New Gettysburg Polish Pottery keeps couple smiling

BY ABBEY ZELKO Times Staff Writer | Posted: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 12:10 am

At the beginning of August, a Gettysburg couple was driving down the street when they saw a "For Rent" sign in the window of a property at 102 Baltimore St. in Gettysburg.

Rebecca and Tim Woodward immediately started hitting antique shops to find shelves and fixtures, and they worked quickly to expand the vinyl flooring, add a fresh coat of paint and add additional lighting to the space.

Less than a month later, Gettysburg Polish Pottery was open for business. "We're very impetuous," Rebecca, Gettysburg Polish Pottery owner, said.

This is the perfect time for the couple to begin their first venture as merchants, Rebecca said. Tim is currently retired from sales, and Rebecca plans to retire from her job as a practice administrator at a family healthcare practice in Germantown, Md., in a year and a half.

Aug. 29 marked the first day of the store's soft opening, but the couple plans to hold a grand opening sometime in October. Official store hours have not yet been posted.

Gettysburg Polish Pottery carries ovenware, bakeware, tableware and dinnerware as well as a few seasonal decorative items, including Christmas trees, pumpkins and Easter eggs.

Every single piece in the store comes hand stamped and hand painted from the Ceramika Artystyczna factory in Boleslawiec, Poland, meaning that no two pieces are identical, Rebecca said. Ceramika Artystyczna employs about 300 craftsmen to create these pieces in more than 1,200 shapes and more than 6,000 patterns.

The clay is heated at temperatures over 3,000 degrees, making the product very durable, she added. Each pattern that Gettysburg Polish Pottery carries is complementary because of the cobalt blue base color and greens incorporated into the designs.

"(Ceramika Artystyczna) patterns, we feel, are more sophisticated, more intricate, and we prefer that factory because of the quality of the stoneware," Rebecca said.

Rebecca said she has been using Polish pottery for the past eight or nine years. "I would never have considered selling any product that I was not comfortable endorsing as being a really good product," she said. "Not only is it beautiful, but it's useful and practical. It's the best stuff to bake in that I have ever used."

Polish pottery is microwave-, oven- and dishwasher-safe and is lead- and cadmium-free. "I've never had a chip in any of my pieces, and I have half a dozen casseroles that I use constantly," Rebecca said. The Woodwards hope to soon have a video playing on a TV screen in the store to show how the pottery is made. Polish pottery goes back to the 1300s, but Boleslawiec stoneware did not originate until the early1800s in Poland. Pieces of antique Boleslawiec pottery, inspired by the peacock feather, are displayed in museums throughout Europe, Rebecca said. One of the original patterns was based on the peacock eye. Gettysburg Polish Pottery carries one particular piece that dates back to World War II. Soup bowls with handles were issued by the Boleslawiec factory to people in the village at that time so they could eat from the community soup pot. Rebecca said aside from its historical value, this piece is great for eating soup in the winter or ice cream in the summer. The store has already sold 50 of these items in the last two weeks, Tim said.

Gettysburg Polish Pottery also carries some Unikat pieces, which means unique in Polish. "When artists are good enough," Rebecca explained, "they are allowed to actually create and design their own pattern and do a painting on it and then design it. It's amazing how many people follow just one artist." The store carries Unikat pieces from at least five different artists, according to Rebecca. However, if a customer is looking for a specific, sizable piece, Rebecca said she is willing to track it down.

Though Gettysburg Polish Pottery has only been open for two weeks, the Woodwards have had to reorder more than 200 pieces each week, Tim said. "We've been shocked at this," Rebecca said. The most popular pieces have been decorative Christmas trees, soup bowls and pie birds, according to Rebecca. Prices vary from $2.50 for wooden decorative eggs to $70 for bakers.

"There's a large enough price range that everyone can find something," Rebecca said. Gettysburg Polish Pottery also sells canvases of Rebecca's amateur photography taken around town in Gettysburg and at some of their vacation spots. None of her photos are photoshopped. "There are so many photo opportunities where we live," she said. "I have this thing where I just want the picture that my eye and the camera see."

Tim said he has seen about a 50/50 mix of tourists and locals in his shop so far, and tourists have come from as far as England and Australia.

"I haven't doubted that this would be successful since day one," Tim said. "You can't wipe the smile off of our faces."


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