Polish pottery shopper sees spots

Emily Reagan, Story and photo
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***I didn’t think I was susceptible to becoming a Polish pottery addict, but on a recent USO trip to Boleslawic, Poland, I succumbed to the “pottery bug.”

This trip was a frenzy of mad women – and two brave men – looking for the right patterns and pieces. The shopping trip left at 6:30 p.m. Friday and arrived back at Pulaski that Sunday in the early morning hours. Each shopper is guaranteed two seats to stretch out during the long bus ride. From 4 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. we shopped at 15 to 20 shops and factories.

Polish pottery is a strange phenomenon. People love it or they hate it. It’s cheap. It’s unique. And the “bug” is contagious. My friend and I were more likely to buy it as the women around us bought it and encouraged our pattern choices. (Polish pottery peer pressure is dangerous.)

Polish pottery is known for its individuality and practicality. It’s oven, microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe. There are all kinds of patterns to choose from – everything from stark white dots, to artsy flowers and Christmas themes. It’s hand-formed and hand-decorated with paintbrushes and stamps. Each piece is made from white clay and rated in three categories. A “1” is the best quality, and a “2” is right behind it with a few barely noticeable blemishes. A “4” means that it should be used for decoration only and not put in the dishwasher. Some pieces may even be a high-quality, limited edition with the artist’s signature on the bottom of the piece. All others have their initials.

In addition to patterns, there are billions of pieces and knick-knacks. There are bakers, serving pieces, kitchenware, utensils, lamps, ornaments and more.

Most of the shops take credit cards, but not always before 8 a.m. Euros and dollars are preferred, but they will reluctantly accept the retiring Polish zloty.

I’d recommend bringing a piece of your collection into each store, whether it’s a certain size or pattern, to match. Often times, the shops will carry different dimensions, and after 12 hours of staring at the same patterns of dots, it all becomes good-looking and seems to match any previous purchases! We spent most of our time in each store debating whether the plate was the same size as our others. And I still came home with two different sizes of purposely mix-matched patterns.

After sorting my inventory I only wished I had bought more as future gifts. When I arrived home, the polish pottery requests came pouring in from friends and family – just a little too late. Even my brother-in-law, a 28-year-old single guy with little decorating consciousness or dishware appreciation, asked if I got him anything. And most surprisingly, I never thought I’d hear my husband say “You should have bought more for us!” Looks like I might have passed on the “pottery bug.”

The next USO Poland Shopping Express trip is Feb. 11 and costs $139. Stop by any USO office in the KMC to sign up or check out other USO trips at www.uso.org/kaiserslautern.