In the olden days in Poland, all ceramics were called earthenware, and glazed products – from clay slip. Chinese porcelain was of the utmost rarity and was so expensive that only kings could afford it. Later a new term came into use – “farfury” [“faience”]. This name has been almost completely forgotten. According to Zygmunt Gloger’s „Old Polish Encyclopedia”, these were:
all the vessels inferior to porcelain, and superior to the common slip ones. Foreigners call theem faience, after the Italian city of Faenza which is famous for these products.
Hence the name for which Koło was known for many years. The ceramic traditions of Koło date back to the origins of the city 660 years ago. Even then, the suburbs on the other side of the Warta River were inhabited mostly by stove fitters and potters. There is still a street in the place of this settlement named after them. Pottery satisfied only the needs of everyday life, but it was the basis for the development of ceramic production. Luxurious porcelain was replaced by faience imported to Poland from abroad, which also cost a lot. This continued until King Stanisław August Poniatowski, a patron of culture, art, and industry, ordered a faience factory to be built in Warsaw. This led to the quick disappearance of faience from the palace tables. Perhaps less ornate, without elaborate baroque ornaments, but equally beautifully decorated, such pottery found its place in bourgeois houses, and soon also in the country. This happened at the beginning of the 19th century. New faience shops started to appear. One of them was founded in Koło by Józef Freudenreich. The shop was developing rapidly, releasing small series, adapting to the needs of customers. It made products of delicate, thin-walled faience from light clays. They were decorated with the printing method, with floral motifs, often with an architectural image in the middle. Printed decorations were one of the most popular decorative techniques in the 19th century. This method, favoring the mass duplication of patterns, was an important step on the way to the industrialization of ceramic production. Koło, like the rest of Europe, adopted the English pattern of printed decorations: in the center a landscape or a genre scene surrounded by a rich border in the form of a plant. The color range was limited to black and blue. The patterns used in Koło are not unique in terms of their form or content. Hence, identical patterns could be found not only in Polish workshops. At the time of the establishment of Polish ceramics workshops, very similar items were produced in other European countries. Famous factories borrowed patterns and only changing them slightly, while replicating shapes and decorations. It was similar with Polish utility ceramics. Its examples show that the nobility of form and intricate ornamentation distinguished not only the factories in Meissen and Sevres, but also Polish factories such as Koło, which in later years became famous for its characteristic hand-painted ceramics.
The Museum of Ceramic Techniques in Koło, as a local government cultural institution, collects, stores, preserves, shares and popularizes museum pieces related to the history of the city of Koło and the Koło Region, Polish and foreign art, especially ceramics and medallic art, archeology, numismatics, photography, ethnography and nature from Poland and abroad. The museum also conducts exhibition, educational, research and publishing activities. It is a museum with profiled collections of ceramic products. This type of specialization results from the historical traditions of the city and the museum’s collection of ceramics. The oldest exhibits – pottery and stoneware, come from excavations carried out in Koło and its vicinity. For several dozen years of the museum’s operation, a rich resource of Polish faience of the 19th and 20th centuries has been accumulated. This makes it possible to present the products of the Koło faience factory in the context of contemporary ceramics, as well as various examples of ceramic techniques and decorative forms. Such profile of the collections increases the exhibition possibilities of the museum. The presentation of the basic collection against a wide background of ceramics shows the interesting qualities of faience from Koło. The commencement of cooperation with the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts regarding the conservation of ceramic artworks in 2020, thanks to Professor Jacek Martusewicz, opens up new development prospects for the Koło Museum.
Tomasz Nuszkiewicz, director of the Museum of Ceramic Techniques in Koło