Friday, October 24, 2008

Polish Christmas Ornaments

This is the fourth in a series of 4 articles I'll be presenting in honor of Polish-American Heritage Month (October). Each of these articles will be featuring Polish art pieces from my personal collections. Some are folk art, hand crafted in cottages throughout Poland. Other pieces are manufactured by skilled crafts people in small factories in Poland. They are but a small sample of the Polish heritage I am so proud of.

I mentioned at the end of my last post in this series, that Poles were accomplished glass makers. One of the glass crafts they are most famous for is Christmas ornaments. They've been making them, exquisitely, for many years. You may even own one and not even realize it. Some of the biggest names in the world of Christmas ornaments commission their glass ornaments from the Poles. They are typically sold at upscale retailers such as Macy's, Nieman Marcus, Saks, etc.

Have you ever heard of Christopher Radko? How about Kurt Adler? And then there's our ever charming and local (to Detroit) guru of Christmas ornaments, Curtis Posuniak. There are three main factories in Poland that create beautiful glass ornaments and they make the high end ornaments for all three of these guys. I say high end ornaments because in recent years Radko and Adler have introduced low end lines of resin and plastic ornaments made in China to their lines. Posuniak, however, remains true to the Polish craftsmen.

Curtis Posuniak explained to me that it takes about 2 months to get an idea from a sketch on the drawing board to the finished product. He can create amazing custom ornaments for special events, corporate sponsors, etc. I've visited his studio and photographed his collection (not every piece but many of them). It is truely amazing. Posuniak is Polish and makes trips to Poland every year to meet with the folks at the glass factories with new ideas for additional pieces. They make renderings that he then approves before a mock up is created. After he approves the mock up, the glass molds are created. Finally, the paint colors are approved and a final version is completed. It's a rather long process but the end result is fabulous!

The high end collectors ornaments from those guys can run you upwards of $100 for one piece (although most run in the $30-$50 range) but you don't have to spend large amounts of money for beautiful Polish Christmas ornaments. I've picked up lovely ones at unexpected places. I bought a whole set at Costco last year. I've also picked up individual ornaments at Cold Water Creek, Kohls, and local gift shops. Earlier this week I stopped in at my local Hallmark store to pick up some greeting cards and discovered a lovely display of glass ornaments made in Poland there! (Yes, it's getting to be that time of year again ;-)

I have a lot of Polish glass ornaments, all of them lovely. Here is a small sample of them.

But wait! Glass ornaments aren't the only kind that Polish craftsmen make. Farming is big in Poland. Always has been. There's another type of ornament that was hand crafted by farmers, made from materials at hand. Straw ornaments! I'm always amazed at how intricately they can weave a piece of straw and come up with clever designs. Here are a few of my straw ornaments made in Poland.

Do you realize that 2 months (8.5 weeks) from today is Christmas Eve? As I write this, retailers are putting out their Christmas merchandise. The next time you're at the store and see a display of Christmas ornaments, look closely at the most elegent ones. Chances are good they're made in Poland. Heck, it's Polish American Heritage Month. Buy one for your tree and bring a little Polish craftsmanship to your holiday decorating!

Written for Donna's Polish American Heritage Challenge.

My series about my Polish art collections:
Polish Folk Art (Wood Carving and Wycinanki)
Jasia's Amber Collection

Polish Pottery and Crystal
Polish Christmas Ornaments