History of toy manufacturing in the Myślenice region
The tradition of manufacturing toys in the region of Myślenice started between World War I and World War II. An important place for manufacturing toys — even if it was for a short time — was Poręba and then the villages of Trzemeśnia, Łęki and Osieczany.
Production was started by the three Witas brothers from Poręba: Jan, Stanisław and Wojciech. They were soon followed by Antoni Pachacz and Władysław Jaśkowiec from Trzemeśnia, and Antoni Burkat from Osieczany (the creator of the cart shown in the portal), the best known craftsman in this field.
All these activities emerged in the Żywiec region, the then famous centre for manufacturing cabs, wheelbarrows, hobby horses, rattles and other wooden toys.
The first toys from Poręba were quite primitive technically. The scope of toys was widened thanks to, among others, middlemen that before 1939 brought designs for toys produced in the town of Jaworów (at that time in the territory of the Soviet Union). The most popular toys were cabs, carts pulled by purple horses, butterflies and birds with clattering wings (cut out in a funny way, with a flourish), cradles and brightly painted and engraved wheelbarrows (decorated with engraving, which was done by hand or with a compass). When it comes to new designs, we should mention cocks with box-shaped bodies, single horses, forging blacksmiths, rattles, carousels and all kinds of automobiles and airplanes.
Initially, cabs, carts, wheelbarrows and cradles were assembled from manually carved parts, decorated by hand or with circular engraving against the coloured background. After World War II engraving was replaced by painting with aniline inks by means of a birch stick split at the end. The Cepelia Polish Art and Handicraft Foundation tried to implement the technique of burning a pattern by means of a heated chisel, used in Poręba to decorate salt-cellars; however, without any success.
Carrying their stuff on their backs, on market days the middlemen wandered to Myślenice, Wieliczka, Mszana Dolna, Skrzydlna, Dobczyce and to Kalwaria for church fairs. Some of them had their items sold in Kraków shops.
Among the exhibits in the Myślenice museum are 58 wooden toys, including a set of little animals carved by Ignacy Majerek from the village of Skomielna Czarna.
A separate group is a set of 26 clay toys manufactured by the famous potter Józef Gacek from Skomielna Biała. The toys are ornamented in a way similar to items from the region of Rabka and include sugar bowls, a pipe, a little jug, money boxes, salt-cellars, a watering can, little elliptical baskets, cake moulds and sets of tiny cups painted in various colours.
Elaborated by Bożena Kobiałka (“The Greek House” Regional Museum in Myślenice), © all rights reserved