/PHOTO, VIDEO/ The largest manufacturer of porcelain switches in the world is the company Katy Paty from Dubí near Teplice. He also makes sockets, lamps and table lamps from the same material. What does such production look like? The diary went to the place to find out.
On the premises of the Český porcelán Dubí factory, switches, sockets and light fixtures are manufactured for Katy Paty.
| Video: Diary/Martin Vokurka
“Look at the handiwork,” says the production master Tom Kostřica, who has worked in the Dub porcelain factory for over 30 years, in the middle of the hall above the plasterboard. Behind him are mobile shelves full of fragile dishes and switches, which will soon be headed for the oven.
When you hear the porcelain shop in Dubí near Teplice, everyone immediately thinks of Czech mugs, plates or painted teapots. But that’s not all. In the well-known Český porcelán factory at the foot of the Ore Mountains, colored porcelain switches are also created, which the Czech company Katy Paty has produced there. It was founded in 2015 by Patrik Pokorný and Katarína Rothová, parents of four children.
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It produces over 100,000 products annually, which it exports to 28 countries around the world, including the USA and Israel. But before such a green or blue light switch sees the light of day, it takes a lot of effort, from preparing the mass, modeling, firing, to hand glazing and coloring.
Tables of porcelain switches among traditional products may surprise an uninformed visitor, but the staff has already gotten used to it. “Mostly it’s exactly the same. It doesn’t matter what you do, whether it’s this or that,” confides ceramicist Emílie Matějovská, who takes one switch after another in her hands and carefully wipes them with a damp sponge. “Now I have to remove the dust so that it is completely clean and it can continue,” explains a woman with 29 years of experience who commutes to work from Krupka. And she said she wouldn’t change. “I like it here. I like it here,” adds the ceramist, who once started in textile production, but after maternity leave she joined a porcelain factory and learned everything.
On the upper floor of the factory, switches and their parts are painted. “Each ring is sprayed by hand. When it dries, it will be transferred to the boards and prepared for the kiln to be fired,” warns the foreman as another woman transfers the dyed batch to the shelf.
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This phase is somewhat reminiscent of a bakery, where the finished decorated dough ends up on the baking sheet after being pushed into the oven. But in the porcelain factory, the switches go into the furnace several times so that the color lasts on the electrical equipment without changes for decades.
“Spray, burn, and spray again and burn again. It repeats itself and the girls sweat quite a bit,” the foreman nods his head appreciatively and points to the area in front of the furnace, where the mallet has to quickly straighten the wheels of the switches.
In the past, porcelain was widely used in electronics, but it was supplanted by plastic due to cost and ease of production. “However, porcelain is the best material that can be from an electrical point of view and from a maintenance point of view,” says co-founder of Katy Paty Patrik Pokorný. Dyeing ranks among the most demanding disciplines. “We have colors that are perfect, and we also have some that make us very angry, for example burgundy, or Nebíčková, which was created for three years, but is now stabilized,” Pokorný confides.
Only two companies, German and American, can make special colors for this type of production. These expensive paints must withstand firing at 1,450 degrees Celsius to avoid burning in the kilns. They are bought in powder form, then mixed into a liquid in the drums of a porcelain factory and manually sprayed onto switches.
Sometimes the dyer doesn’t even know the color
The dyer sometimes does not even know the color, because the pigments in the liquid may not be visible. That’s why care is important even when dyeing. Only when the product comes out of the oven will it be known if there are any discolored spots on it. They can no longer be repaired. However, what is important is the whole process, which ultimately results in an unusual short-circuit-proof switch.
The demand for such porcelain products is growing. “People are returning to natural materials. They want a sustainable life, and with that comes sustainable products that do not burden the environment and, moreover, last a long time,” states Pokorný.
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The company chooses a design that will function even in 30 years. For example, the wheel-shaped switch has been a hit for 100 years and is still modern. “Denmark is a fairly large customer. The Danes have a greater feeling for it. It is similar in Sweden and Great Britain, where we have a strong distributor. We are making Korea new,” says co-founder Katy Paty. According to him, the company with ten employees and a complete distribution center in central Bohemia is doing well, but the preparation for production was horribly expensive. It swallowed tens of millions of crowns, a large part of which consisted of investments in steel molds that complement plaster molds. They wear out over time and must be replaced with new ones.
How the Katy Paty brand was created
When Patrik Pokorný and Katarína Rothová built their wooden house, they were looking for unusual and above all quality interior fittings. But no one offered porcelain lamps or switches. “We didn’t want plastics because they didn’t fit with the wooden construction. The decision was made to choose a natural material and porcelain offered itself because it has a huge history and a lot of great properties that people have long forgotten. It is resistant to bacteria and has perfect glazed surfaces that are not destroyed even by acids,” recalls Pokorný of the very beginnings of the business.
When they and their partner couldn’t find porcelain devices, they decided to have their own made to order in a porcelain factory in Dubí. They took a risk because the outcome could not be predicted in advance. But the experiment with pigmentation was successful. When acquaintances came to their house, they admired the porcelain switches and wanted them too. Suddenly, a hole in the market turned out to be a huge opportunity.
And so the economics engineer finally resigned from the bank so that he and his partner could develop the new business on a large scale. The company was lucky because the Credit Alliance company supported it with a loan as a new Czech Start-Up project. Thanks to this, Katy Paty can also rent a specialized workplace for dyeing development in Germany and collaborate with well-known Czech designers when designing collections. Now the company has started producing new porcelain switches as thin as chocolate in 32 colors.
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Source: Deník/Petr Málek, Zdeněk Traxler