The inspiration behind Emilia Ceramics comes from the people I have met while living and traveling abroad – people who truly prioritize the enjoyment of family, friends, and good food. I believe this attention to life’s simple pleasures is manifested in their colorful ceramics.
While living in Southern Spain, I fell in love with the slower pace of life – where no one seemed too busy to make a new friend, catch up with an old one, or spend hours discussing the virtues of Spanish wine and food. Among other aspects of the Mediterranean culture, I was drawn to the rich traditions surrounding locally made ceramics. In small towns throughout Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, I found artists using ancient techniques to create sophisticated pieces in their own personal style.
A few years later, I turned my passion into my business. Traveling throughout Europe and Mexico, I’ve met and befriended artists who are making beautiful and distinctive ceramics. My intention is to discover unique designs that combine traditional influences with a more modern, fresh feel – pieces that surprise and inspire. I work solely with artists who create and paint every piece by hand, have small-scale productions, and export minimally. I love the opportunity to share both their artwork and a vital piece of their culture with others.
About the Ceramics
Each ceramic piece is individually handmade and painted. The process is extremely precise and labor intensive. As a result, each piece varies slightly in color, shape, and design. Occasionally, you will notice a small paint smudge, fingerprint, or loose-fitting lid. These signs of authenticity give a piece character and remind us of the human hands that created it.
All pieces intended for use with food have met FDA standards and are 100% lead free. While they are dishwasher and microwave safe, we recommend treating them as the fine art that they are, hand-washing and avoiding the microwave as much as possible.
Over time, miniscule lines may appear. This aging process (called crazing) does not affect a piece’s durability – and some even think it adds to the look. You can minimize crazing by avoiding drastic temperature changes. For example, run warm water over a piece before filling it with hot food or liquid, put a metal spoon in a mug before adding a hot liquid, hand-wash when possible, and avoid microwave use.
Majolica – Maiolica – Mayolica
Majolica, pronounced my-yol-i-kuh in Spanish and Italian, muh-JOL-i-kuh in gringo English, is a ceramic technique in which earthenware is covered with an opaque glaze of tin oxide and then decorated with all-natural mineral-based pigments.
Arabs invented the process in the 6th century, when they discovered that glazing ceramics with a mineral oxide mixture and firing them twice made them stronger and more water-resistant.
The History of Majolica
Arabs brought Majolica with them to Spain and from there it was introduced to Italy. The name Majolica comes from the misconception that it originated on the Spanish island of Mallorca (or Majorca) – when in fact, it was only shipped through the port of Mallorca on its way to Italy.
In the 13th century, Italian ceramists began making their own Majolica, defining the colors and designs that are most famous today. At that time, Majolica was meant to be primarily utilitarian and decorated with abstract and geometric patterns.
In the 15th century, the patterns started depicting people and animals and by the 16th century, it also became popular to have dinnerware designed with the family crest. Majolica underwent further adaptation when it was brought to Central and South America, where native artists adopted the technique and added their own style and traditional designs.
The Ceramic Technique
The majolica technique is anything but easy – it is a multiphase process that takes time, patience, and exceptional skill. The earthenware clay is first bisque fired at around 1900° F. It is then painted or dipped in a creamy, oatmeal-colored glaze, made from silica, tin, calcium, and clay. Once dry, artists paint designs over this base glaze with natural pigments (each color is made from a mineral – greens are chrome and copper, blue is cobalt, etc).
The pigments are absorbed into the base glaze, which is a porous surface similar to watercolor paper. Just like with watercolor, once applied, the pigments cannot be covered over or blended together, meaning there is no margin for error.
When the piece is fired again at a higher temperature, the glaze melts and fuses with the pigments. Because the end result is a product of chemical reactions between metal oxide colors, the glaze, and a precise firing temperature, it often takes the artist many trials before a new design is perfected.
While extremely time consuming and difficult, this process is what gives completed Majolica a distinctively warm look and feel. That’s because instead of the color lying under a clear surface, the color is actually in the glaze and of the glaze. Sometimes referred to as “fat glaze,” the result is more luscious and vivid. It’s what draws us to Majolica, both visually and physically – making it difficult not to reach out and touch the surface of a beautifully glazed pitcher or bowl.