Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mrazck Czecho Peasant Pottery Made in Letovice Not For Sale

 Pottery produced in the early 20th century by the Czecho Peasant Art Company is easily recognizable by  simple, brightly colored designs based on traditional peasant art of Eastern Europe. Joseph Mrazck who emigrated to the United States toward the end of the Great War purchased a DIY ceramics kit from Macy's Department Store in New York City. The kit contained a dish, paint brushes, and paint. Once decorated, you could take the item back to the store to be fired. 

Mrazck Pottery Plate

Joseph experimented with the process, soon producing enough pottery to sell to neighbors and friends. He bought a kiln, quit his job, and opened The Czecho Peasant Art Company. On a visit to Czechoslovakia, he located a site for a factory in the town of Letovice. You can see the name of the town on the back stamp shown below.

Mrazck Pottery Backstamp

Moving his operation to Letovice, Mrazck hired workers and began producing pottery pieces painted with simple designs. The factory operated until 1933. The distinctive pottery is collectible today and easy to find on ebay and other sites. 

The pieces displayed here belonged to my mother. She bought them at a flea market when she was in a I'm-buying-this-item-because-it-was-made-in-a-country-that-no-longer-exits phase. What a fun collection! The trouble is that I have, like many baby boomers, way too much stuff and am really wanting to get rid of some. Some of my inherited dishware is very old and quite beautiful. Say what you want about Mrazck pottery, but beautiful it is not. Or to me anyway. The other thing about my favorite possessions is that most of them have a story as well as belonging to someone that I either loved or am related to. Okay, the pottery has an interesting back story. But when you are trying to cut down on china, what's a girl to do? I packed it in a box of stuff to get rid of. 

The stuff to get rid of box goes to a thrift store after friends and relatives rummage for anything they might like (just as I, sadly, rummage through theirs). One evening, while pouring through a book on dishes with my sister, I spotted an example of Mrazck pottery.  Because it was there in a book with lots of really cool dishware and because I liked the story of Joseph Mrazck, I began to regret tossing his wares off so lightly. I knew that someone at the Goodwill store would snatch up the bowl and plate and make themselves big money on ebay. (Not really that big, I checked the next day, but still). My regret began to annoy and amuse the rest of our little party. 

(Below find another photograph of the pottery for your viewing pleasure.  You can see the pretty yellow inside the bowl.)
Czecho Peasant Art Company Bow
Sometime later, my sister, who lives in a different town, came to visit me, bringing a gift. It was a surprise! I opened the gift bag and there, wrapped in tissue were the Mrazck pottery pieces that I believed gone for good! My sister had rooted them out of a get-rid-of box. We laughed. How wonderful!

So these little dishes will stay with me until I die. Not that I find them particularly attractive, but they have not one but three stories attached to them. And all the stuff, whether old or pretty, it's all about the story. 

Mrazeck's bright colored, simple pottery

(If you have a piece of this pottery with a back stamp that has been painted over with a black bird, then you own an early version of the product when it was still being made in the USA. Those old versions are rare and quite valuable)

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