Ćmielów [ˈt͡ɕmʲɛluf], a small town in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, is home of the one of the oldest china manufactories in Poland. Fine porcelain is still produced there according to old recipes and manufacturing techniques. The company has been operating since 1804 and offers an abundance of the most delicate and wafer-thin handmade models in line with various styles of design and purposes.
The 12th owner, Adam Spała, who has bought the company from the Polish state after the political transformation of the country, is truly passionate about fine china and anything associated with it. He has led the company into 21st century and developed it into a manufacturer of collections worthy of kings. His idea was also to open the Living Porcelain Museum where visitors can watch, touch, and ask, in one word, experience different stages of making porcelain without being limited to gaze in silence upon dusty exhibits.
Among various items made in Ćmielów manufacture, there are classical, old fashioned objects. One of them is, for example, the Matylda collection, a replica of a service set composed of over 100 items that the Russian tsarevich Nikki, the future tsar Nikolai II Romanov, ordered for his mistress, the Polish ballerina Matylda Krzesińska (Kschessinska, later princess Romanovskaya-Krasinskaya). As Nikolai Romanov wished, all the forms for casting the service were destroyed to prevent another copy from being made. Fortunately, the service still exists and became the model for replicating the original (here in sapphire blue, originally in white).
Other amazing achievement of the company, or rather of its current owner Adam Spała, is the re-discovery of the secret of pink porcelain and re-creation of the once-lost recipe. The secret of pink china was known to one person only – its inventor and former pre-war owner of the company, Bronisław Kryński. Unfortunately, the recipe was never written down and lost when Kryński died in Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp, in the end of WW2. Prima facie, the way of producing pink porcelain was gone forever. About 70 years after the secret was lost, Zofia Kryńska, the daughter of the inventor has donated to Adam Spała notes of her late father found in the attic of the old family house. Spała treated the notes as a mystery or a puzzle to be solved. Two years and hundreds attempts later, he succeeded in recreating the unique pink mass. The company has released a new pink line with a flagship design model called Prometheus.
The pink china recipe is much more complex than classical white porcelain and that was why it was extremely difficult to bring together all its elements in the required configuration. It is composed of as many as 11 raw materials, including liquid gold, all mixed in specific proportions. In comparison, the white mass needs only three basic ingredients.
The pink china is of course much more expensive than the “ordinary” white one, due to the demanding production process and handmade decorations. Most visitors can only afford to admire it in display cabinets, but… If you visit Ćmielów manufactory, you can feel there for a while as if you were of royal blood – in Leżąca Kotka [The Lying Kitty] café, you may order a cup of coffee in a luxurious wafer-thin pink Prometheus cup decorated with 24 K gold. I tried it for you and believe me, its aroma, taste, and feel are royally delicious.
One could ask whether recreating the pink line is the final successes of the Ćmielów manufacture. It could be, as it is a really remarkably achievement, but it is not the end! Travelling in South Africa, Adam Spała visited an emerald mine and grindhouse. He noticed that everything there was covered with a light green dust. When the Covid-19 pandemic started, there was plenty of time for him to make new discoveries and patents. The image of emerald dust was an inspiration for creating the next line of porcelain – the green one in a light pistachio shade released in 2021. At first, the colour does not bring emeralds to mind, until a bright light comes through the walls of a cup and makes the green show up.
The company also produces special sets commemorating eminent Poles, e.g., Chopin (below), which are designed by leading artists or based on their art (series Tamara de Łempicka, Józef Wilkoń). For example, in order to celebrate the famous composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s 75th birthday, his wife Elżbieta designed a coffee service called “national hussars” with a characteristic wing motif (below).
And what about Classical Antiquity?
Last but not least – Classical Antiquity is also present in this abundant china collection. The most impressive are big decorative plates with the motif of Medusa, full of vivid colours (note, that each colour is burnt separately, and so the more colours, the more difficult it is to achieve the final result). Along with a china copy of Caravaggio’s shield framed with gold, another Medusa’s image is in stock – Adam Spała’s own composition (2019) that focuses rather on Medusa’s beauty and mysteriousness than monstrosity symbolized by snakes. Her gaze definitely does not kill.
Collectable figurines designed by various artists include: Venus’ Birth (2005, by Lubomir Tomaszewski), Themis – Lady of Justice (2007, by Kazimierz Czuba), Asclepius (2012, by Jadwiga Stan), Abduction of Europe and Europa Bull (2014, both by Adam Spała). Although the figurines are all designed as modern adaptations of ancient characters, they still show the relevance of ancient motifs and myths in the contemporary world.
Come and see for yourself!
This report from Ćmielów manufactory has been prepared by Marta Pszczolińska, peer-reviewed by Elżbieta Olechowska, placed by Olga Strycharczyk