Secretly handmade for CIA: Pottery from Poland

In this undated photo made available on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018 by the Boleslawiec Artistic Handicrafts Cooperative, pieces of unique hand-painted pottery with the CIA logo recently made for the U.S. intelligence agency by the renowned Polish stoneware cooperative. It was secret handiwork done for the CIA by experts in Poland: painted tableware with the intelligence agency’s logo. Helena Smolenska, the head of the cooperative in Boleslawiec, in southern Poland, which made the unique set, said the hardest bit was to get the CIA logo on the pottery to be the right design and the right color to match the set’s blue floral design. (Boleslawiec Artistic Handicrafts Cooperative via AP)

WARSAW, Poland — A newly declassified secret of the CIA's is the handiwork of experts in Poland: custom-made plates, bowls and other pieces of tableware painted with the U.S. intelligence agency's official seal.

Helena Smolenska, the head of the craft-maker cooperative in the town of Boleslawiec that produced the ceramic set, said workers met the order with "joy and disbelief" and saw it as a chance to do "something exceptional."

The hardest part was getting the original colors of the American eagle, compass rose, shield and gold scroll that make up the seal to go with the pottery's blue and white floral design, Smolenska said Friday.

Polish leaders have had good relations with their counterparts in Washington since communism ended in 1989. In 2002-2003, the European country hosted CIA "black sites" for terrorism suspects. Donald Trump made Warsaw his first European destination after he was elected president.

As part of his "America First" approach, Trump also has repeated his commitment to keeping jobs in the U.S. and the value of U.S.-made goods, to the point where other countries have criticized his policies as protectionist.

The CIA gave the Boleslawiec Artistic Handicrafts Cooperative permission to talk about the pottery it made for the agency. Boleslawiec ceramics are internationally prized — the painted pottery tradition in the town goes back to the 18th century — and several companies and shops there make it.

Smolenska said she was not sure what inspired the CIA to order the items from her cooperative. She links it to a visit last year by U.S. troops stationed nearby who enjoyed trying to decorate tea mugs.

The stoneware was completed "a few months ago" and shipped, but she said she was not at liberty to disclose how many sets the CIA ordered or where they were sent.

The floral pattern was hand-applied on each item with small wooden stamps dipped in dye and brushes that filled in the color.

On the back, each piece carries the trademark of the 65-year-old Boleslawiec cooperative.

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