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Spring ‘Green-ing’: Designing with the Pantone Color of the Year

green milk pitcher

Near the start of every new calendar year, Pantone – an authority on color – declares a symbolic ‘Pantone Color of the Year.’ According to Pantone, the color of the year serves as a “snapshot of what [we] see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.” A few examples of recent colors of the year include, Cerulean Blue, Mimosa, and Honeysuckle.

Green Hallway
via MFAMB

In December, Pantone announced the 2017 Color as Greenery, (or for those with design prowess: P 15-0343). Representative of life and new beginnings, Pantone Color Institute Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman, speaks about Greenery as denoting the reconnection we seek with nature, each other and our larger purpose.

Whether or not you resonate with the symbolism, you can definitely appreciate the hue. In this post, we help you think through designing with the Pantone color of the year. Below, we’ll explore the color psychology of Pantone’s Greenery, and offer suggestions about how to integrate it into your home.

The Expression

Color psychology is the study of how hues relate to human behavior and the inconspicuous ways they influence perceptions. If you pay attention to your subtle response when you enter a room, you might notice feelings of comfort, excitement, security or any number of other reactions. Believe it or not, the dominant color surrounding you in any space has an effect on your mood or spirit.

emilia-ceramics-greenery-designingPsychologically speaking, the color green is synonymous with liveliness, growth and renewal; not dissimilar to what the color physically represents when it shows up in nature. It is believed that green offers a sense of health, prosperity, tranquility, and even fertility. Being in a predominantly green space could even relieve stress and prompt healing.

Think about the spaces in your home, and consider the rooms that might benefit you, your family, or your guests by your prompting these types of reactions.

Clever Color Combinations

In addition to offering us the official color of the year, Pantone also presents pairings that work well with Greenery. Before you get to designing for this Pantone color of the year, you can reference these recommended hues to determine what room might offer the most opportune palette for incorporating the color green.

To complement the green and yellow mix of this year’s color, look to cooler shades, such as blue-greys in ranging tones. Pantone suggests colors like Periscope, Lead or Nimbus Cloud. You can also look to other colors of nature, such as neutrals and warm creams and beiges, to which Pantone suggests Sheepskin, Brown Rice and Buttercream. See the below suggestions (I’m a fan of the calm it down pallet) or for more color pairings, look here >>

How to Incorporate It

As spring approaches, I’m beginning to take a fresh look at how I can reinvigorate my interior. A color like Greenery, especially at this time of year, can inspire so many ways to integrate green, (and as a result, the feelings of health, prosperity, and tranquility) into the home.

The most significant change for you might be a wall color change. Though if you’re not in the mood to make this type of commitment, consider an accent wall or accent décor. For those with a green thumb, visit a nursery and invest in some living accents for any room in your home.

via DADAA

When it comes to accent décor, why not add some liveliness to your home in the form of green ceramics?! Here are a few of my favorites:

This year I’m looking forward to less spring cleaning and a lot more spring green-ing!

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Colorful Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

Catching up on some sales research this week, I found that colorful Gorky Gonzalez pottery is currently one of my best sellers. I’m not surprised. Gorky Gonzalez is the most well known of any of the artists I work with and his popularity extends across both Mexico and the U.S. Because other stores sell his colorful pottery, I strive to curate a unique collection of Gorky pottery for Emilia Ceramics. Nearly all the pieces I sell have been hand-picked during a visit to Gorky’s studio in Guanajuato, Mexico. When I do order from afar I am very specific with Gorky and his team about the designs and patterns I want. As a result, I am never disappointed with the colorful Gorky Gonzalez pottery I receive.

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Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

Gorky pottery comes in two styles. Some people like to mix and match them, while others are more drawn to one or the other. The more traditional style is first dipped in a creamy, off-white glaze. Once that has dried, artists paint various decorations around the edges of plates and bowls, and sometimes add a center design. Many of the figures painted on these pieces have been influenced by historic Majolica tradition, like the rooster, which is very similar to what you see on Italian ceramics. Mexican influences can also be seen, both in the vibrant colors and in motifs like the Catrina figure. I love this melding of ceramic traditions and international influences; It’s a very unique element of Gorky Gonzalez pottery.

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Gorky Pottery

Some of the traditional Gorky pottery is quite elaborate, while other pieces are subdued and offer a rustic simplicity. Many people like to mix and match their patterns so they can alternate daily between a plate with a fun fish motif and one with a carefree cowboy. Others like to set a stylish table with dinner, salad, and dessert plates that all match. Regardless, if you’re a fan of Gorky pottery, you’re most likely also a relaxed, creative person, who enjoys living an artistic and joyous lifestyle. I’ve never met a Gorky lover that I didn’t like!

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Gogo Pottery

Named after Gorky Gonzalez Jr. (who goes by the nickname Gogo), the more contemporary Gogo pottery is just as popular among my customers. While there are a lot of other plates, bowls, and mugs out there that are painted in solid colors, Gogo pottery is in a class of it’s own. These pieces have a soft, touchable element to them that is completely unique to Gorky Gonzalez pottery.

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Their originality starts with the clay, which is made from local soil in the nearby Sierra de Santa Rosa. This clay (which has been used for centuries by Indian ceramists in the area) lends Gogo pottery it’s soft, porous feel. Next, artists hand-dip or paint the pieces in mineral-based glazes. The glazes really set Gogo pottery apart: soft, butter yellow, rich terracotta, fresh cucumber green, and deep navy blue. The chalk white has more dimension than you’d imagine and the cherry red is vibrant and festive. The entire process results in cheerful mugs perfect for your morning coffee, eclectic bowls to show off a homemade soup, and relaxed dinner plates worthy of a great family meal.

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Do you prefer the traditional Gorky pottery or the contemporary Gogo pottery? Leave a comment below to tell us your favorites and how you use and enjoy your pieces.

Shop All Gorky Gonzalez Pottery Here >>

 

 

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Summertime French Country Favorites

July is a month filled with French inspiration. In addition to celebrating Bastille Day and watching the Tour de France, this month’s hot days and warm nights seem to scream out for a bottle of Rose and light French dinners enjoyed outside. The handmade and hand-painted pottery that I’ve collected from Provence fits right into this environment. Whether you prefer the rustic earthiness of Richard Esteban’s plates, the originality and playfulness of Sylvie Duriez’s bowls, or the simple sophistication of Ravel’s pitchers, these French Country favorites celebrate the laid-back mood of summertime. Here’s a roundup of my summertime French Country favorites… enjoy!

French Country Plate with Stripes
Above: Striped Dinner Plate by Richard Esteban (Provence, France)

French Country Plate with Polka Dots
Above: Polka-Dot Dessert Plate by Richard Esteban (Provence, France)

French Country Bird Jar in Teal Blue
Above: Bird Jar in Teal Blue by Richard Esteban (Provence, France)

French Country Bowl with Blonde and Dog
Above: Shallow Dish – Naptime by Sylvie Duriez (Provence, France)

French Country Pitcher in Butter Yellow
Above: Milk Pitcher in Butter Yellow by Richard Esteban (Provence, France)

French Country Watering Can in Terra Cotta
Above: Watering Jug by Richard Esteban (Provence, France)

French Country Plate with Hand-Painted Flowers
Above: Cookie Plate with Wildflower Bouquet by Sylvie Duriez (Provence, France)

French Country White Pitcher
Above: Provence Pitcher in Ivory by Poterie Ravel (Provence, France)

French Country Bowl with Woman and Dog
Above: Large Dish – Day Off by Sylvie Duriez (Provence, France)


More Summer French Country Favorites >>

Shop by French Artist:

Richard Esteban >>

Sylvie Duriez >>

Poterie Ravel >>

 

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The Artists and Stories Behind Handmade Ceramic Artwork

When I started Emilia Ceramics (eight years ago!) my motivation was to discover amazing artists handcrafting beautiful work. While that goal is still important to me, I’ve also developed a strong attachment to the handmade ceramic artwork itself. I love to find original pieces that are useful, but also have a rich story to tell.

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That’s why each piece in the Emilia Ceramics collection is handmade and hand-painted by an individual artist with his/her personal influences and motivation. The added benefit of the piece’s handmade origins is that it carries with it a rich tradition of the culture and history from which it comes.

The origin of each piece says a lot about it: Ceramic techniques differ from one country to another, as do the mindsets of the artists making them. They craft their work with specific cultural uses in mind and they approach the business of making and selling ceramics in unique ways.

Cultural & Historical Uses:

I sell a number of products that are very specific to the cultural traditions that have inspired them (whether or not they’re actually used in the way intended). The most popular of these are ceramic jars (whether called urns, ginger jars, or canisters), made up of pieces from Italy, Spain, France, and Mexico. Our Italian jars are probably the closest to resembling their true “ginger jar” functionality, i.e. using these jars to keep spices and other ingredients. However, the Italian canisters are also the most colorful and detailed in their glazing, making them seem more likely to be used as beautiful decorations for the kitchen than actual spice holders.
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Above: Rinascimentale Canisters by Ceramiche Bartoloni >>

italian_fruit_canisterAbove: Frutta Venezia Canister by Ceramiche Bartoloni >>

From the Spanish artists at Ceramica Valenciana, we have a few unique canisters that really speak to their cultural origins. The “Ajos” Canister (for keeping garlic) is 5.75″ wide x 8.5″ tall. That is A LOT of garlic! Only Spanish people (and maybe Italians) use that much garlic. Another canister by Ceramica Valenciana that I love is the Garbanzos Canister. Of course you don’t have to use this canister for garbanzo beans, but it’s fun to imagine that at some point in Spanish history a jar filled with garbanzos was quite normal and/or needed.

black_and_white_canisterAbove: Ajos Garlic Keeper Canister by Ceramica Valenciana >>


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Above: Garbanzos Canister by Ceramica Valenciana >>

The most popular ginger jars in our collection are made in Mexico. On the Emilia Ceramics website we call these tibores because that’s what they’re called in Mexico. People ask me all the time what these are used for. I really don’t know if Mexicans ever really used them for anything. (If you do know about a use, please let me know!) As far as I can tell, their size, shape, and festive glazes make them perfect for decorating the home and patio. They have been adapted to make beautiful lamps, but a tibor on its own makes a great statement in any style of home.

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Above: Dolores Tibor by Talavera Vazquez >>

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Above: Small Black Striped Tibor by Talavera Vazquez >>

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Above: Black ZigZag Ginger Jar Lamp, by Talavera Vazquez >>

Cultural & Individual Business Practices

As I’ve worked to discover the most talented artists in Italy, France, Spain, and Mexico, I’ve encountered a variety of personalities and had to vary my business expectations constantly. The challenges of working with artists from such different backgrounds can be frustrating, but they are also a part of the job that I love and would never want to avoid. They demonstrate the humanity behind each work of art in the Emilia Ceramics collection. Not only are our products handmade, they’re also crafted and brought to life by real people who all have different values, goals, and artistic ways of life.

To read more about my business adventures with specific artists, check out the following blog posts I wrote while traveling:

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My first visit to Richard Esteban (pictured on the left) in Aigues-Vives, France >>

A visit with Sylvie Duriez in Pertuis, France in 2011 >>

The most recent addition to the Emilia Ceramics’ collection: Gialletti Giulio in Deruta, Italy >>

A memorable visit with Talavera Vazquez in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico >>

Behind the Scenes with Gorky Gonzalez in Guanajuato, Mexico >>

A visit to Ceramica Valenciana in Manises, Spain (right outside Valencia) >>

La Dolce Vita: A Visit to both Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia and Bartoloni in Montelupo-Fiorentino, Italy >>

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Day of the Dead and Mexican Pottery

El Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is just around the corner (it’s November 1st and 2nd, corresponding with the Catholic All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days). While Day of the Dead traditions originated in the Central and South Aztec Regions of Mexico it is now celebrated in cultures around the world. Decorated Grave in San MiguelThe holiday is a time when people celebrate and pray for friends and family members who have passed away, aiming to help support their spiritual journey in the afterlife.

On the first day of the holiday, people visit their relatives’ graves, decorating them with flowers and candles. It’s a sort of picnic in the cemetery, with friends and family sharing stories about their loved ones buried there. It’s a celebration of the dead, as well as a celebration of the community those loved ones helped to create.

These graveside picnics usually feature food that was enjoyed by the loved ones being celebrated. Popular Day of the Dead cuisine includes tamales and pan de muerto, a special bread. Bakers hide a toy skeleton inside (usually plastic) and it’s good luck if you bite into it. Sweets are another important Day of the Dead tradition, with cookies, chocolate and sugar skulls. By biting into the skull shapes, people symbolically “take a bite of death” and rid themselves of the fear of death.

Right: A decorated grave in San Miguel de Allende
http://davidlansing.com/a-party-at-the-cemetery/

Another important aspect of the Day of the Dead are the intricate altars constructed and dedicated to deceased relatives. These are often decorated with yellow and orange marigolds and/or chrysanthemums (yellow is the Aztec color for autumn as it’s the season when nature begins to die). There are both home and public altars, where people leave offerings of their relatives’ favorite foods, photographs, and religious amulets. The altars show the cycle of life and death as part of the human experience. Day of the Dead celebrations also can include parades, music, or dancing; but the main idea is to celebrate life and death together.

Day of the Dead Altar in Oaxaca, Mexico
Above: A Colorful Day of the Dead Altar in Oaxaca, Mexico
http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/special/articles/oaxaca-mexico-day-of-the-dead.shtml

One of the most popular Day of the Dead personalities is Catrina, the skeleton figure of an upper class female in colorful dress. Catrina gained her iconic status soon after the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s and remains a popular subject in paintings and sculptures to this day. Her male counterpart is called Catrin. He often shows up playing in a Mariachi Band or alongside Catrina.

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Serving Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Serving Plate with Skeleton Couple’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Skeleton Serving Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

On my last buying trip to Mexico I picked out a handful of Gorky Gonzalez pottery with beautifully-painted Catrina and Catrin images. While some people who are unfamiliar with the joyous-element of Day of the Dead might think this holiday or its skeleton decorations are creepy, many of us find them to be fun, colorful, and full of authentic Mexican charm. The Day of the Dead plates by Gorky Gonzalez are not meant to be used and enjoyed solely during the holiday. Instead, they offer a relaxed, whimsical look at traditional Mexican culture that should be celebrated year-round. I love this eccentric Mexican pottery and I hope you do to!

What are your thoughts on this colorful holiday and the traditions that go along with it? Do you know of other Mexican ceramics that celebrates the Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Square Platter’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Serving Plate with Catrina’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Large Serving Plate with Skeleton Couple’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

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Buying Trip to Mexico, Part 3: Talavera Vázquez

The final visit on my recent trip to Mexico was to the showroom and studio of Talavera Vázquez, located in the small, pottery-centric town of Dolores Hidalgo. Talavera Vázquez is a fourth generation, family-run business focused on marrying Mexican tradition with current day design innovation.

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While owner Roberto Vázquez was not there the day of our visit, his outgoing son Arnold Eduardo Vázquez Cortez was there, using his nearly perfect English and touring us around. Also helping us were Francisco Frausto Valdez, a 20+ year employee of the Vázquez family, and Maria Elvira Lopez Gonzalez, who is my business contact for orders. Maria and I do so much long distance emailing and talking that it’s always fun to see each other in person. I feel lucky to be able to work with such a friendly, helpful, and creative team!

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(From Left: Francisco, Me, Maria, and Arnold)

We had the opportunity to watch some of the artists glazing pieces that were destined for the Emilia Ceramics collection. Below, Carlos is painting a Large Hidalgo Vase.

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Above: Carlos Javier Salmeron

Below, painter Paula carefully decorates a Blue ZigZag Tibor. On the right are three recently-painted Paloma Round Vases.

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Above: Paula Palacios Olvera

Another artist (called the esmaltador) Jose Salvador Godinez demonstrated for us how he bathes each piece in base glaze (esmalte in Spanish). This is the first stage in the glazing process (after the terracotta clay has been fired). I took the two videos below, which show Jose stirring up the glaze to be sure it has consistent thickness and color throughout; And then bathing a ginger jar in the glaze. While he makes this look easy, anyone who has glazed their own pottery knows this is anything but straightforward or foolproof! He must do it at just the right speed and be sure that the entire piece is covered evenly and dries evenly as well.

[quicktime class=”alignnone width=”250″ height=”400″]http://emiliaceramics.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/movie.720.mov[/quicktime] [quicktime class=”alignnone width=”250″ height=”400″]http://emiliaceramics.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/movie_2_720.mov[/quicktime]

Below is a group of the tall vases we call “Especial” – they have been bathed in base glaze and are now drying before being decorated with stripes, zigzags, or a floral motif. See the finished vases here >>

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After hand-painting each piece with its respective design, they are loaded into the kiln for a final firing. I love the rustic way these pieces are all packed tightly, yet safely together to maximize kiln space.

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lamp_closeupBesides reconnecting with the Vázquez team and seeing their artistry in action, I love to visit so that I can pick out new and original pieces for the Emilia Ceramics Collection. This time on my visit, we found some great new small objects, like soap dishes, jewelry boxes, and simple vases for holding pens, pencils, and toothbrushes. We also picked out a few large statement pieces, such as beautiful big vases, a large sunflower serving dish, and the lamp pictured here. I can’t wait to share all the new finds on the website… hopefully we’ll have them all available in the next week or two. The new Gorky pieces are already up.

See all our New Arrivals here >>

While Dolores Hidalgo is known first and foremost for its Talavera Pottery, it is also famous for ice cream. In the town’s main plaza there are at least 6 dueling ice cream stands, competing to sell not only the best tasting ice cream but also the most original flavors. Check out the sign below! I tried the tequila, refused to try the camaron con pulpo (that’s shrimp with octopus!!), and finally settled on beso de angel, which was some sort of combination of caramel, almonds, and vanilla. Que rico!

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Learn more about Talavera Vazquez here!

See Part 1 of our Buying Trip to Mexico >>
See Part 2 of our Buying Trip to Mexico >>

Update: New Arrivals are Here!! Shop Now >>

 

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Buying Trip to Mexico, Part 1

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My recent buying trip to Mexico felt a bit like an anniversary celebration. It’s hard to believe, but I started Emilia Ceramics right after my first buying trip to Mexico in November of 2007… That’s seven and a half years ago!! On that trip, I visited six different artists and their workshops. Since then, three of those six have become popular staples in the Emilia Ceramics collections. Not only do my customers love the work of Gorky Gonzalez, Capelo, and Talavera Vazquez, but I love working with these three family-run businesses. They are always welcoming when I visit, interested in my suggestions, and helpful in my quest for new pieces to add to the Emilia Ceramics collection.

mom_and_dad_sqLucky for me, I was able to bring along my two best employees, advisers, and long-time lovers of Emilia Ceramics: My parents! They came with me on my first adventure in 2007, so it was fitting that they’d return on this, my 4th buying trip to Mexico. My parents have a lot of knowledge about art in general and ceramics in particular. They have a great perspective on what customers will appreciate and what they’ll actually use. And like me, they love interacting with the artists, understanding their techniques, and appreciating their skills.

We spent the first few nights in Guanajuato, which is one of the most colorful cities I’ve ever visited. All the buildings are painted shockingly bright colors and the jacaranda trees were in full bloom! It was literally impossible not to take tons of photos! Check out my Instagram Feed >>

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One of the best parts of staying right downtown in Guanajuato, is being only a ten minute walk from Gorky Gonzalez’s studio and showroom. That’s where we went the first morning. It took me at least four hours to look through all of Gorky’s beautiful plates, bowls, pitchers, platters, and ginger jars, hand-selecting the best of the best for Emilia Ceramics! Believe me, Gorky fans, you have a lot to look forward to… the new pieces will be available soon!

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After a long morning of pottery-shopping, we went out back, through the lush gardens where a few parrots were talking excitedly in their old-fashioned cages, and into the studio, where the magic happens. There were 4 painters (including Nicolo, in the above photo on the left, working to re-create an antique tile pattern), as well as a woman delicately loading the kiln for its next firing (see photo below). Gorky Jr. is pictured with me in the above photo (on the right). Gorky has learned the trade from his father and now mostly runs the business himself.

I love seeing how each piece, regardless of its size or shape, goes through all the same painstaking stages… being thrown or molded, fired, dipped in a base glaze, carefully hand-painted, and then re-fired. It is no easy task, but requires a lot of time consuming work and tons of artistic skill.

It was a fun and fulfilling first day! I went back the following day to make some final decisions and then we were off to visit Capelo… more on that visit soon!

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See Part 2 of our Buying Trip to Mexico >>

Update: New Arrivals are Here!! Shop Now >>

 

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3 Gorky Gonzalez Pottery Pieces Your Wife Will Love

small owl pitcher by gorky gonzalez

He began as a painter and sculptor, but after discovering a centuries-old pottery technique known as Majolica, he knew he wanted to revive the forgotten craft. Over the last 50 years Gorky Gonzalez’s studio has become one of the most important Majolica producers in all of Mexico. Gorky, his wife and son Gorky Jr. (or Gogo), and their team of assistants add their own personal, and oftentimes modern, spin to an ancient technique using locally-sourced clay. Gorky pottery is always hand-crafted and simply beautiful.

There are many Gorky collectors out there… maybe your wife (or another special woman in your life) is one of them. If you’re considering gifting some Gorky Gonzalez pieces to your wife this Valentine’s Day, here are a few original suggestions to get you moving in the right direction.

Amor Platter

amor platter by gorky gonzalez

 

Make her feel like a girl again! The design of the Amor Platter is typically referred to as the wedding couple, but we think its depiction of love makes for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. A fun and festive dish for serving appetizers… or a colorful caprese salad!

You may also enjoy: The Plate Designs of Gorky Gonzalez

Small Owl Pitcher

small owl pitcher by gorky gonzalez

 

How cute is this little guy? Guaranteed to put a smile on your wife’s face every time she creams her coffee. This Small Owl Pitcher looks great with Gorky’s colorful Gogo mugs. Hand-painted with colorful glazes, each creamer is one of a kind, which means that no two pitchers look exactly alike, but each has a personality all its own!

You may also enjoy: Gorky Gonzalez, a Lesson in Making the Traditional Modern

Pair of La Mexicana Candle Holders

la mexicana candleholders by gorky gonzalez

This large, colorful set of La Mexicana Candle Holders will add personality to your romantic dinner table setting this Valentine’s Day. And, your wife will continue to enjoy them for entertaining!

You may also enjoy: Behind the Scenes: Gorky Gonzalez’s Mexican Ceramics

There are so many fun and festive Gorky Gonzalez pottery pieces. Take a peek at his entire collection, here. 

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What’s the Secret Technique for Hand Painted Italian Ceramics?

Italian ceramic artist
The intricate designs of hand painted Italian ceramics take hours of work that can be ruined with a single misplaced brush stroke. Whenever I visit ceramic artists in Italy, I always take some time to just watch the master painters at work; it’s simply mesmerizing. So how do they do it?

Painting is the fourth step in majolica’s five-step process (after shaping, the first firing, and dip glazing the piece in a white, fast-drying mineral oxide glaze). No matter how intricate the design, all this hand-painting is done freehand. That’s right: No pattern, no tracing. There is usually a pattern or example for the artist to follow, particularly for traditional patterns. But some artists have been painting the patterns all their lives and don’t even need an example to follow.

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One major challenge of hand painted Italian ceramics is the medium itself. The glazes are all soft, white-ish pastels that change into deep vibrant colors after firing. Shades can be difficult to distinguish, so an artist needs to keep track of what color goes where. Look at the incredible number of colors highly-detailed Italian ceramics require; this is definitely a task that requires lots of practice and a systematic approach.

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Often an artist will do a number of pieces with the same design at once, allowing them to get into a groove of lemons or roosters or flowers (see photo above of Gabrielle the head painter at Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia). But since glaze color and depth vary where brush strokes overlap, no two pieces will ever be exactly alike. (Thank goodness!)

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The istoriato style, made popular in the Renaissance, is an extreme example of how detailed hand painted Italian ceramics can be. These ceramics look like paintings and literally tell a story (like on the Harlequin Plate above). The level of detail continues in the Deruta region, where Italian hand painted ceramics are characterized by intricate, jewel-like designs (like the stacked Raffaellesco plates below). I can only imagine how long it takes an artist to get all those colors and details exactly right!

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So I guess the secret of hand painted Italian ceramics isn’t really a secret after all. Instead it takes dedication, practice, and plenty of repetition to bring these beautiful, functional works of art to life. And looking at the results, I’m certainly glad there are still artists who continue this tradition so that we can enjoy these Italian ceramics today and well into the future.

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Have You Heard of Capelo Pottery?

capeloWhile I’m sure there are a few Mexican pottery aficionados out there who have heard of him (in fact, I’ve met a few of you), most people reading this are probably thinking “Capelo who?!” Here at Emilia Ceramics, we like to describe Capelo as the Prince or Madonna of pottery, since he goes by just one name and has a style all his own. Capelo’s not the easiest artist to work with — He’s a true artist who is much more concerned with the function, form, and quality of his work than he is with the selling of it. (For more background, checkout the post I wrote while visiting Capelo last: Mas de Mexico!)

While the process of working with Capelo may not be seamless, I would never give it up. That’s because I am personally a HUGE fan of Capelo’s work. His vases, bowls, and plates have a touchable softness that is completely unique. He uses rustic-colored glazes that I love displaying with Richard’s French country tableware (in fact, Capelo Pottery is a bit like a “French Country” Mexican artist, if such a think exists!). What I love most is the smooth, water-like effect of Capelo’s glazes, which make each piece beg to be used and loved. I have a tray by Capelo next to my bed that brings a smile to my face every day and I am seriously considering bringing some of these little plates home to use for toast in the morning.

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Also on my list of current Capelo favorites are these two footed bowls: La Tropical and La Primavera. They make perfect centerpieces, whether filled with citrus fruits or left bare to show off Capelo’s hand-applied brushstrokes. They would also be great serving bowls on a summer buffet filled with a fresh fruit or green salad!

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You cannot go wrong with a piece by Capelo. For one thing, nobody will ever have a vase, mug, or plate just like yours. That’s because he never makes two things exactly alike. Each one is imbued with Capelo’s charismatic, rustic, and super creative personality. Each one has been hand-crafted with the hope that it be loved and enjoyed and passed down from generation to generation. And I think that is truly how Capelo wants to be known — As an artist that loves his craft and his country and wants to share the best of each with others.

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Why Talavera Vazquez Ginger Jars Remain Irresistible


Ginger jars
are a perpetual favorite for home accents. They range in size, color, and shape (and offer built in secret storage!)—what is there not to love? I particularly fancy the ginger jars by Talavera Vazquez. Their flair and verve definitely stand out from the rest. Stripes, chevrons, flowers, bold patterns… there’s something for everyone.

Need a reason to add ginger jars to your home? Why not try a ginger jar or two as:

Outdoor decor

Sturdy ginger jars work wonderfully on a patio or deck. Keep them empty or fill with cut flowers.

ginger jars on patio

Stylish bookends

Small ginger jars corral books and add color, especially bold Talavera Vazquez tibores.

ginger jars on shelves
ginger jars

Secret storage

In the past, ginger jars were used to transport ginger and other spices. You can use them to organize your desk or kitchen counter.

ginger jar on desk
talavera vazquez ginger jar

Dramatic flower vases

Large ginger jars perfectly accent long stemmed flowers, branches, and major arrangements.

ginger jar with flowers

 ginger jar with hydrangeas

Need more ginger jar inspiration? Check out the Emilia Ceramics ginger jar Pinterest board as well as the Talavera Vazquez collection, then join the ginger jar fun yourself. You won’t be able to resist.

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Deruta Plates: Italian Dinnerware at Its Finest

Deruta has been famous for centuries and after a quick look at its ceramics (both old and new), it’s easy to see why. One of Italy’s largest ceramic production areas, there are more than 300 ceramic workshops in Deruta today. Just as with other historical ceramic centers in Italy, modern Deruta is home to a mix of traditional artists still crafting everything by hand and those now mass producing their work. What’s wonderful about Deruta in particular is that it’s still possible to visit the artists who are following the old ways, in their studios. I’ve visited many artists there over the years while looking for the perfect fit for the Emilia Ceramics collection. Finding the Gialletti family-run studio took a long time, but was definitely worth the effort.

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Ceramics have been made in Deruta since the 14th century. Classic patterns such as Raffaellesco, Arabesco, and Gallo Verde harken back to its Renaissance peak, with each piece of Italian dinnerware painted by hand. Artists train under masters for years, perfecting their technique since majolica is a completely unforgiving medium. You can’t erase the glaze if you paint outside of the pattern. With all those intricate details, I always hold my breath when watching the artists at work. I’m afraid if I make a noise I’ll ruin everything!

Deruta Italian dinnerware
Italian dinnerware

This video by Geribi underlines the epic nature of Deruta as well as shows examples of its long history. Some of the fragments look much like pieces made by Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, which is quite amazing.

Want more Deruta? Check out the area’s history and incredible Italian dinnerware to see for yourself why so many people are just a little obsessed. Pinterest is also full of beautiful Deruta, though it’s a mix of authentic, handpainted pieces and imitation designs that have been mass-produced. With all these beautiful pieces of Italian dinnerware, I’m sure that Deruta will remain loved for centuries to come.

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Loving Sylvie Duriez!

I recently sent out a newsletter (what?! you don’t get our newsletter? Sign up here) entitled: “Unique is French for Awesome.” It was all about our most popular French artist Sylvie Duriez and her one-of-a-kind, totally original and totally awesome ceramic artwork. It’s difficult to describe Sylvie’s work… and nearly impossible to truly impart its beauty through online photos. You just have to see it to believe it.

Sylvie Duriez Collection
(While the new Sylvie Collection just arrived, I picked all these pieces out while visiting Sylvie back in June. If you want to learn more about Sylvie, here’s her bio: Sylvie Duriez — Or you can read the post from my last visit to her studio in Pertuis, France.)

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Sylvie throws each piece by hand, sticking to pretty basic shapes: tall cylindrical pitchers, little pitchers, bowls of various size and shape, and plates. The magic really happens after she’s fired these pieces and begins to decorate them. Sylvie dips each piece in a cream colored base glaze and then uses a fine needle to draw the outline of her subjects (birds, flowers, dogs, cats, bunnies, girls, and occasionally mice). This creates a cool effect by exposing the terracotta below the base glaze. She then uses subtle, yet beautiful glazes to paint within those lines (and often outside the lines as well) to bring her subjects to life.

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Her paintings are much like watercolors, they consist of only a few brushstrokes, delicately applied and sometimes smeared, but they come together to convey huge emotion and personality. Regardless of their color or size, her dogs, cats, birds, and people spring to life. Even the flowers jump off their ceramic canvas and become animated… so real you can almost touch and smell them.
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And that’s truly what I love best about Sylvie’s work — the plates don’t require a perfectly arranged meal… the pitchers don’t require the perfect bouquet of flowers… and the bowls certainly don’t require a beautifully-tossed salad. Each piece makes it’s own statement, all on its own. Regardless of whether it is displayed on a shelf or set on a table, used for food, full of flowers, or left empty, the piece itself is the art and it imparts beauty all day long, everyday. I guess I could say the same about each piece in the Emilia Ceramics collection. After all, I choose each one individually because it inspires me and I believe it will bring joy and beauty to the home where it ends up. They are all handmade lovingly to be used and enjoyed… but mostly enjoyed. Sylvie Duriez, however, really ups the anty. Her pieces are true works of art. Each one an individual. Each one conveying its own unique story with its own unique personality and beauty. And that’s why ‘unique is French for awesome!’

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Capelo’s Mexican Vases: High Impact Style

Mexican vases
Vibrant and colorful, Mexican vases are a favorite of many interior designers. But while the graphic designs of Talavera Vazquez are wonderfully modern, there’s something truly special about Capelo’s vases that draw me back again and again to his studio outside Guanajuato, Mexico.

Capelo Ceramics
Capelo
himself says that his glazes are distinct because they use all-natural ingredients. But the playful patterning and expert color combinations set these Mexican vases, pitchers, serving bowls, and other ceramics apart from the rest. Even an empty Capelo vase easily becomes a focal point for a room, whether on a sideboard, shelf, or tabletop. A Capelo vase filled with fresh flowers is even more compelling. The variety of motifs—vases adorned with interlocking circle and diamonds, a repeating fleur de lys pattern, or abstract flowers—highlight their one of a kind nature and makes them even more special. No matter the size, the interesting shapes and warm, inviting glazes just beg to be touched and used.

Mexican vase by CapeloThe laid-back vibe continues beyond Capelo’s Mexican vases. His rustic pitchers accent homes with ease on the table or as decor. For example, this large pitcher would be especially compelling used as a vase for long branches or dried grasses. The ribbon accent on the handle gives it the perfect finishing touch.

large pitcherEach of Capelo’s pieces tells its own story, which is what makes them so compelling. I like how the abstract patterns appeal to a wide range of styles, so they seem right at home in a variety of settings. I can’t wait to see what Capelo’s team creates by the next time I visit the studio! They’re sure to bring high style no matter where they end up.

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New Hand Painted Italian Ceramics from Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio

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When thinking about hand painted Italian ceramics words like durable, intricate, original, and historic come to mind. From the locally sourced clay to fabulous, colorful glazes, Italian ceramics certainly stand out. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to find Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, a studio run by the brothers Antonio and Carlo, in Deruta, Italy. Another historic center for majolica, the highly ornate designs and lush colors of Deruta ceramics are justly famous. After I met the amazing team of artists at this third generation family workshop in the summer of 2013, I knew I had to share them as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection. Unpacking the boxes has been amazing.

For centuries hand painted Italian ceramics were used by wealthy families for their meals and home decor. Deruta became known for the intricate decorative work on their ceramics, setting their plates particularly apart from the rest. Gialletti Giulio’s exquisite plate collection continues this tradition, with intricate borders in an amazing array of colors. I love how the patterned borders create a strong statement when stacked together.

Italian hand painted ceramic platesItalian hand painted plates The decorative patterns really shine on their one of a kind jewelry boxes too. The flower-inspired motifs remind me of mandalas. You can also see every brushstroke, which makes these pieces even more special. These jewelry boxes are definitely a great gift idea for anyone who loves Italy and needs a small piece they can see every day on a dresser or tabletop.

Italian jewelry box

Other great daily reminders of Italy also include a variety of home accessories like salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar sets, and soap dispensers.

Italian salt and pepper setServing platters are another versatile, high-impact piece whether used as a centerpiece or holding your main course for dinner. Watching the artists work at Gialletti Giulio was much like visiting my other Italian artists; these are truly people who are meticulous and have a passion for their craft. I can’t wait to see what I unpack next so I can share even more of their amazing hand painted Italian ceramics with you all.

Italian serving platter

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New Spanish Ceramics, Just in Time for the Holidays

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After all the wait, I’m thrilled to announce that the newest addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection has arrived just in time holiday gift-giving. These handmade Spanish ceramics from Ceramica Valenciana are playful and sophisticated, showcasing a stark simplicity with clean, modern lines. A family-owned business, Ceramica Valenciana is one of the reasons I started Emilia Ceramics years ago. We’re still unpacking the boxes, but here’s a quick look at what has been unwrapped so far.

blue and white mugsThe blue and white mugs are currently some of my favorites. With gently curved handles and handpainted blue glaze, the designs really stand out. I love how you can see the brush strokes on the blue and white checkered mug; the café mug and mug are perfect for anyone who loves coffee or tea first thing in the morning. And the labeled pots for coffee or tea help the caffeine flow all morning long.

coffee and tea mugs
ceramic coffee pot
Ceramica Valenciana has a whole collection of ceramics that are clearly labeled for easy identification; these coffee and tea sets are just the beginning. Anyone who loves wine will appreciate the vino cups with their rustic flair.

vino cupsThe aqua pitcher and cups round out the set, serving water in an equally stylish manner. Definitely these are great gifts for anyone who loves to entertain.

serving pitcherThe three canister styles are another example of practical Spanish ceramics. Labeled pastas, garbanzos, and arroz, these gently rounded canisters will keep anything looking good on your countertop (including pasta, beans, and rice). I think they would make excellent unexpected cookie jars too.

blue and white canisterWe’ll be getting even more serving pieces from Ceramica Valenciana on the website soon, so make sure and check back for updates as more Spanish ceramics appear over the coming weeks. Otherwise explore our holiday gift ideas as we count down the days until Christmas.

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Spanish Ceramics Coming Soon from Ceramica Valenciana

spanish ceramics from ceramica valenciana
I’ve gotten photos of my new Spanish ceramics from Mari Jose, the third-generation owner of Ceramica Valenciana. After months of waiting, the newest addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection is almost here! I’m incredibly excited and am hopeful that these beautiful Spanish ceramics will arrive before the end of 2013. Luckily, they’re worth the wait!

cocina spanish ceramic Spanish ceramic butter dish spanish ceramic bottlesAs many of you know, Ceramica Valenciana is one of the inspirations behind the founding of Emilia Ceramics. The studio’s full name is La Cerámica Valenciana de José Gimeno and it’s located near Valencia in Manises, Spain. This famous maker of Spanish ceramics has been in business since 1925 and is still family owned. Their work is the perfect combination of innovation and tradition with a uniquely Spanish spirit. Every time I visit their studio I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of patterns, colors, shapes, and unique ceramics that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s truly a wonderful place to spend time.

spanish ceramic salsa bowlsvino wine pitcherCeramica Valenciana is best known for reproductions of traditional ceramics and azulejos (tiles), crafted with love and expertise by their team of artists using traditional majolica techniques. Their modern line still is completely handmade and handpainted, with bowls, plates, serving pieces, canisters, and other Spanish ceramics that have a clean, understated feel. The upcoming arrivals are pictured below being packed up with care. I am trying to not obsessively email reminding them to over pack everything so that nothing breaks. These Spanish ceramics look so great it would be a shame to have them arrive in fragments… so here’s to the magic of good packing material and quality shipping companies. The pitchers and bowls alone are certainly worth waiting for. I can’t wait to share them all with you in the coming months!
packing Spanish ceramics
Spanish ceramics

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French Ceramics: Patrice Voelkel vs Richard Esteban Pottery

The ceramics of Provence are just as varied as the people who make them. Take Patrice Voelkel and Richard Esteban. Both make incredible French pottery with rustic charm, yet they have very different aesthetics which results in extremely different ceramics. For all the fans of French pottery out there, here’s a quick overview of how these two talented artists measure up and what sets them apart from the rest.

richard esteban potteryPatrice Voelkel

Clay types: Patrice Voelkel uses local black clay for the majority of his pieces, resulting in ceramics that have a bit more heft. The dark clay body also makes for colors that are more deep and rich than bright. Richard Esteban pottery uses the rich red clay of Provence, which causes his glazes to pop, particularly the yellows.

blue mix and pour bowlyellow French vase

Color palette: Speaking of color, these French artists both rely on a consistent set of colors. Richard favors a wider range, with ceramics in rich reds, yellows, greens, and blues. He loves polka dots and textured patterns. Patrice, on the other hand, loves indigo and all its many variations. Every time I visit his studio Patrice is wearing blue, leading me to think that he just loves the color. His chalk white dishes and deep cranberry pieces are notable exceptions. All of his glazes have a remarkable liquid quality to them.

pitchers by Richard EstebanProduction volume: Perhaps the biggest difference between Patrice and Richard’s pottery is the number of pieces they produce. Most of Patrice’s ceramics are one of a kind, making them unique works of art. Every time I visit I’m always surprised by something new, though he does make multiples of some favorites like his indigo pitcher and mix and pour bowl. The majority of Richard’s ceramics are replicated, which means that I have plenty of polka dot bowls and platters for all his fans. He also has some one of a kind pieces, notably his green fish canister and most of his lamps.

indigo pitchergreen fish canister

Studio size and creative team: Both work in gorgeous surroundings; I don’t think it gets much more picturesque than the French countryside. Patrice works with his wife Sylviane at Poterie Herbes Folles, accompanied by their faithful dog named Tina Turner. Richard opened Poterie d’Aigues-Vives after working with a few different traditional studios. His studio is also part of his home, though he has the talented Arnaud and Katia as part of his team. I’m constantly amazed at how many gorgeous ceramics both these studios produce, particularly since every step is done by hand.

Patrice and Sylviana Voelkel potteryWhat do you love about French ceramics? Are there pieces you’d like to see more of? Do you have a preference for Patrice Voelkel or Richard Esteban pottery? Let us know with a comment below.

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The Plate Designs of Gorky Gonzalez: Endless Combinations

Whenever I make a display of Gorky Gonzalez plates, I am faced with a unique challenge: no matter how I stack the mix of colors, patterns, and designs, these plates look great. So finding the most attractive arrangement can take some time. But the results always are appealing, with unique designs and vibrant colors that are beautiful on any table.

Gorky Gonzalez PotteryStacking plates is a quick and easy way to make any meal feel more like an event, whether you have guests or just your family around the table. Of course, the permutations depend on what you’re serving. Some ideas to get you started: Soup bowl on top of salad plate on top of dinner plate. Three plates of descending sizes stacked on top of each other. Square plates on top of round plates. For brunch, maybe a cup and saucer stacked on top of a bread plate and larger plate.

plate designs of Gorky GonzalezI think what’s special about the plate designs of Gorky Gonzalez is how they just beg to be mixed and matched. I have people who stick to the same color palette—blue and white is very popular—but mix the borders of their smaller plates to contrast with the patterns of their dinner plates. Others choose solid colored dinner plates and accessorize with complimentary salad and dessert plates in a mix of designs. I love a vibrant red plate as a starting point. For a dynamic table setting, things get even more interesting when each individual salad plate has a different central motif, but complimentary colors and border design with the dinner plates.

rooster_plateblue and white mini plateGorky dessert platered plateGorky’s plates are all handpainted, just like the rest of his ceramics, so no two plates are exactly alike. This personality really makes for a striking table, with the motifs of roosters, palm trees, fish, flowers, and more. What’s your favorite Gorky plate? How do you feel about red plates or blue plates instead of plain white plates? Leave a comment and let us know! I’m going to get back to arranging the plates in our new Emilia Ceramics Showroom… I just received a new order from Gorky so I have lots of material to work with!

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Capelo Pottery, a Unique Take on Mexican Ceramics

Capelo's studio and countryside

Capelo’s dedication to Mexico ceramics makes him stand out from other traditional artists. Not only is Capelo himself a talented, multi-faceted artist (he also is an architect, oil painter, and mixed-media sculptor), his dedication to keeping things natural makes his ceramics practically luminescent. His studio is one of the smaller ones in the Emilia Ceramics collection but the ceramics definitely make a big statement. Capelo potterySo just how does Capelo and his small team of artists create the unique Mexico ceramics that have made them famous?

One major factor I think is the land itself. Capelo’s home is high on a hill outside Guanajuato, Mexico, which gives him an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. His almost daily horseback rides and constant contact with such beauty comes through in his work with the colors and shadings of his ceramics. True artists, Capelo and his team take their environment and make it portable through their pottery.

Capelo’s ingenuity is also reflected in the unique shapes he creates. Pitchers with unexpected cutaway tops, fluted bowls, delicately pulled handles, and a willingness to play with scale truly set these Mexico ceramics apart. I couldn’t resist Capelo’s massive serving dishes on my last buying trip—I fell in love with the rounded square serving dish and all its possible uses. The same goes for the fluted serving bowls and smaller plates with kaleidoscope-like designs.

Capelo pitcher

square serving dishCapelo plates

Although Capelo pottery experiments with shapes, there are two things that never change: the use of local clay and natural glazes. Capelo says that his glazes are different because they don’t contain additives like many modern glazes do, using only natural ingredients. Of course, this doesn’t limit his use of color. His Mexico ceramics are rich with deep blue, dreamy green, burnt orange-red, and soft yellow. The resulting majolica is a softer, more subtle Mexican ceramics, almost glowing from within. Add to all this the fact that all of Capelo’s ceramics are one of a kind pieces and you have a recipe for an artist who definitely stands out from the rest.

Capelo fluted footed bowl

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Gorky Gonzalez, a Lesson in Making the Traditional Modern

Gorky GonzalezWorking with artists that are practicing a craft hundreds of years old, I’m always amazed to see how modern their pieces can feel. It goes deeper than the idea that beauty is timeless. Mixing form and function with elegant shapes, rich colors and patterns has long been the hallmark of majolica ceramics. Just look at Gorky Gonzalez. He basically resurrected an art form that had almost died out, drawing on a mix of other ceramic traditions to make Mexican pottery that is as unique as the artists that create it. Instead of being a slave to tradition, Gorky Gonzalez is an innovator who is constantly thinking up new designs and new pieces with the help of his family and the other artists who are part of his workshop.

The Gogo Mexican pottery line is the perfect example of this new era of Mexican ceramics. Contemporary in shape and colors, the pieces still have the weight of tradition firmly behind them. I quickly fell in love with the serving platters, mugs, and colorful plates designed by Gorky’s son, known as Gogo. (And stay tuned because I just received a shipment with brand new Gogo pieces like fun pasta bowls and dessert plates). Based on our conversations together, here are three tips for taking tradition and making it feel a bit more modern.Gogo Mexican pottery

1. Repeat what works. This is a cardinal rule in business as well. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” For Gogo’s Mexican pottery, this means using the same local clay, gorgeous glazes, and firing techniques as more traditional Mexican ceramics. The similar colors make these pieces easy to mix and match with the more decorated ceramics Gorky Gonzalez is known for.

Gogo bowls

2. Keep it clean. Too many unnecessary additions can make a ceramic piece feel dated. For example, think about heavy baroque curlicues look today—completely overwhelming. That’s why Gogo’s ceramics don’t have much in terms of ornamentation in either glaze or shaping. Purity of line is much more likely to last, whether in ceramics, furniture, or clothing.

3. Take risks. Of course, you can’t be a slave to tradition if you want to innovate. The single dominant color of Gogo Mexican pottery feels classic, but the shapes are more playful (like Gogo’s espresso cups). Experimentation can lead to lovely design, so give yourself time to play.

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Last Stop: Italian Ceramics and the Amalfi Coast

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Since my last post I’ve spent some quality time on the Amalfi Coast, seen even more stunning ceramics, flown back to San Francisco, and started packing for my big move to Boulder, CO. It’s been a busy week to say the least.

This trip to Italy has been unlike previous ones since I got to explore new parts of Italy and meet lots of potential new artists to add to the Emilia Ceramics collection. Just like their French counterparts, Italian ceramic artists are deeply saturated in tradition yet also find new ways to use elements of their craft to create stunning, contemporary-feeling pieces. My last stop was in Vietri Sul Mare (not to be confused with Vietri ceramic), home to Ceramica Solimene. Solimene ceramics are bright and colorful, with an almost childlike appeal. I toured the factory and was amazed by the diversity of Italian style dinnerware and decorative pieces that Vietri Sul Mare is famous for. And it wasn’t just Ceramica Solimene that was busting with beautiful ceramics… the entire town of Vietri Sul Mare is full of ceramic shops, many with beautifully-painted tiles announcing their names out front. I must admit that after all the Italian ceramics I had seen in Florence, Orvieto, and Deruta, I was beginning to feel a touch of exhaustion.

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Thankfully, the gorgeous beaches of the Amalfi Coast were perfect for my over-saturated senses. A few days of rest and relaxation (including beach time and as many cappuccinos as I could handle) and I was ready to head back to San Francisco. With all these amazing new potential Italian ceramic artists, I’ll be taking some time figuring out what fits best with the current collection and the further logistics of orders in the coming months. Hopefully I’ll have new French and Italian pieces this fall… it seems a long ways away right now, but I know it’ll be here before I know it.

Now that I’m back stateside, it’s time for another round of packing my bags. I’m moving to Boulder and excited about the new Emilia Ceramics Showroom on Pearl Street. Once I get things unpacked I’ll share some photos of the new space. If you have any advice on what to do or where to go in Boulder, please leave a comment below. I’ll keep you posted on how the unpacking progresses.

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Majolica Madness in Deruta!!

drive_to_derutaAfter a few days in Florence, I was excited to get back to the country. It has been 5 years since I was in Italy last and I had forgotten just how beautiful Tuscany truly is! Especially this time of year — rolling green hills, red poppies everywhere, and little hill towns around every bend in the road. I spent 2 nights in beautiful Montepulciano and then headed even farther south, to the equally beautiful region of Umbria. orvieto_2The most visible difference between Umbria and Tuscany seems to be slightly steeper hills in Umbria… and a different name for the delicious local wine served at restaurants. I was staying in Orvieto, a town known best for its cathedral, its ceramics, and its Classico wine. I was of course there for the ceramics, but I also enjoyed time spent gazing at the cathedral and drinking the Classico.

But back to the real reason I was in Umbria: a visit to Deruta, a small town with a big ceramics industry. There are actually two parts of Deruta: the small old town up on the hill, which is quaint and full of ceramic stores, and the larger “new” area down below, which is a little faster-paced, but also full of ceramic stores (as well as workshops and showrooms). I started my day in the old section, enjoyed a cappuccino on the main square and then strolled around, doing a little window shopping to whet my appetite. Then I ventured down into the more modern town, where I went looking for old acquaintances and new ceramics for the Emilia Ceramics collection.majoliche

My first stop was visiting my uncle’s good friends Silvana and Marcello who have a small ceramics business at the outskirts of town. I interrupted Silvana in the midst of her work and explained in my best Italian: il zio mio e Gifford (my uncle is Gifford), which was all the introduction I needed. We had a fun catch-up session (which was repeated when Marcello arrived a few minutes later) in which I spoke my few words of Italian mixed with much more Spanish and they spoke Italian quickly with lots of hand gesturing to try to make me understand. In the end, Silvana suggested that I go visit a ceramics shop in town that I hadn’t heard of before. She offered to take me and introduce me to the nice people who worked there.

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And that’s how I ended up at Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, a beautiful shop packed with vases, lamps, plates, clocks, and lots of fun smaller pieces like salt & pepper grinders and oil & vinegar dispensers. I got the royal treatment from Michele—including a tour and explanation of the process (all in amazing English)—and found some great pieces. I am most excited about the colorful, yet sophisticated table settings I am hoping to add to the Emilia Ceramics collection!

My next stop was right nearby — I was meeting with Gerardo Ribigini whose shop Geribi (which I just realized is a combination of his first and last name : ) I visited 5 years ago. I spent quite a while walking around, looking at his beautifully painted pieces and asking about different patterns, styles, shapes, and designs. I’m definitely looking forward to adding some of his skilled work to the collection as well.

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womenThe final place I went in Deruta was another special visit suggested by my uncle Gifford. Over the years that he’s been visiting Deruta, he has befriended Carmen Monotti, an exceptional artist who creates various types of ceramic artwork. My favorites are her recreations of Klimt paintings (on vases, wall-hangings and necklace pendants — photo on the right)… And the tiles she paints, upon request, for the nearby church, La Chiesa Madonna dei Bagni (photo below). When “miracles” happen in peoples’ lives miracles_1(anything from surviving a car crash to having a healthy baby), those touched by the event commission Carmen to make a tile (in Italian called an ex voto) depicting the scene. The ex voto is hung in the church. I LOVE these tiles — there’s something about their soft colors and simplicity that is so charming.

I had a great time hanging out with Carmen, joking about my uncle, discussing my business, and looking at her artwork. On the way out of town I stopped at La Chiesa Madonna dei Bagni. It is a small church, with simple white walls that make the perfect backdrop for the tiles covering every wall. I would have taken more pictures, but my camera had run out of batteries after the long day filled with so many photogenic subjects! Below you’ll see one of Carmen’s most recent tiles that is hung in the church, followed by an older one done by another artist.

I’m off to the Amalfi Coast now for the final leg of my Italian adventure. I’m going to visit Vietri Sul Mare, another ceramic-centric town, where the well-known Ceramica Solimene is located. I’ll keep you posted!

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La Dolce Vita

florence1After a long day of train rides, I made it from Nice (where I dropped off my rental car) to Florence. It was actually a longer journey than I had envisioned (in the past, I’ve always stopped along the way) and I arrived starving. About halfway to Florence, I had decided I was going to wait to eat until I could eat real Italian food… so I checked into my hotel, splashed some water on my face, and headed to the nearest trattoria. It was worth it! The fresh tagliatelle al funghi was delicious and the “house red” tasted as good as any wine I’ve had in a long time.

The next day I woke up early and headed back to the train station for the 20 minute ride to Montelupo Fiorentino. Montelupo is famous for its majolica because of the town’s location on the old Roman road that brought Moorish traders (and their ceramic wares) from Spain to Florence. During the Renaissance, artisans in Montelupo began elaborating on the ceramic designs, adding realistic imagery and brighter colors, transforming them into the high art form we know today.

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While there are many ceramic artists in Montelupo, I am pretty confident Emilia Ceramics buys from the two best! My first visit was to Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia. Co-owner (and grandson of Tuscia’s founder) David met me at the small train station and we drove to Tuscia. new_piecesWe found Gabriele (the head-painter and other co-owner) working and telling jokes to three other painters. They greeted me — most remembering my first visit 5 years ago — and were very nice when I wanted to take lots of photos while they worked.

As I’ve described before, Tuscia is located in a 2 story brick building, filled with ceramic artwork. Each shelf in each room is stacked with plates, bowls, canisters, and pitchers that look like they belong in a museum.

I selected a number of new pieces to add to the order I had already placed with Tuscia and had an espresso with David — who was expecting a new baby girl at any moment! Then David drove me to Ceramiche Bartoloni, which is in a more industrial part of town. We were greeted by Patrizio and Lucia Bartoloni. Lucia is Patrizio’s wife and helps run the business along with Patrizio’s brother Stefano and his wife. The four of them do almost everything themselves, only hiring extra painters when needed. Lucia speaks some English, so she talked with me about the recent order I had placed and showed me all the new designs and patterns.

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blogOf course, the limoni and rooster patterns are my Bartoloni faves… but there were a few new patterns that jumped out at me. So I added some new styles as well as some more sizes of bowls to my order (expect some great new salad and pasta bowls from Ceramiche Bartoloni). Patrizio was very busy and had to leave soon to pick his son up at school, but he gave me a double-cheek kiss and posed for a picture before he ran out the door. Then Lucia drove me back to the train station and I spent the 20 minute ride back to Florence trying to digest all the beautiful artwork I had just seen.

The next day, after another awesome pasta dinner and a few gelatos, I went to visit Daniela’s ceramic shop in downtown Florence: La Botteghina del Ceramista. Daniella is a good friend of my uncle Gifford (who is also responsible for introducing me to the ceramics from Tuscia and Bartoloni). I visited Daniella’s shop on my first trip to Florence, before I even knew I was going to start a ceramics-importing business. I fell in love with her collection though, which includes ceramics from the Bartoloni brothers, among other great Italian artists. On my first visit I bought the Square Blu Limoni Platter from Daniella and gave it to my brother as a wedding gift.

I’ve been back a few times since and been able to share with Daniella the progress of my growing business. As always, she was very helpful in pointing out new pieces and best sellers, telling me where they were from, and giving me contact names and numbers. It was great to visit with Daniella and watch her in her element, surrounded by the beautiful Italian majolica, sharing it with tourists and local Italians alike. It reminded me what a great job I have!

daniella

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French Finale: Colorful Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

outsideFrom Sylvie’s workshop in Pertuis it is about a 45 minute drive south to Aubagne, where Poterie Ravel is located. Once again I was helped in my navigation by friendly little Poterie Ravel signs located at almost every turn throughout the city.

As you may remember from my previous visits, Poterie Ravel is most well-known for its large terracotta pots, which it sells to premier hotels and shopping centers around France. When you arrive at Poterie Ravel, you are greeted by lots of these sophisticated pots, displayed perfectly amidst colorful patio furniture. The old stone building covered with ivy is where this family run business has been making ceramics since 1837.

Of course they also make smaller items – like the pitchers, platters, bowls, and vases we sell at Emilia Ceramics. It is inside the old stone building that you encounter room after room of inviting and perfectly displayed ceramics in bright, festive, stylish colors. There is a warm hum from the kilns (running almost all the time) and lots of friendly workers greeting you and wanting to help. Similarly to Richard Esteban’s showroom, this is a place I could call home! On this particular visit, I spent about an hour wandering from room to room, enjoying the displays and taking lots of pictures. Finally, I picked out a number of my favorite pitchers and planting pots in bright yellow and teal green (apparently, the colors of the season).

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I was helped by this super friendly young man (above) – I can’t remember his name, sadly. He spoke some English and seemed impressed that I was from California and that I knew to come to Poterie Ravel. He said he had only been working there for a few weeks (during his school break) and that I was the first American he had met. He said it like I was a movie star, which of course made my day!

With Poterie Ravel checked off my list, I’ve completed my French shopping list… so it’s time to head to Italy! Next stop Montelupo Fiorentino, where I’ll visit Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia and Ceramiche Bartoloni. I’m really looking forward to both… not to mention all the pasta, cappuccinos, and gelato I’ll be enjoying!

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Update on Sylvie Duriez

IMG_2233I spoke with Sylvie about a week ago, before I left home. She had never responded to my email letting her know when I’d be in France, so I was a little concerned she’d be out of town. However, she assured me over the phone that she would be there and would be expecting me. In her quiet, tentative English she added, “but I do not have much.”

This made me a little nervous. You see, among Emilia Ceramics customers there are a lot of Sylvie Duriez fans. People email and call me asking when I’m getting more of Sylvie’s ceramics. Plus, I’m a Sylvie Duriez fan and I suddenly realized I haven’t kept any of her work for myself! All of a sudden I was really worried… What if there’s nothing to buy? None of the favorite subjects we’ve all come to cherish: Whimsical women sitting under trees or staring thoughtfully out windows; Plump pink birds frolicking in fruit trees; Cats and dogs lazily laying on sofas; Bright bouquets of iris and red poppies. What will I do then?!street_corner

Well, you can all relax… After all, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post if I didn’t have good news to share about Sylvie and her beautiful ceramics!

After my stay in St. Rémy-de-Provence (and my visit with Richard Esteban), I moved on to Aix-en-Provence. Aix is a bustling university town, which actually reminds me a lot of Sevilla, Spain (where I lived a while back). Both cities seem to be in constant party-mode. The shopping streets in Aix are always teaming with beautiful, well-dressed people, and the cafés and bars are full morning, noon, and night with friends catching up over espresso, rosé or campari. Fresh fruit, vegetable, and flower markets also seem to be everywhere… everyday of the week. Needless to say, Aix is always a fun place to “have” to go : ).

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As much as I’ve come to love it, one of my favorite things about Aix is leaving it to drive the 20 minutes to Pertuis, the little town where Sylvie lives and works. It’s always a bit stressful getting out of Aix (small, one-way streets and lots of roundabouts), but then you’re suddenly out in the country, passing through grassy fields with rolling hills in the distance. This time, it was even more green and beautiful than I remembered. I’ve been to visit Sylvie at her home 3 times now, so it was easy to find. I love her house/studio… so picturesque: 48 Rue du Moulin à Huile!

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Sylvie was the same as I remember her from my previous visits — quiet and soft-spoken, yet very warm. She is much more comfortable speaking English in person than on the phone (which is totally understandable) and quickly opened up about her new plans to move her studio away from her home and experiment with new techniques. She is especially excited about the idea of working with porcelain, which will require a new kiln and different supplies.

To my relief, Sylvie had a lot of beautiful work for me to choose from. Her hesitation on the phone was mostly because she’s not sure if she’s going to continue to make the type of decorative bowls, plates, and pitchers we all know and love. As I’ve explained before, Sylvie Duriez is a true artist, striving to create original artwork. She isn’t concerned with what will sell — she wants to follow her passion. As sad as it makes me that she may not always produce the pieces I have grown so fond of, I do understand. She is so talented and it wouldn’t be the same if she was producing on command.

IMG_2228I assured Sylvie of my support for her artistic decisions and told her I’d be excited to see whatever projects she comes up with next.  Then I went to work picking out all my favorites from her current collection. As usual she acted amazed by the number of pitchers, bowls, and plates I was selecting —  but this time she didn’t complain that she’d “have so much work to do when I left” as she has said in the past. I think she was genuinely relieved to make space in her life (and on her shelves) for what’s to come. And I was more than happy to help!

I’m thrilled with the assortment of Sylvie Duriez pieces I selected to add to the Emilia Ceramics collection — as always each is completely one-of-a-kind and packed full of personality. I feel confident that none of the Sylvie fans out there will be disappointed!

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Poterie Aigues-Vives: Another Great Visit with Richard Esteban

Well, I made it to Provence! It was a long trip, but well worth it… I checked into my new favorite hotel in St. Rémy-de-Provence and took an immediate dip in the refreshing (by which I mean freezing) swimming pool. I had the rest of the day for some much needed r and r, which helped prepare me for the long day to come, full of driving (and getting lost), shopping (mostly for ceramics), and continuously failing to be understood in French! (It doesn’t matter how much I study the “pronounced as” portion of my French translation book, I seem incapable of saying words correctly! I do have merci and parfait down pretty well though, which goes a long way in relaxed Provence.)

poterieThe plan for the day was to head to Aigues-Vives, a little town in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France where I have now visited Richard Esteban four times! After all those visits, I now know that as long as I can get near the town, I can find Richard. That’s because there are “poterie” signs helpfully displayed throughout town directing you to his home/workshop (like in the photo here). You see, Aigues-Vives is mostly on the map because of Richard Esteban’s ceramic work. It is a lovely little town, but I’m not sure anyone would visit unless they had heard of the polka-dot, stripe, and songbird designs painted there… or the charismatic artist himself.IMG_2146

When I arrived yesterday it was quieter than in the past, with just Richard and his right-hand-woman Katia manning the shop. They greeted me enthusiastically, asked about my business and my friend Jessica, who came with me last time I visited. I recently placed a big order with Richard, complete with all the polka-dot mugs, pitchers, and plates that have recently sold out at Emilia Ceramics. I knew immediately though that I’d be adding to that order while visiting the shop in person. That’ll give Richard some more euros to put in his custom-made piggy bank, as he is demonstrating in the funny photo on the right (with Katia)!

I’ve described before how Richard’s shop is like my personal heaven on earth. So many beautiful works of art — from giant statues of birds and soldiers, to small plates proclaiming Vive l’Amour. Each piece is original, whether in the shade of its rustic glaze or in its hand-molded design and shape. There is so much to see and be amazed by. Add to that the ambiance created by open doors and windows to let the warm breeze through, songbirds chirping in their cages, and pet dogs lazily strolling around or sleeping in the shade.

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Richard was the same outgoing character as in the past — At the end of the afternoon he mustered up his best English and asked “You want drink wine?” Of course I did… but I passed as I was already feeling my jet-lag kick in and needed to drive another couple of hours. It’s a good thing I said no, as the signs leading away from his “poterie” are not quite as clear as those getting there. My early success had given me too much confidence in my directional skills and I proceeded to get very lost on my way back to St. Rémy.  Luckily, that’s what I’ve come to expect on these trips. What’s an adventure in Provence without a little time spent circling roundabouts until you feel dizzy?! I had a great first day in France and I can’t wait for all that’s to come. Tomorrow I go see Sylvie and Poterie Ravel. And next week, andiamo a Italia! I can’t wait — I have high hopes that my Italian pronunciations will be much better! Honestly, they couldn’t get any worse : ).

 

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Off to France and Italy! What French and Italian Ceramics Will I Find?

TuscanyAs some of you already know, I’ve just gotten to France for the first leg of my June buying trip. Visiting Richard’s studio was stunning, as always, and I’ll write about all that I did there soon. But though I’m excited to be reconnecting with my French artists, I’m particularly looking forward to Italy since it’s been a few years since I’ve visited in person. I’ve done some research on things like Deruta patterns, Vietri dinnerware, and other types of Italian majolica pottery, but there’s really no substitute for actually being “on the ground” where these Italian ceramics are made.

There are three centers of Italian ceramics: Faenza, Deruta, and Montelupo Fiorentino. All three of these areas have access to the raw materials necessary for Italian majolica pottery as well as to major trade routes necessary for success in the Renaissance, making them ceramic centers for hundreds of years. Both Ceramiche Bartoloni and Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia are in the Montelupo Fiorentino region, and I cannot get enough of their intricately hand painted dinner plates, servingware, mugs, and other Italian ceramics. Both studios are home to incredibly talented Italian ceramic artists and it’s always exciting to see the new ways they combine traditional and modern elements to create unique, personal ceramics.Italian ceramic platterhand painted Italian platter

But what about Italian earthenware or Italian pots? Vietri ceramics or Tuscan style dinnerware?Italian pots These Italian ceramics, along with the famous Deruta, are what I’m hoping to find. I have some leads on some studios that practice traditional methods with everything made by hand and hope to unearth some new gems to add to the Emilia Ceramics collection. I love the geometric shapes that make up Deruta patterns, resulting in breath-taking plates, bowls, and platters. And with all the possibilities for rustic Tuscan style dinnerware, I’m sure to find pieces that fit in with my existing collection. New artists are always a thrill and I can’t wait to start exploring.

Have any suggestions for Italian ceramics I should go after? Know of any artists that would be a good fit for the Emilia Ceramics collection? Leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!

 

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How to Set Your Table the French Way (Hint: Use French Ceramics)

French dinner tableAs I prepare for my upcoming trip to France and Italy, I find myself thinking about all the French ceramics I’ll be seeing shortly. It can be quite overwhelming when having to choose from all the wonderful pieces that my French artists create. But it’s not all work, of course. Take my visits to Poterie d’Aigues-Vives. After the hard work of choosing is over, I love sitting around the table with Richard Esteban and his family, feasting on a delicious meal presented on his signature dishware.

 

Even if a trip to Provence is not in your future, it’s easy to bring France to your home this summer. After you find some crusty bread, tangy cheese, and open that bottle of wine, you’re well on your way. Ready to complete the vibe? Here are my tips for setting your table like Richard does:

 

 

Patterns should mix.

plates and bowls

Plates and bowls don’t need to match; stack striped plates and polka dot bowls together for flair and fun. Keep colors complementary and let your imagination run wild. If you’re feeling bold, get other patterns and textures into the mix with your plates and bowls. Dishware sets never looked so unique!

Platters should be heaped.

French ceramic serving platter The French like to enjoy a leisurely meal, particularly when enjoying dinner outside after the day’s work is done. Fill French ceramic serving platters with fresh vegetables, crisp salads, perfectly done fish, or other bounties of the season, then enjoy time around the table (no need to run back to the kitchen). Strangely, I find that even though the mealtimes are longer in France, I always eat less since there’s time to truly savor every bite.

Pitchers should be filled.

French pitcher - teal

A meal isn’t complete without the proper drinks. At Richard’s that means a pitcher filled with red wine, another filled with water, and sometimes a third with fresh lemonade. Decanting allows your wine to breathe and the spout makes for easy pouring, no matter the beverage. I find that having all the drinks on the table also helps people stay there longer, chatting once the food is gone.

Color is essential.tableware sets

Accessorize your French ceramics to truly bring Provence home. Flowers are an ideal addition to the table; use a small rustic vase for more country charm. Colorful napkins, placemats, or tablecloths are also great for pulling a table together. Don’t try too hard to match, but do keep your colors in a similar tonal range for best results.

Now that your tableware set is ready and your decorative dinner plates filled, it’s time to enjoy the best part of any French-inspired meal: the company around you. Bon appétit!

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Gorky Gonzalez

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Gorky Gonzalez began his career as a painter and sculptor. However, in the early 1960s he came across an antique piece of pottery imported from the Mediterranean and began experimenting with the double glaze technique known as Majolica. The technique, traditionally associated with Spanish colonialism, had been abandoned in Mexico after they gained their independence in the 1820’s.

In 1965, Gorky was granted a scholarship to study pottery in Japan, under the famous artists Tsuji Seimei and Kei Fijiwara. While in Japan, Gorky met his wife Toshiko who returned to Guanajuato with him to open his own ceramic workshop. “The notion of rescuing a forgotten craft – especially one so beautiful – was impossible to resist,” said Gorky in 2002. His success and international recognition demonstrate the irresistible quality of the playful ceramics he has since created.

Gorky now has a team of assistants, including his son (also named Gorky) who goes by the nickname Gogo. Both father and son are exceptionally creative artists – adding their own personal (and at times very modern) stamp on an ancient technique, while maintaining elements of the Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and Indigenous-Mexican roots inherent to their craft.

Using clay extracted from the nearby Sierra de Santa Rosa (just like Indian ceramists long before the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1500’s), Gorky’s artists shape the pieces on the potter’s wheel, dry them in adobe-walled storerooms, and bake them in modern electric ovens. The painters use the same double-glaze technique of Majolica, made popular in Italy. While the process is the same and many of the designs are similar, Gorky has definitely put his own spin on the work.

Over the last 50 years, Gorky’s workshop has become one of the most important Majolica studios in Mexico. In 1992 the President of Mexico awarded Gorky Gonzalez the National Award of Sciences and Arts in the field of Popular Art and Traditions for “his exceptional contribution to Mexican popular art.” We’re happy to have become friends with the Gonzalez family and super proud to offer an extensive collection of their best work.

View Gorky Gonzalez’s Work
See Other Artists

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Behind the Scenes: Capelo’s One of a Kind Mexican Ceramics

One of my favorite parts about my four years with Emilia Ceramics has been developing a rapport with ceramic artists all around the world. In this series of posts, I’ll give some insights into what happens behind the scenes to make these beautiful hand-painted ceramics come to life.Capelo

Whenever I visit Capelo’s studio and home on a hillside above Guanajuato, Mexico, I’m always struck by the beauty of the landscape. The rolling mountains with their winding roads are stunning. Capelo himself definitely appreciates the beautiful setting — he goes for almost daily horseback rides through the mountains to relax and enjoy!

hillsides around Guanajuato, Mexico

Capelo Capelo’s one of a kind ceramics are similarly stunning. They possess an unexpected, organic, and completely touchable quality that really sets them apart from other handmade ceramics. Capelo’s studio is one of the smaller ones that I work with at Emilia Ceramics, with only a handful of artists working alongside Capelo himself to create and paint these beautiful Mexican ceramics. Capelo is also a highly regarded architect and teaches classes at the University of Guanajuato, manages the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and executes special commissions. On my visit last June he showed me the gold “key to Guanajuato” he made to present to the Pope. Capelo excels at oil painting and mixed-media sculpture; he is a true artist — always creating something new and exciting.

One of the most striking parts of Capelo’s ceramics is their unusual shape. He makes something as simple as a bowl or vase seem completely new with curves which are accentuated by the gorgeous hand-painting on each piece.

Capelo insists on using only natural glazes, which give his Mexican ceramics a truly special touchable quality. Like Sylvie Durez, all his ceramics are one of a kind, painted in a recognizable range of signature colors. I always have a hard time choosing pieces from all the gorgeous possibilities available and am sad to see them go (but, of course, glad when they find happy homes). The last buying trip yielded striking statement vases, a collection of serving bowls and planters, massive pitchers, and a set of plates that remind me of an ever-changing kaleidoscope. Just like the landscape around the studio, Capelo’s ceramics is a small slice of Mexico that is hard to forget. I can’t wait for my next trip since I’m sure to find a whole new range of Mexican ceramics to fall in love with and share with all of you.

Capelo statement vase

footed serving bowllittle blue plateCapelo Mexican ceramics

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I Heart Gorky Gonzalez Pottery…

Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

Gorky Gonzalez Pottery
Yesterday, I placed a new order with Gorky Gonzalez, requesting more of our favorite rooster, fish, palm tree, and caballero patterns. We’re getting more dessert and salad plates, more blue and white serving dishes, more of Gogo’s red, white, and blue pieces for the 4th of July holiday. And as if to confirm all my new selections, today I found myself surrounded by Gorky’s beautiful Mexican ceramics.

Gorky Wall PlatesMexican Pottery

Gorky Gonzalez Pottery
You see I’m at my parents house for the weekend and my mom is a HUGE Gorky fan. She has Gorky soap dishes, Gorky dessert and salad plates (some she uses and others she hangs on the wall), serving bowls, serving plates, cream and sugar sets, salt and pepper sets, and even a few owl pitchers! Probably her favorite and most used piece is this long appetizer platter, which seems to be used at every meal.

El Mar Platter

Owl Pitchers

(We will have more of these amazing Owl pitchers in stock soon, by the way… stay tuned).

I love seeing all these amazing Gorky Gonzalez ceramics in use. They are so colorful, sunny, and cheerful. And each one is unique! Each rooster, tree, and fish has it’s own whimsical feel. While Gorky Gonzalez is Mexican, his wife Japanese, and his son (who now runs the business) a lovely mix of the two, I consider his ceramics to be the quintessential California pottery. And that’s another reason I can’t wait for the new pieces to arrive!

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Truly Unique Handmade Ceramics: Our Favorite One of a Kind Pieces

handmade ceramicsEven though all the ceramics in the Emilia Ceramics collection are handmade and handpainted, some artists focus on one of a kind ceramics more than others. Sylvie Durez’s French handmade ceramics are a perfect example. For her plates and bowls, she etches an original design onto the piece without a plan or pattern — then hand paints the piece, with women lounging, serene landscapes, or whatever else she fancies.

handmade ceramics: bowlmodern handmade ceramics

Every time I visit her Provence studio, choosing from all the many options can be quite challenging; often I wish I could just take them all!

Capelo also specializes in one of a kind handmade ceramics. He and his fellow artists in his Mexican workshop craft pieces with unusual shapes and truly touchable glazes. I especially love his vases. Take the Hawaiian vase: with its floral motifs and range of colors, this piece is beautiful empty on a shelf or full of flowers.

Hawaiian vaseCapelo’s unique bowls and trays are also fantastic examples of his one of kind work. They also make great gifts—with these handmade ceramics, you can be certain you won’t be giving something already in someone’s home.

handmade ceramic tray

Other artists, like Gorky Gonzalez and Richard Esteban, mix one of a kind pieces in with their regular handmade ceramic collections. For example, Gorky’s Catrina plates and the amor plate allow artists to get creative with their designs. I particularly love the El Pajaro bowl with its cheerful songbird. These pieces blend nicely with the rest of Gorky’s collection. They’re incredibly detailed, sharing border motifs, color palettes, and style with his other handmade ceramics.

amor platehandmade ceramic bowl

Richard’s one of a kind French handmade ceramics are also tied together by color and feel. Whether it’s a striking black tall pitcher, quirky polka dot planter, or striped serving platter, these ceramics definitely embody the spirit of his country home with a modern edge. I love his tall teal vase and its etching; this is another example of a vase that looks wonderful empty or full.

tall vaseblack pitcher

Of course, the one downside to all these handmade ceramics is once they are sold, they’re gone. It can be hard to not fall in love with every one, but if I kept them all, I’d have no room left in my home. That’s why I’m always happy to share them with you as well as hear from people about their new handmade ceramics when they receive them. Have a story about some handmade ceramics you love and how you use them? Comment below and please share it with us all!

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The Staying Power of Fine Italian Ceramics, Past and Present

Fine Italian ceramics are nothing new. Dating back to the Middle Ages and beginning to flourish in the 1400s, the ceramic centers of Italy have been producing incredibly detailed ceramics for literally hundreds of years. I recently came across a little book discussing Italian and other European ceramics throughout history – Maiolica, Delft and Faïence by Giuseppe Scavizzi – and wanted to share some of its beautiful images with you. Just look at the inside of this “loving cup” from circa 1500 Faenza, used to celebrate engagements or as a gift for a beloved:

fine Italian ceramic loving cup

The detailed likeness is strikingly similar to work by Tuscia d’Arte, such as this Italian canister.

Italian canister

Another timeless piece is this plate of a solider from circa 1630:

Italian soldier plate

He looks so jaunty, reminding me of this contemporary Italian ceramic plate with a drummer at its center.

Italian ceramic plate

Italian ceramicsOne of the amazing things about hand painted Italian pottery is that patterns and techniques have been passed down through generations. Artists today hand paint using the same process as those centuries ago, following traditional patterns as well as adding some contemporary touches. Historically important areas for Italian ceramics have stayed pretty constant throughout the years, many of them in the center of Italy. One is Montelupo Fiorentino, outside of Florence in Tuscany. It’s where I get the fine Italian ceramics for the Emilia Ceramics collection. In a few months I plan to travel to Italy to visit both Tuscia d’Arte and Ceramiche Bartoloni as well as some potential new artists; I can’t wait!

Other famous centers are Deruta, Siena, and Vietri, examples of which are easy to find at Biordi Art Imports, also here in San Francisco. Biordi has a huge selection of typical Italian patterns that go back to the Renaissance; their walls are stuffed with dinnerware, decorative pieces, and exquisite tiles. If you find yourself in North Beach and want to see some Italian ceramics in San Francisco, check Biordi out.

No matter where hand painted Italian pottery comes from, I love how it connects to the artists that create it. Fine Italian ceramics are usually hand signed, a fitting recognition of all the time it takes to paint as well as form these pieces of art. Italian canisters, Italian utensil holders, or dinnerware pieces, these are all ceramics rich in history and tradition that make it easy to bring Italy to your home.Italian hand paintingWhat are your favorite fine Italian ceramics? Any recommendations for places in Italy I should visit this coming summer? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Behind the Scenes: Patrice Voelkel’s French Ceramics

One of my favorite parts about my four years with Emilia Ceramics has been developing a rapport with ceramic artists all around the world. In this series of posts, I’ll give some insights into what happens behind the scenes to make these beautiful hand-painted ceramics come to life.

Patrice Voelkel

I learned about Patrice Voelkel from a book on French ceramic artists that Sylvie Duriez loaned me many years ago. Since Patrice lived near where I was staying in St. Remy, I decided to check out his studio one rainy spring day. Thankfully it was clearly marked and easy to find – the French ceramics that covered the shelves are truly unique and unlike anything else in the Emilia Ceramics collection.

rustic blue pitcher

Patrice works with his wife Sylviane to create French ceramics with a modern sensibility that are deeply grounded in tradition. They use local black clay and create everything from design to finished product between just the two of them. Their dog Tina Turner keeps them company in their studio, known as Poterie Herbes Folles, which I think is named after the area’s wild and crazy grass. Patrice has worked with ceramics for over 33 years; he started making French ceramics near Lyon and then moved to the countryside and started Herbes Folles.

French ceramics drying in the sun

Poterie Herbes FollesThe Voelkels glaze their pieces with a variety of liquid-like colors, but I especially love their marbled blue and celadon pieces, as well as those in a contemporary chalk white. (Patrice himself seems to love blue – every time I visit the workshop he’s wearing some kind of blue shirt!) Patrice and Sylviane’s French ceramics are often large, heavy, and make a serious statement. The rustic grittiness truly reflects the little farmhouse and workshop where they are made. On my last visit, I saw pieces drying in the afternoon sun while Patrice worked on the wheel and Sylviane prepared ceramics for their final firing.

Patrice at work on French ceramics

I now have some new French ceramics by Patrice and Sylviane on the website. The one of a kind serving platter, rustic pitchers, and olive oil pitcher all in a rich indigo are ideal for bringing a bit of Provence to your home.

rustic blue platter

From spoon rests to prep bowls to serving platters, these French ceramics are stunning additions for any collection, reflecting so much of the people who made them with care and love. After working with Patrice for so long, I’m very happy I decided to take a detour in the rain all those springs ago.

white serving platter

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Bartoloni’s Lemons: More than Simply Decorative Plates

Looking for a decorative dinner plate that will bring cheer to your table? With Italian hand painted plates, your search is over. From square limoni plates to large serving platters, the lemon motifs by the Bartoloni brothers are a sure winner for kitchens and dining rooms alike.

lemon decorative plate

There are many factors that make these decorative plates so appealing. The rich colors are one; for example, the cobalt blue background contrasts pleasingly with bright yellows and greens on the blu limoni plates. The bright white of the limoni due square plate is more subtle, but just as vibrant with its two lemons (or limoni due) in the center and aquamarine border along the plate’s edge.

white lemon square plate

The unique rounded square shape also adds character to these Italian hand painted plates. They work well for serving appetizers, desserts, or side dishes with causal elegance. I’ve used them for artisanal meats and cheeses at dinner parties as well as delicate French macarons. No matter what they serve, these plates empty quickly – I think it’s because they make food look so delicious!Italian hand painted plates

Of course, hand painted dinner plates also appeal because of the human touch in their creation. Hand painting means that no two plates are exactly alike. The individual brush strokes, incredible detailing, and overall liveliness make for useful and usable works of art. For this reason lots of people like to hang the blu limoni plate as a wall decoration when not using it to serve. It’s just too vibrant to hide away in a cabinet.

Ceramiche Bartoloni’s lemons grace more than just plates, with mugs, pitchers, soap dishes, and spoon rests that continue the theme. Whether used as an accent or a central motif, these lemon plates are the perfect way to brighten a room with a touch of Tuscan charm.

lemon muglemon pitcher

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Our Favorite Italian Ceramics, Patterns, and Pieces

Italian ceramics
I’m planning to go to Italy in the spring to look for new artists to add to the Emilia Ceramics collection. There are so many traditional patterns used to decorate Italian ceramics, from intricate Deruta patterns to the whimsical animals of Vietri dinnerware. Many of these motifs are nature-inspired, with fruits, flowers, and animals common for Italian majolica pottery.

Italian platters

Lemons, for example, are a widely used pattern. The bright yellow can be paired with deep cobalt blue backgrounds or creamy white, giving a very different look to the piece. Cheerful serving pieces are typical, like the blu limoni serving tray by the brothers at Ceramiche Bartoloni.

A totally different look, this oval serving platter is subtle, refined, and has a refreshing color pallet.

oval_due_limoni

Cherries are another of my favorite fruit motifs. Mixed with greenery, they enliven plates, mugs, and pitchers of various sizes. The deep red of the glaze is quite striking and gives an almost modern sensibility to this unusual pattern.

Of course, there’s no reason to stop at just one fruit. Mixed fruit patterns are another of my favorites for Italian ceramics. They add elegance to planters and platters alike with colorful peaches, pears, apples, quince, and grapes. I love using this mixed fruit platter as a centerpiece on a long table – it looks fabulous full of food or empty.

Tuscan Fruit Long Platter

new_rooster_bowl_2Roosters are another common motif I’m sure to find on my Italian travels. Invoking the countryside, Italian ceramic artists can’t seem to get enough of these feathered friends. Tuscia d’Arte’s playful blue rooster is almost comical, while Ceramiche Bartoloni’s roosters are more intricate and lifelike. The beautifully painted rooster salad bowl and rooster pitcher will add color and possibly some good luck to your kitchen.

There’s also istoriato ware, a style of Italian majolica that tells a story. Historically these were hand painted dinner plates that featured intricate central imagery of people (though not always) surrounded by a rich border. The style is still popular today, often for wall plates. Tuscia d’Arte’s harlequin plates are a variation on this tradition, as are the figures on Bartoloni’s ceramic canisters and jars.

What are your favorite Italian ceramics and Italian patterns? Have any suggestions for where I should visit when I’m in Italy looking for new ceramic artists? Love Deruta patterns or another Tuscan style dinnerware? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Behind the Scenes: French Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

One of my favorite parts about my four years with Emilia Ceramics has been developing a rapport with ceramic artists all around the world. In this series of posts, I’ll give some insights into what happens behind the scenes to make these beautiful hand-painted ceramics come to life.

The most recent addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection, Poterie Ravel has been around since 1837. A fifth-generation family-run business, this French ceramics studio was founded in Aubugne, France, and made tiles and other terracotta products for the home. When Gilbert Ravel took over the studio from his father in 1935, he changed the direction of the company to make planters that had more modern designs. The focus moved to high-end interior and landscape designers; the result is a world-class workshop full of ceramic artists that handle 8 tons of product a day, most of it creating their famous large-scale pots. The next time you see a giant terracotta planter at a major hotel, airport, or other public place, look and see if you can find the Poterie Ravel logo – chances are you’ll find one.

Today two sisters, Marion and Julie Ravel, run Poterie Ravel. Their ceramics are definitely art, a process that begins with the clay itself, which is extracted from their own quarries. Small pots are thrown entirely by hand (including all the French ceramics in my collection), while the massive planters are molded by a ceramic artist using a plaster mold and a piece of wood. All the pieces big and small are finished by hand for a smooth surface and the terracotta pieces left unglazed. Other pieces, like the unique pitcher vases, platters, and serving bowls, are hand painted in vibrant natural glazes before being fired in one of their four gas ovens.

About 20 ceramic artists work at Poterie Ravel, including Etienne (pictured below) and Gil, who I met on my last buying trip to France.

One of my favorite parts about Ravel’s French ceramics is that every piece is stamped with the Ravel logo, date, and initials of the artist. After I had made my selections of these French ceramics, I found out that Etienne had made some of the platters, Gil some of the pitchers. I love how each piece tells a story; this kind of personal connection is definitely one of my favorite parts of working with local ceramic artists.

Poterie Ravel is one of the oldest ceramic studios in France, and the attention to detail is truly incredible. Anyone looking for centerpiece ideas needs look no further than one of their unique bowls or statement-making pitchers and vases. It took me four years to be able to offer their French ceramics as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection and I think it was certainly worth the wait!

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Making Creative Dishware Sets with French Ceramics

As we wrap up the season of holiday entertaining, I find myself thinking about dishware sets. Instead of the couple of plates and bowls you use daily, entertaining has most people emptying the cabinets to serve the 8, 12, 30 people gathered for dinner, brunch, or afternoon cocktail party. If you’re not used to crowds in your home, finding enough of the proper servingware can be the biggest challenge. That’s where having flexible dishware sets comes in.

One of my favorite current trends with tableware sets and decorative dinner plates is having pieces that mix and match. Individual dinner plates with fun designs or vibrant colors make each place setting really stand out, and add incredible depth to a table. Layering dishes with different complimenting colors and designs is another deceptively simple way to create a dynamic table setting.

For color and pattern, I feel like French ceramics have a playful spirit, polka dot plates bowlsparticularly those from Provence. Whimsy endues polka dot plates and bowls by Richard Esteban as well as the delicate pastel washes of Sylvie Durez’s one of a kind French ceramics. Then there are details like Poterie Ravel‘s pitchers splattered glazes or the delicate edging of their bowls. Patrice Voelkel’s French ceramics go another direction with jewel-toned glazes and local black clay. No matter what speaks to your aesthetic, these plates and bowls are truly unique and make any table stand out.

Of course, French ceramics are useful throughout the year, not just around the holidays. Their festive spirit injects joy into all occasions, from toast covered with your favorite jam for breakfast to celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Appetizer dishes hold daily snacks, pitchers bouquets of fresh flowers, and bowls everything from ice cream to cereal. Richard’s plates and bowls are an excellent example of the versatility of French ceramics. The soft yellow base glaze makes food look delicious and the playful dots, stripes, bird, or dog motifs add lively personality to these decorative dinner plates.

Paired with weighty pieces like the barn red milk pitcher or a rustic casserole full of tonight’s dinner, it’s hard to resist these French ceramics.

How do you dress up your table for the holidays or everyday dining? What are your favorite French ceramics? Are there dishware sets you absolutely adore? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Ceramic Pitchers, A Stylish and Functional Gift

Still looking for the perfect unique gift this holiday season? What about a French ceramic pitcher? With my recent pitcher additions by Poterie Ravel, as well as pitchers by ceramic artists Richard Esteban and Sylvie Duriez, you’re sure to find a pitcher that combines graceful lines with full functionality. Our pitchers look equally fantastic as a vase or holding your favorite beverage at the table, from juice in the morning to wine at dinner. These ceramic pitchers also add French decorative charm to any kitchen, which is hard to resist.

White pitchers, like those by Poterie Ravel, are stunning in their simplicity. Soft glazes allow for the graceful lines to shine fully unobstructed. The one of a kind ivory French water jug makes a great centerpiece, and this fancy pitcher fits right in at anyone’s chateaux (or home).

Another fantastic white pitcher is the Provence pitcher. The spout makes me think of an old-fashioned watering can, and it’s a pitcher that holds a bouquet of fresh blooms with casual style. Besides the white pitcher, the Provence pitcher is also available in aquamarine, truly celebrating the spirit of the region.

For the more tactile-inclined, rustic pitchers with exposed clay are the perfect fit. The pelican pitcher by ceramic artist Richard Esteban combines lush glazes, a swooping spout, and exposed red clay at the bottom for a one of a kind piece. Looking for a ceramic pitcher to brighten someone’s day? The sunny yellow of this milk pitcher is charming with its soft and inviting glaze. I think this pitcher looks wonderful as a vase filled with tulips on a spring morning.

Sylvie’s unique pitchers stand out as works of art all on their own. The tall, modern feel of this ceramic pitcher with flowers combines subtle color with bold lines. The result is something that’s striking and serene.

Want to give a ceramic pitcher on Christmas day? Our shipping deadline is today (December 18th) for regular shipping, but please contact us by phone at 650-257-0292 or email if you want a quote for expedited shipping later this week. Happy gift giving!