Friday, October 2, 2009

That Polish Pottery at TJ Maxx: What To Look For, Illustrated

Remember how, a few weeks ago, I was griping about how TJ Maxx always has loads of the same Polish pottery on their shelves, and they've had it for years, and I have to scooch it aside and peer around it to look for my Denby? 'Member that? And then in the comments, an astute reader, Meghan, pointed out that people love that Boleslawiec stuff, and it's highly sought after, and can be very expensive. We agreed that there must be differences in quality--that some of what is labeled "Boleslawiec" was very fine and some was a little humdrum. Then I looked into it and found out that Boleslawiec is a town in Poland where they've made pottery since forever. So, as with porcelain that's called "Limoges," Boleslawiec denotes a region rather than a specific factory.

Then the other night I was taking a turn through the dishes at my local TJ's. My attention was captured by this:

Two sugar bowls, but not alike in dignity. Both have "Boleslawiec" backstamps. But which one catches your eye more? The one on the right is decorated in really only two colors--the cobalt blue and the green. The one on the left has a lot of color--more than shows up in this picture I took with my phone. It just looks intricate and busy in a good way. Here are the bottoms:

The one on the right has the big "B" mark that I've seen before on the stuff in TJ's. It says, "Boleslawiec" and "Hand Made." The one on the left has a little castle image, and it says "Unikat" ("unique"), and it has a style or pattern number hand-painted on. Also it has a blue sticker in addition to the white TJ's pricetag, which in TJ's land, can mean "This item is a little better." (If you ever find something with a purple tag, snatch it up and carry it around the store with you to keep anyone else from getting it, while you decide. Also, call me, because I want to hear about it.)

And look at this backstamp, on a little bowl. In addition to the little castle image, it has the artist's signature, and the style number.

But all those are secondary details. Just look at it. Look at the bowl and the pitcher compared to those plates over there. Intricate designs, vivid colors, and the decoration covers the entire piece. That's what we want. They just look like the work of someone's hand and eye. The green and blue plates cannot compete.

And for the record, the good stuff doesn't cost that much more than the humdrum stuff, in TJ land. That pitcher was $19.99. And the bowl was ten dollars. The cute sugar dish was a couple bucks cheaper than the boring one, because it is smaller? This is the magic of TJ's--they don't always know what they have. I didn't buy any of this. Now let us praise my restraint.

Anyway, I don't know if anyone has the obsessive level of interest that I do in this stuff, but if you like to go thrifting and discount shopping, I think it's fun to train your eye to recognize the real steal. Thank you for scrolling and happy shopping! (I wonder if that pitcher is still over there?)

19 comments:

Meghan said...

woohoooo! this is a priceless post! And DANG...I want that pitcher in all its beauty. I may very well go to TJMaxx today to apply all I've learned from this blog. :)

Michele said...

Wonderful tips. I'll be heading over to my local TJs because I love the one of the left.

Sara said...

I've had a TJ Maxx itch for a while now and now it really needs scratched.

That pitcher is lovely and that was a fun little journey!

Purple sticker, you say? Noted.

Michele Renee said...

I think I might really pick one of those up. I can talk Hubs into anything orange and blue.

danajk said...

When my husband and I were stationed in Germany, we actually went to Boleslawiec, a town in Poland to shop for pottery. It was a huge hobby of all military wives. They would even rent buses and pay for 2 seats - to sleep on the way and a seat for your pottery on the way home. The unikat numbers are very important to tell you the quality. And we were always told by everyone over there not to eat on anything with a low quality. Also, the prices are WAY better, of course. There are tons of distributors on-line who can get you great stuff, if this becomes more than a TJ Maxx hunting obsession. Army and Air Force Post Exchanges sell Polish Pottery, as well, for all of us who are addicted. And where we live in Illinois now, there is a cute little old guy who runs a store with a HUGE selection. The prices are better at TJ Maxx, it sounds like, but his quality cannot be beat! That may be more than you ever wanted to know, but it was so exciting for me to read you talking all about Polish Pottery! We army wives are obsessed! (You can even see tons of pottery in the show Army Wives, if you ever catch that!)

Keely said...

We don't have a TJ Maxx. Does the same 'blue tag' theory apply to Winners & Homesense? Because I've noticed them...

Becky said...

Keely, Homesense might be related to TJ's. The blue tag theory may be valid there.

Dana, that is so interesting about Army wives being into this stuff! It makes total sense. I probably would have needed a cargo container to bring all my stuff back. I'm so glad you brought this info. And how cool that they sell it at the PX. Makes me want to watch that show, 'cause I keep seeing it advertised during Project Runway.

Michele R, did you get my pitcher?

And Meghan, I was hoping you would see this!

Amy said...

What kind of stuff gets the purple sticker?? Tell us, tell us!

bernthis said...

I am the worst bargain shopper on the planet b/c I'm too impatient to mine for the gold. Good job though

Becky said...

Amy: Prada. Or Marc Jacobs. There was a Marc Jacobs multipocket bag at my TJ's. I carried it around the store for a while, but I can't play at that level.

Veronica said...

Who are you and what have you done with Becky??? You didn't buy the Marc Jacobs bag at TJ Maxx?

Becky said...

I know, V. I just couldn't justify it when I have three MJ bags sitting home on the shelf. And even at TJ's it was 400 dollars. I think differently about 400 bucks now that we live in a house!

Veronica said...

Yeah, I can understand that. But, bummer--must have been hard to leave it for someone else!

delaine said...

Good job of explaining the ins and outs of Polish pottery to us. I like that pitcher ! I'll be going to TJ's when I can.

Patty Allen said...

I love this stuff. Been hunting for it for about 5/6 years. Have a lot of nice pieces, in fact I received some for my birthday.. I am making a cake in one as I type, a large rectangular similar to a 9x13. TJM and Marshall's are the only store that I can find it... FYI. Different towns and different factories as well as different artist put their symbols on the bottom.

Amber said...

I had no idea this pottery was so popular. LOL! Of course only "I" would like it LOL! I also had no idea that there were multiple levels of quality. I thought they all come from the same factory and some were colorful and some where kind of plain. I was wondering, the items at TJ Maxx. Do I have to worry about eating from them. I just buy the pieces I like, does anyone know they are safe.
Thanks!
Amber

Eating 'round the South said...

I have recently started watching Army Wives on Netflix and fell in love with Claudia Joy's mugs. After a bit of research, I found out what they were. Now to start a new obsession/collection!

Anna Gerwel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erin Bruzda said...

Help! How do you tell if the pottery you have is fake? Several of the mugs I've gotten at TJ's and Marshalls have crazed for no reason. Also,wondering why danajk was told by locals when military wives shopped at the factory..that they should never eat off lower quality pottery?? Is there a possibility that these pieces are not lead and cadmium free??