a long history of pottery production in the region dating back as early as the 7th century. The current style and technique used today was developed in the early 1800s. With the demand for Polish pottery growing, so does the number of artists and designs available.
Michell: Are there schools to teach this form of pottery?
Daniel Danner: Though I don’t claim to be an authority on the Ceramics University in Boleslawiec, history states that it originated in 1897. I was told that it was in existence when we began our business in 2005, but I recently heard that it is no longer in existence. While it was open, it was the source of many of the talented artists in the Polish pottery industry in Boleslawiec. At present, I can neither confirm, nor deny that it is still educating future Polish pottery artists.
Michell: Are there different types of polish pottery?
Daniel Danner: There are many different types of pottery produced in Poland. The type we represent is what I would classify as “Traditional Polish Pottery.” Other styles, some more like fine china are developed in other areas of Poland. More contemporary styles are being developed, as well.
In our next shipment due in July, we will be bringing in a sampling of “Klinker Pots” – garden pots made in the Silesian region near Boleslawiec of the same clay as our heirloom quality stoneware.
Michell: Does your company have any associations to humanitarian or environmental associations?
Daniel Danner: We have been in business for a little over 8 years now and our challenge has been in getting the word out that we exist. From the beginning, we have been devoted to recycling the packing materials we receive from Poland, as well as, materials discarded by businesses in our area. Several years ago, we purchased a piece of equipment that perforates cardboard for packaging and have been scavenging cardboard from neighboring businesses ever since and recycling their packing materials, as well. It is a mutual benefit in that it helps minimize our carbon footprint while helping to keep our shipping costs down, which helps keep our prices down.
From a humanitarian perspective, we help support the great artists and the economy of Boleslawiec, Poland, as well as, the many other artists we deal with.
We have grand goals for our future humanitarian and environmental efforts, but being a small business, have found it is important to walk before you run or you won’t be around long enough to help anyone.
Michell: What are some of the future goals of your company?
Daniel Danner: You’d have to question the honesty of any business owner that didn’t mention making a profit as one of the primary goals. Without profits, we will never reach our full potential and will be limited in flexibility in choosing and negotiating for products to offer. We must be profitable to seize future growth opportunities and continue to improve our operations.
In the meantime, I think we have a long way to go before achieving our initial goal – to expose Americans to the arts and crafts of Poland, as well as, the people, the history, and the culture. We have made a slight difference in our little corner of the world, but many people know very little about Poland, the people, or the quality arts and crafts produced there, or about us for that matter.
Michell: What are my future goals for this company?
Daniel Danner: I’d like to continue to expand our product mix and offerings to our customer, while negotiating the best value possible on the items we carry.
We have a huge challenge in educating the American public. Moreover, we have many markets that we either have not touched upon or have not done a great job of introducing the Polish pottery to. I would like to develop the wholesale market, corporate gift market, and extend our retail reach to the rest of the United States. Ultimately, the goal would be to efficiently utilize all of the available distribution options, including our eCommerce site.
As we grow and become more profitable, I hope that we never forget where we came from and the work it has taken to get to where we are or where we are going. It is important that we use our profits for good in our community and country. In addition, it is important that we not take for granted the natural resources or human resources used in conducting our business or the production of the products we offer. I know it is a lofty goal, however, it would be my goal to create a solid business that might be considered a great model for present-day retail businesses.
Michell: Thank you so much for this interview and we wish you the very best.
For updates, visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Polish-Pottery-Outlet/211051742252757.
About the Author
Michell Spoden is the author of Stricken Yet Crowned and is also pursuing a transitional housing project for woman with an agricultural aspect. She has a degree in Business Science Administration and is finishing her bachelor’s in Project Management.