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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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French Pottery Inspiration

If you know me at all, you know I am a huge pinterest lover. So this week, as the weather began to change and I started thinking about fall/winter home decor, I turned to pinterest for inspiration. So far, I’ve discovered a few great new boards: Kitchens, by Cozy Little House, Dining Room Inspiration, and Display, both by Velvet and Linen.

At the moment, I seem to be especially drawn to pins depicting beautifully-crafted French pottery. The delicate and pure feel of French pottery makes a subtle, yet strong statement… and the best French pottery has the power to make you feel like you’re in Paris!

Emilia Ceramics Pinterest Board: France

The polka dot dishes by Richard Esteban are a great example of this. They have a lightness and rustic quality that is pure French country. Handmade and painted in Southern France, Richard Esteban pottery is emblematic of the rich soil, delicious food and wine, and laid-back lifestyle of Provence. The polka dot mugs are perfect for sipping coffee, tea or hot chocolate as the weather cools. And if you really want to channel the French way of life, there’s nothing like drinking a steaming café au lait from a polka dot French coffee bowl — it will instantly transport you to Provence!

french polka dot mugs
french polka dot bowls

Richard Esteban also makes beautiful cheese plates, salad bowls, and dinnerware. His dinner and dessert plates are so simple (with just a few polkadots, stripes, or the basic drawing of a dog, fish, bird, or farm house), but convey so much French country charm. The warm glazes he uses are a perfect fit for the fall!

Richard Esteban French Cheese PlateRichard Esteban French Plate

While in a very different style, the French pottery by Sylvie Duriez is another stunning example of unique ceramics from the South of France. Sylvie’s pieces have a hand-crafted purity that is unlike anything else being made. With a few light brushstrokes, she depicts romantic images of fashionable Parisian women, cats and dogs lounging in the countryside of Provence, carefree birds sitting among blossoming trees, and bouquets of wildflowers. Sylvie’s pieces make you feel like you’re standing in a watercolor painting – the delicacy and detail of her work make it a must-have for any French pottery collection. A Sylvie bowl, plate, or pitcher is sure to make your friends “ooh and ahh” …and ask where you found such a stylish work of art!

Hand-Painted French Bowl

Large French Dish

Small French Bowl

The warm cream and yellow glazes that Sylvie uses for a background on her pieces offer a crisp, clean look that fits perfectly with the pinterest photos I most admired during my recent search. Below are a few other examples of beautiful French pottery and French country decor I discovered on pinterest. I now feel very inspired to update my home decor for the new season.

Are there any French design styles you’re looking to incorporate into your fall/winter decor this year?

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Above photo found on happylovesrosie.com >>

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Above photo found on Cottage Fence Tumblr (but originally photographed by Better Homes & Gardens)

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Above photo found on Tidbits and Twine >>

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Above photo found on Roses and Rust >>

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The Charm of Richard Esteban Pottery

Picture this: Hand-painted polka dots in earthy hues decorating the surface of rustic ceramic pieces like bowls, mugs, and plates. It’s a whimsical look upon which you could base your entire home decor. Introducing Richard Esteban!

Richard Esteban, a lifelong potter in Southern France, uses the rich red clay of Provence; He throws each piece by hand, dries them in the sun and fires them in an antique kiln. His pieces offer plenty of charm and whimsy, giving your space a unique level of French Country style. There is nothing cookie cutter about the work of Richard Esteban.

If you’re looking for some pottery pieces that offer pure whimsical charm, you’ll love these Richard Esteban picks:

Polka Dot Bowls

polka dot bowl
polka dot bowls
polka dot bowls

The festive polka-dots on these bowls are one of Richard Esteban’s signature decorations. I love the buttery yellow and the rich hues of red and blue. Fill these bowls with ice cream, soup or dips.

You may also enjoy- Polka Dots: A Trend to Love

Animal-centric Dinner Plates

bird dinner plate
fish dinner plate
dog dinner plate

These dinner plates are simple and charming (they also come in a smaller, salad plate size). I love the hand-drawn lines and how each piece could easily be mixed and matched with one another or with any of Richard’s other pieces.

You may also enjoy – The Best Decorative Dinner Plates for Summer Dining: 3 Tips

Beautiful Casseroles

green casserole
yellow casserole
lime green casserole

These small casserole dishes, glazed in teal blue, burnt honey and rustic lime green, are perfect for baking and serving a dish for just a few guests. The inside is glazed in soft butter yellow.

You may also enjoy – Making Creative Dishware Sets with French Ceramics

Elegant Serving Platters

burnt honey fish platter
lime green cheese plate platter
teal blue platter

The cheerful, yet rustic colors of these beautifully-crafted and painted platters offer an extraordinary way to serve main courses of meat, artisan cheese or grilled vegetables. The glassy surface and intricately decorated borders add originality and a rich French flavor.

You may also enjoy – The Perfect Gift: A Handmade Serving Platter

Deep Hue Planters

teal blue planter
yellow wall planter
red polka dot planter

Richard Esteban’s charming French style does not end in the kitchen. I love these wonderful planters. From his signature colors, to the unique shapes and sizes he employs, they are sure to add a relaxed Provence feeling to any outdoor living space.

You may also enjoy – Black and White Love: Must-Have Planters

How will you add whimsy and charm to your home decor this spring?

SHop our Richard Esteban Collection

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Have You Seen These French Ceramics Yet?

French street
It’s hard for me to resist anything French. Wine, cheese, brandy, ceramics, art… the list goes on and on. Thankfully I can get my fix stateside for la vie française with events like Bar Agricole’s recent Brandyfest (Armagnac remains a favorite from my time living in Orthez), visiting with Francophone friends, and using lovely French ceramics. Have a similar love of all things French? Then check out these gems:

French country window

French ceramic watering jugs

French watering jugs

Richard Esteban brings function and flair to the mundane task of watering. These exposed terracotta watering jugs are accented with Richard’s signature butter yellow, adding style to the next time your houseplants get a drink. These French ceramics are so lovely they’d also be fantastic on display in a garden-themed room or filled with beautiful flowers. Two sizes make for versatility.

French ceramic cheese plates

French ceramic cheese platter

In college I had a poster with all 300 cheeses of France on my wall. It was a large poster. French cheese plates are the perfect compliment to your favorite Camembert, comté, or chèvre. Use small cheese plates for two or three cheeses, medium plates for three or four, and large plates for five or more cheeses with accompanying fruit, nuts, or honey. Pair with wine for a delicious beginning or end to a meal.

French cheeses

French ceramic pitchers

Poterie Ravel’s bright, bold colors set their signature French ceramics apart from the rest. Their canary yellow pitchers beg to sit on the kitchen table throughout gray, cold months (fall and winter for most, often June and July here in San Francisco), acting like a ray of permanent sunshine. If whimsy is more your style, Sylvie Duriez’s unique French ceramics are perfect. Her animals and flowers make Provence feel like it’s right there, instead of an ocean away. I particularly love this collection of three lily pad pitchers. They’re the perfect mix of chic, charm, and functionality.

French ceramics: Sylvie

What are your favorite French things? Check out the Emilia Ceramics collection of French ceramics for more ways to bring France and Provence to your home or our France board on Pinterest if you need a mini-French vacation tout de suite.

French cheese image courtesy x1klima via Compfight cc.

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Blue and White Ceramic Flower Pots

blue_and_white
Some people are surprised to learn that planters or flower pots are some of the most popular items we sell at Emilia Ceramics. Personally, I believe this is because it’s difficult to find unique options for flower pots (which also explains why our lamps are so popular). As opposed to vases and soup bowls, there are really only a few ways to go if you’re looking to dress up your patio or garden with new flower pots. Here’s a run-down of my personal favorites:

1. Classic Terracotta Flower PotsScreen Shot 2014-08-05 at 4.22.31 PM

I’m a big fan of simple, large terracotta planters. They feel rustic and remind me of my favorite gardens in Italy, France, and places closer to home like Napa Valley and Carmel-by-the-Sea. The soft terracotta color doesn’t compete with flowers, but instead allows them to take center stage. These ceramic flower pots are more like a nice frame for the plants they hold. (The photo at the right shows the gardens at Poterie Ravel in Southern France).

2. Bright Blue Flower Pots

I also like the effect created by bright blue ceramic flower pots. I’ve seen a lot of these recently on front porches in Boulder. They are super cheerful and work like a colorful backdrop for flowers. In fact, I think they look the best filled with more subtle plants, like wispy greens and small white flowers. If you’re a color-person, but need a more affordable option, these are a great way to go… Look for these flower pots at Pier 1 or your local nursery.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 4.22.15 PM

3. Personality-Packed Flower Pots

Of course, the blue and white ceramic flower pots we sell at Emilia Ceramics are my favorites! As with other pieces, I am always drawn to unique shapes, like the Square Planter with Blue Stripes by Talavera Vazquez. Another favorite for large plants is the Round Paloma Planter – its authentic shape and style add instant hacienda flavor to any patio or porch.

oval_planters
If Mexican flower pots are a bit too festive for your taste, I would recommend the more subtle planters by Richard Esteban. These evoke Richard’s famous French country charm. And the teal blue glaze he uses makes any plant or flower look amazing.

teal_planter_plate

For inside blooms, Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia really delivers. Their ceramic flower pots, in a variety of traditional Italian patterns, are great for adding elegance to the kitchen or dining room. Whether you set a few small 4″ plants in an oval planter or fill a large round planter with an elegant fern or flowering hydrangea, they will dress up your home in an instant. (These planters are fine outside too, they just don’t have holes in the bottom so they are especially well-suited for indoors).

ferns
I guess it’s really not that shocking that we sell a lot of blue and white ceramic flower pots at Emilia Ceramics. After all, they have both personality and purpose!

 

 

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Our Favorite Handmade Handpainted Majolica

From leaves and flowers to frogs and ornate curlicues, handmade handpainted majolica spans a range of styles. Partly the differences have to do with changing fashions and artistic movements. For example, English Victorian-era majolica is much more vegetal in shape than Italian Renaissance pieces, as these examples show:

Victorian majolica

Victorian majolica

I think having a snake as the spout of your teapot (bottom shelf in the middle) is a bit over the top, which is probably why I’ve never really gotten into collecting this style of majolica. Many pieces in this style were also mass-produced instead of handmade and handpainted; I definitely prefer ceramics where you can tell they’ve been made by human hands. That said, these majolica serving platters are pretty impressive. Each plate depicts the food it’s designed to serve, though with the lead used in glazes in this period, I wouldn’t eat off of them.

majolica serving platters

Of course, three-dimensional ceramics are live and well today. Just look at these French serving platters, each with a different relief around the border.

French serving platterfrench serving platterHowever, contemporary majolica artists often leave their pieces smooth to really show off the intricacies of designs painted in glaze, like these Mexican serving platters.

Mexican serving platter

 

Display is a crucial aspect of any majolica collection. This kitchen uses a mixture of vintage-looking majolica plates and platters for a great focal point over the stove that doesn’t conflict with the ceiling pattern.

majolica plate displayWhat are your favorite examples of handmade handpainted majolica serving plates and platters?

English tea service images courtesy Martha Stewart Living, March 2005, via Martha Moments.

Green kitchen image courtesy Mendelson Group via Laura Casey Interiors.

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French Ceramics from Kiln to Table

Provence countryside France

Farm to table dining showcases the best tastes of the season, whether vine-ripe tomatoes or hearty greens. But in Provence, farm to table doesn’t just apply to food – just look at French ceramics! Rustic plates and dishware perfectly match local flavors, combining effortless French chic with a homegrown vibe.

Take Richard Esteban‘s tableware sets. His plates and bowls are a playful mix of motifs and patterns. Stripes, polka dots, animals, even race cars! I fell in love with these plates and bowls when dining with Richard and his family in France. Their outdoor table is typical; al fresco dining is de rigueur for the area when the weather is warm enough. I particularly loved the roaring outdoor fire and the sprawling tree that kept the table shady and cool on even the hottest days.

Outdoor dining at Aigues-Vives Provence

Richard Esteban plates and bowls

   Richard Esteban pottery

Like his farmer neighbors, Richard works with the land – though in his case, he harvests clay, not vegetables. This rich red clay body only shows on the bottom of his plates and bowls, though it’s the shining star of his new wine bottle holder. The vibrant mineral glazes also embody Richard and his team’s “kiln to table” philosophy, resulting in natural tones that are the perfect compliment to Provence’s rich, green countryside. The butter yellow base color for most of his plates makes these French ceramics easy to mix and match. Stack stripes with polka dots or mottos like vive le bon vin (long live good wine); the results are just as relaxed as Richard’s home and studio.

Richard Esteban pottery

Arnaud makes French ceramics

The rustic elegance of Richard Esteban’s French ceramics holds a certain je ne sais quoi that I think is uniquely French. Mix and match some decorative dinner plates, pour a bottle of wine in to a pitcher, slice up a baguette – see, you’re almost there yourself! Now enjoy a delicious meal, lingering to chat long after the food is finished for your very own Provence-inspired moment. Bon appétit!

French ceramic bowl

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Fellow Caffeine Fans, French Coffee Mugs Are Back!

I have a confession: I am addicted to warm beverages. Specifically my morning tea (often earl grey with cream and honey), though an early afternoon coffee is hard to resist. Of course, if I want to get any sleep, I have to carefully juggle the coffee/exercise/time equation. And then there’s getting the accessories right: which mug to use is of paramount importance, as is the tea or coffee pot if I’m brewing at home. Sound like anyone you know?

French coffee mugs

Thankfully with all the new French arrivals at Emilia Ceramics, I have plenty of beverage accessories to add to my collection. The polka dots on Richard Esteban’s French coffee bowls remain a favorite; I just love the easy way these pieces mix and match. Richard’s French coffee mugs are another must. There’s even a place to rest your thumb on the handle (good for not spilling as I walk my full cup back to my desk). The barn red is my personal favorite, but just like his French coffee bowls, there are plenty of color combinations to mix and match with abandon. These mugs also hit the sweet spot size-wise: big enough that you don’t have to constantly refill, but not so big that the contents are cold by the time you get to last sips. These are definitely a sure winner if you’re trying to buy ceramics for a caffeine lover.

red French coffee mug

Summer is also almost here, which means it’s time to start brewing iced tea and iced coffee. And that means it’s time for pitchers! Looking to expand your summer serving ware? Try pieces like the quirky Richard pitcher, complete with hat and mustache or one of his polka dot pitchers to match the bowls and mugs.

Richard pitcher

Other fun beverage accessories of the moment: cream and sugar sets (perfect for entertaining) and the modern Ceramica Valenciana coffee pot. Sure, it’s Spanish, not French, but it beautifully compliments the playful chic of Richard’s ceramics. So many coffee mugs, so little time.

coffee pot

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the kettle is boiling… time for another cup!

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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.)

sylvie_on_wheel
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.

bunnies_poppy_field_plate_closeup
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.
daisies_above
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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Favorite Handmade Ceramics Bowls from France

For all you fans of Sylvie Duriez, the wait is finally over. Her new collection of one of a kind, gorgeous handmade ceramic bowls, pitchers, and plates is now making its way onto the website. After photographing all these French bowls, I have them on the brain!

handmade ceramic bowl
Each of Sylvie’s bowls tells its own unique story. These dogs in the snow look incredibly content, like best friends having the time of their lives; the robin perched on a blossoming branch seems to promise spring.

handmade ceramic bowl

The two mice in the sun on this dish also spoke to me. I love their shadows and the gentle colors of the background.

handmade ceramic bowl

Richard Esteban pottery bowls have a totally different look and feel, though no less appeal. His polka dot collection of handmade ceramic bowls is perfectly sized for everything from dips to huge servings of ice cream or soup. The mix of blue, red, and yellow have endless combination and playful flair.

polka dot bowls
They also compliment the lemon yellow bowls from Poterie Ravel. These French ceramics definitely stand out from the crowd.

lemon yellow handmade ceramic bowls

Other French bowls include workhorses like Richard’s casseroles and Patrice Voelkel’s mix and pour bowl. These handmade ceramic bowls move effortlessly from kitchen to table, no matter what you happen to be serving.

Richard Esteban potteryhandmade ceramic bowl

What kind of handmade ceramic bowls do you find most appealing?

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French Ceramics on the Table: Pinterest Inspirations

Rustic French ceramics invoke a country chic like none other. C’est magnifique, n’est-ce pas? I recently went on a Pinterest binge, pinning all sorts of French country tables, decorating and centerpiece ideas for special occasion, and everyday stylish French living.

French country dining room

Of course, I love supporting French ceramic artists from the prolific Richard Esteban and Poterie Ravel to the unique pieces of Sylvie Durez and Patrice Voelkel. With so many wonderful ceramics, it makes lots of sense that many French country-inspired designs feature open shelving to display pieces when not in use. This blue and white dining room is particularly striking, don’t you think?

French country blue and white dining roomFrench ceramics in country kitchen

French ceramics also mean whimsy. Take Richard’s polka dot dishes – no matter the weather outside, these polka dot bowls, mugs, plates, and pitchers are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. The bright colors also enliven the creams, whites, and medium browns of many French country color schemes.

polka dot dishes
French country colors

 For centerpiece ideas, a flower arrangement is classic French country. Use a pitcher vase or metal bucket for a more rustic touch.French country tableteal pitcher vase

 

And then there are French chickens and roosters, a perpetual favorite. This blue and white rooster has true vintage flair. I can see similar designs working well as wall art or even place mats.

French rooster The key to French country is accessible, beautiful tablewear and a homey, rustic vibe. The open storage for dining areas and kitchens alike allows the perfect combination of function and decoration. What are some of your favorite French country decorating inspirations? Leave a link below or check out our inspiring home decor and France boards on PInterest for even more ideas.

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New French Ceramics Have Arrived!

IMG_4197
IMG_4198Last week, the much anticipated French shipment was delivered to my door in Boulder! It wasn’t quite as easy as that sounds… I received about 30 large boxes that were really heavy and literally coming apart at the seams. These boxes had seen a lot. They were packed up in Provence, trucked to a loading center in Paris, then back to a French boat, where they set sail for the USA. In New York, they were put on a truck and taken to Los Angeles, where they finally got re-loaded onto a truck bound for Boulder, CO. Whew!!

Needless to say, I was thrilled that they arrived at all and pleasantly surprised to find that not one little polka-dot bowl was harmed during that extensive journey!

Since the arrival, I’ve been up to my eyebrows in polka dot ceramics. Polka dot bowls, mugs, pitchers, plates; you name it, I’ve seen it with dots. But now that the dust has settled, I’m excited to share with you a sneak peek of our new French ceramics.

Richard Esteban Pottery

This is by far the largest order I’ve ever placed with Richard. I ordered a large refreshment of our favorites, including the polka-dot bowls — which come in cereal (large), ice cream (medium), and dip bowl (small) sizes — as well as the super popular polka-dot mugs and pitchers.

IMG_4213

I also went a little crazy with Richard’s fun yellow plate settings. To our previous offering of polka-dot plates, songbird plates, and striped plates, we now have charming French fish, dogs, little houses, race cars, and my personal favorites, the ‘Vive L’Amour’ and ‘Vive Le Bon Vin’ rallying cries.

On top of that order, I added many pieces that I fell in love with while visiting Richard in June. Stay tuned for these new and fun additions to the collection, as I haven’t gotten them on the website quite yet!

vive_amourI love that Richard Esteban and his small team of helpers hand-crafted each of these pieces. They threw them on the wheel, loaded them carefully into the kiln (twice), and they painted them completely by hand. While unpacking these beautiful ceramic works of art I kept thinking about how much work went into them. I am so grateful to all the hard-working and super skilled Emilia Ceramics artists, who put their love and talent (not to mention a little blood and sweat, I’m sure) into this craft, all so we can better enjoy our morning coffee, ice cream snacks, and family dinners.

Get Excited…

The work I picked out on my last visit to Sylvie Duriez is just as beautiful as I remember it. I’m excited to start getting these one-of-a-kind pitchers, bowls, and plates up on the website, so keep an eye out for new additions to the Sylvie Collection.

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The Pefect Gift: A Handmade Serving Platter


El Mar Serving Dish

I just had two very nice customers come into my little Boulder Showroom, looking for a gift idea for a special friend of theirs. We looked at and discussed all sorts of options… and through the process, I came to realize that I truly believe there is no better gift than a classic handmade, hand-painted serving platter. It can be hung on the wall for decoration or used to serve just about anything, depending on its size, depth, and shape. It is truly always more fun to serve a good meal from handcrafted serving platters, especially when they’re glazed beautifully and formed into a useful shape. Here are a few examples of my favorites. Some of these I’ve given as gifts before and I can attest to the fact that they’ve been much used and loved!

richard_platter_steakFrench Serving Platters
Richard Esteban has a knack for making serving platters that cry out to be used. This burnt-honey fish platter is one of my favorites and I gave it as a Christmas gift to my dad a few years ago. Since then, he has used it to serve salads and meat dishes, even a Thanksgiving turkey last year! Each of the fish platters by Richard Esteban has a unique size and an original decoration around the edge. I love the guarantee that each serving platter is an original — an equal cannot be found the world over. Talk about a one-of-a-kind gift!

I also love Richard’s petal platters. These have a bit more depth than the fish platters, making them perfect for serving dishes with sauce. Whether it’s a pork roast or a yummy pasta dish, the large petal platter is perfect for serving with style. The unique shape of the serving platter also makes it ideal for passing.
barn_red_petal_platterMexican Serving Platters
Gorky Gonzalez makes a few of my favorite serving platters… and they’re very affordable! Both the El Mar Platter and the Amor Platter have a great shape for serving all sorts of things, from cheese and crackers to veggies… and dessert! My brother loves making Caprese Salad on the Amor Platter I gave him last year. (Who said ceramics only make good gifts for women? I have a whole section of the website devoted to gifts for men!)

IMG_4067Screen Shot 2013-01-12 at 2.14.29 PM

I have also fallen in love with this blue and white serving platter by Talavera Vazquez. I love the vibrant blue and white design, which would look so amazing filled with an assortment of appetizers or on a buffet with delicious finger-foods. The holes on the back of this large plate also make it a tempting decoration for the kitchen wall. What a beautiful, unique, and meaningful gift idea?!
blue_platter_above
IMG_4072Italian Serving Platters
Last, but most definitely not least, there are so many Italian serving platters that make great gifts. I think the question really comes down to color and shape when shopping for the perfect piece of handmade hand-painted Majolica. Traditionalists can usually be counted on to like Italian serving platters where blue and yellow play the lead role. For these folks, I’d suggest Tuscia’s Oval Serving Platter with Lemons or Square Platter with Pomegranates. Anyone who’s come to my house for cheese and crackers, knows these square serving plates are my go-to for appetizers. If you’re looking for an over-sized serving platter, you can’t go wrong with the large Blu Limoni Platter — it makes a big, fun, colorful Italian statement.

If a traditional cobalt blue isn’t what you’re looking for, I’d suggest the Limoni collection — these fresh, vibrant lemons, hand-painted on oval serving platters and square serving platters are sure to impress. Another fun favorite for serving is the Large Rooster Platter. This dish is colorful, unique, and looks great whether hanging on the wall to decorate the kitchen or on the counter serving a main course.

As you can see, I have a lot of holiday gift ideas — ones for young and old, traditional-types and more contemporary people, Italian-lovers, and those who prefer French Country. But I can guarantee that a handmade serving platter will always make a great gift. Everyone can use them… you can never have too many… and when each is an original, they can only bring a new and original happiness into your life! And isn’t that the point of a great gift? I think so.

Check out all of the Emilia Ceramics Serving Platters by Country:

 

 

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Fall French Meals for French Platters

The cooling days of fall mean it’s time to start eating hearty, warm foods. For me, nothing beats country French cooking when it comes to delicious and warming dishes. While many traditional dishes might seem complex at first glance, many of them actually just require time to simmer or stew. Then, volià, complex flavors for dinner with actually little effort on your part.

French cheese platterHere are four of my favorite French dishes for fall, made even better of course when served on French platters!

Crêpes

Is there anything more typically French than a delicious crêpe? Fill them with cheese, spinach, ham, sauce Mornay (béchamel), sautéed vegetables… the combinations are endless. Julia Child’s recipe for crêpes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking remains a classic. Serve folded crêpes on a large French platter either filled or empty with accompanying sides. Need some help making the perfect crêpe? Check out Julia in the two videos below for mastering the batter, flip, and presentation.

Crêpes with jam and whipped cream also make for a quick and delicious dessert.

Cassoulet

French cassoulet

Hearty and filling, cassoulet is a traditional dish of Provence. Beans, sausages, duck or goose confit, and bread crumbs are the base components. Add lots of time to simmer and soon your kitchen is filled with the most amazing fragrance. There are tons of recipes out there, but don’t be frustrated if you don’t have confit laying around your kitchen. You can still create a delicious dish, like these examples from Saveur and the New York Times. Use a covered casserole dish instead of a French platter so your dinner can come directly from oven to table.French casserole dishes

French Onion Soup

Another classic, the trick is to thoroughly brown the onions for the richest flavor possible. Serve your French onion soup in either individual ramekins or a larger casserole dish covered in melted gruyere or comté. A hand-crafted white bowl filled with even more French bread is the perfect pairing for sopping up all that broth.

Pear Clafouti

A delicious dessert with an usual name, clafouti is an easy-to-make dessert that packs a visual punch and tastes just as good. Pears with ginger and dried cranberries are perfect for a fall clafouti instead of the traditional cherries. Try this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and serve either in a pie plate or pre-cut on a gorgeous French platter.

French platter

What dishes do you serve in fall? Are you a fan of rustic white platters or French platters in rich colors? Have any favorite sources for French recipes? Let us know with a comment below!

yellow French platterCassoulet image courtesy of stu_spivack.

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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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French Ceramics for Hot Summer Fun

French ceramic pitchersI’ve made it to Boulder, CO and it is H.O.T. I know the country has been experiencing a heat wave this summer, but “hot” in San Francisco is above 70°F, not close to 100°F. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, though there is something wonderful about getting to be outside at night without a jacket of any kind. Having to unload a truck worth of ceramics in the heat… that’s less exciting.

What does the weather have to do with French ceramics? Well, with the extreme temperatures, items like water jugs become a necessity to stay cool and hydrated in the sultry afternoons. That’s where Poterie Ravel’s fabulous water jugs and pitchers come in. Perfect for water, iced tea, or a batch of mojitos, these French ceramics are the ideal mix of practical and beautiful for the summer. Poterie Ravel itself is located outside of Marseille in southern France; the ceramic artists there definitely know about beating the summer heat when temperatures start to rise. Water jugs aren’t just decorative accents, but heavily used French ceramics to keep everyone cool.

Of course, these French ceramics work wonderfully as a centerpiece idea for dining indoors or out. Fill the jug with water for your guests or with flowers for a colorful table accent. A pitcher vase always looks rustic and casual, ideal for times when it’s too hot to think clearly. Used on a picnic table, these substantial French ceramics will also keep a tablecloth from blowing away in the breeze. The whites and ivory shades that Poterie Ravel uses for many of its French ceramics feel crisp and cool, perfect for hot days. I also love the water jugs with natural clay exposed at the bottom, evoking the garden pots that Ravel is so well-known for.

Looking for something refreshing to fill your favorite pitcher or water jug this July? Try cold-brew iced tea, no hot water required. I think adding mint and a bit of simple syrup makes for the perfect summer drink. What are your go-to beverages to beat the heat? Leave a comment below and let us know. I’ve got to get back to organizing French ceramics, though thankfully they are now all inside!

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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).

yellow_tealbowlspitchersdude

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 : ).

market_3

market_1

market_2

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!

IMG_2229 IMG_2231

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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.

platespitchers
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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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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Enjoying Your Coffee Like the French with Coffee Bowls

French coffee bowl

french coffee bowlA few weeks ago I wrote about Italian mugs and now I can’t stop thinking about coffee (it doesn’t help that I’m a total coffee addict). While Italians invented espresso, there’s something incredibly French about sitting in a café, newspaper in hand and coffee at the ready. I think people love having this experience at home, which explains the popularity of my French drinkware collection. The cheerful French coffee bowls and coffee mugs by Richard Esteban capture the whimsy of Provence while remaining the perfect vessel for a serious cup of coffee.

French coffee bowls are mostly used in the home as part of the morning ritual. Every family member has a preferred bowl for their coffee, hot chocolate, tea, or even chocolate milk for the kids. Unlike mugs and cups, French coffee bowls are the perfect pairing with a traditional tartine (toast with butter and/or jam) or a croissant. Instead of struggling to get the perfect angle, you can easily dip your breakfast into your drink without worrying about if it will fit. The large surface area also lets your hot morning beverage cool to a drinkable temperature quickly, ensuring full caffeination before heading out for the day.

French coffee bowl

Another wonderful aspect of French coffee bowls is that they require both hands to drink, unlike a handled mug. This makes them perfect for a quiet way to wake up in the morning or calm down with a bowl of tea in the afternoon. The width of most French coffee bowls prevent seeing much around the sides, ensuring total enjoyment. It’s almost Zen. Try it.

French coffee bowl

However much I love French coffee bowls, I do recognize that they have their limitations. Espresso needs a compact espresso cup for maximum flavor and enjoyment. Sometimes you need a handle and the smaller profile of a French coffee mug, whether it’s reading in a favorite chair or working furiously at your desk. And for you cappuccino lovers, the rounded cup with saucer is a definite must for all that foam.

capuccino cups and saucers

What are your favorite ways of drinking coffee? Are you a fan of mugs and cups? Do you love French coffee bowls for other uses besides drinks?

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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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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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Vases for Your Valentine from Around the World

Stuck on what to give your Valentine this year? The saying goes “say it with flowers.” Roses might be cliché, but they are certainly a traditional standby. Tulips are another colorful winter flower, as are daisies, irises, stargazer lilies, and orchids. No matter the flowers you pick, you’ll need the right vase to show off those blooms to full advantage. I think giving a vase with a bouquet is a great way to make a lasting statement beyond when the flowers themselves droop and die.

Of course, choosing the proper vase is its own task. It’s important to choose a vase that suits the flowers – a large vase might be ideal for roses or lilies, but dwarf delicate sprays of orchids. A big round vase balances a massive varied bouquet, but overwhelms a simple arrangement. Style is another key consideration – will the delicate flourishes of Italian vases be more appealing or the graphic boldness of a Mexican vase more appropriate?

With vases available from all parts of the world, it’s important to think about the style of your recipient. Do they tend towards minimalism and clean lines? If so, a solid colored vase with sleek styling, like this big round vase, is a good choice.

For those with a more ornate sensibility, a fancy vase with intricate patterning makes sense. The hand painting on vases from Italy makes them perfect for display even without flowers. I love this large vase with Tuscan fruits and curving handle detailing.

Color palettes also change with location. Mexican vases often have bright colors that really pop. An exception to this norm are vases by Capelo, whose soft colors are dreamlike and extremely touchable. His one of a kind Hawaiian vase with floral motifs and sloping sides makes a statement without taking up much space.

The Mexican vases by Talavera Vazquez, on the other hand, use rich cobalt, deep black, vibrant green, or burnt orange for their striped, zig-zag, and patterned vases. French vases by Richard Esteban also use deep colors, though his vases tend to use solid-colored glazes instead of patterning.

 

Will you give flowers and a fancy vase this year for Valentine’s Day? Have another go-to gift? Leave a comment and let us know!

Rose image courtesy of “KIUKO”.

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Rooster Ceramics from Around the World

What’s a motif you’ll find on ceramics almost anywhere in the world? Flowers are a good guess, as are geometric and abstract designs. But there’s another favorite design that might surprise you: rooster ceramics. From Mexico to France and Italy, proud roosters and sometimes chickens grace a variety of ceramics, both decorative and functional.

Italian roosters are probably the most refined of the bunch. Painstakingly detailed with realistic coloring, the Italian rooster pitcher by Ceramiche Bartoloni is a typical example of this rooster type.

Italian rooster pitcher

Even though this rooster looks almost the same on their rooster serving dishes and platter, the hand painting gives each piece a unique attitude with variations in the comb and waddle.rooster bowl

Mexican roosters, in contrast, are more fanciful than their Italian ceramic counterparts. Gorky Gonzalez’s colorful rooster plate is similar to the Italian rooster in details, but feels more like a watercolor sketch, with looser lines (though still definitely proud and tall!).

rooster plate

Then there are blue and white rooster plates, like this octagonal serving dish, which showcase a monochromatic bird on the strut.

blue and white rooster ceramic

Gorky’s three-dimensional rooster ceramics are definitely an excellent mix of fun and realism. The large blue and white rooster sits proudly on a shelf or countertop, and the rooster pitchers and creamers add whimsy and color to the table. Unlike the standard color palette of Italian roosters, these Mexican pieces often have a completely different color combination, making each rooster ceramic totally unique.

Rooster Creamers at Emilia Ceramics

In France, roosters are a mix of refined detail and playful whimsy. Quimper ceramics offer excellent examples of roosters, often in blue. “Le coq gaulois” is an important French symbol that dates back to Roman times and is used today as a sport mascot for French soccer and rugby teams. Some good examples of Quimper rooster plates can be found here and sculptural pieces here. French roosters are fighters and it shows, like in the proud rooster strutting below.

Choisy rooster

What are your favorite rooster ceramics? Are you a fan of chicken décor in general? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Crowing rooster image courtesy of hans s.

French rooster plate image courtesy of Patrick.charpiat.

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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!

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Behind the Scenes: Richard Esteban’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 handpainted ceramics come to life.

Unlike the traditional French ceramic atelier in Vallauris where Richard Esteban apprenticed at the age of 16, he now has no need for a cane when inspecting his employees work. The two old women owners at Foucard-Jourdan used their canes to crush ceramic pieces on the potters’ wheel that showed any sign of imperfection. Perhaps that’s where Richard learned his attention to detail and developed his appreciation for the slightly imperfect. I love the friendliness of his Aigues-Vives studio, with a tight team consisting of his two employees Arnaud and Katia, his wife Sylvie, and himself. The Esteban family also has three young children with whom I’ve shared several meals over the years, communicating in a mix of broken French and English.

I last visited Richard in September 2011 with my friend Jess acting as a translator. As has become a tradition, we didn’t just get to pick out beautiful French ceramics, but also enjoyed Richard’s incredible hospitality, staying in his guesthouse for the night. When we arrived, Arnaud (pictured above working at his wheel) asked us with a smile, “Vous voulez du cafe?” (Do you want some coffee?)

“Oui, merci, si ce n’est pas un problem” (Yes, please, if it’s not a problem.)

“Vous avez traverser la monde pour nous voire, je peux faire du cafe.” (You traversed the world to see us, we can at least make you coffee.)

This is definitely a place where humor is appreciated (and the coffee delicious, though we had it in espresso cups instead of the fun polka dot mugs they make).

Not only is Richard a wonderful artist, he’s also a great cook, and our evening spent in the backyard with all the Estebans and Katia was a relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable experience. Friendly and playful qualities surround Richard, invoked by himself, his employees, and expressed through his work. His stunning ceramic serving platters, lively polka dot mugs and bowls, and unique vases are just a few examples of his creative take on the French ceramic tradition.

Richard’s methods stay true to the old ways of Provencial pottery. He uses the rich red local clay, every piece is hand-thrown, and he even uses an antique kiln for firing. His love of tradition can also be seen in the museum he opened in 2000 to display his massive collection of glazed French pottery from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. This is definitely an artist devoted to his craft.

Whether it’s a large ceramic serving platter or one of a kind pitcher, Richard’s pieces are an ideal example of French ceramics with timeless appeal. I can’t wait to see what amazing examples of French ceramics he’s created the next time I visit — and then get to share them all with you.

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Just Opened: New Exhibition on French Ceramics in LA

Love French ceramics from the seventeenth- and eighteenth-centuries? Then you need to check out the exhibition that opened last Saturday, October 6, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Entitled “Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics from the MaryLou Boone Collection,” it features over 130 examples of faïance, soft-paste porcelain, and hard-paste porcelain used in French daily life.

I found out about this exhibition months ago and wrote about it when comparing French ceramics past and present. For example, the curves of French country pottery pitchers mirror those of antique ewers which traditionally held water for washing in the morning. Other French ceramics in the exhibition include tablewares, tea accouterments, toiletry items, and even pieces used in times of sickness. The sugar bowl and spoon featured on LACMA’s blog is charming, with soft pink accents and a curiously slotted spoon.

Covered Sugar Bowl, 1780, Lunéville, France; and Sugar Spoon, 1775, Lunéville Petit Feu Faïence Manufactory, Lunéville, France; gifts of MaryLou Boone, photos © Susan Einstein

“This exhibition reveals and celebrates both the artistry that exists in the service of the utilitarian and the ability of this discriminating collector to bring together remarkable examples of that artistry,” said Elizabeth Williams, assistant curator of decorative arts and design at LACMA, in a recent press release.

Wine Bottle Cooler (Seau à demi-bouteille). Chantilly Porcelain Manufactory, Chantilly, France, c. 1730-1735. Soft-paste porcelain with glaze and enamel, The MaryLou Boone Collection. photos © Susan Einstein

I couldn’t agree more, especially looking at examples of handmade French pottery today, from French platters to the elegant curves of a French ceramic serving bowl. I was amused to see a French ceramic wine bottle holder circa 1730-1735 as a featured piece on the LACMA website. The Asian influence is obvious, as is the practicality of having something to keep wine cool. Unlike the porcelain jars for pomade, a wine bottle holder is a practical ceramic piece people still use today.

Many of these pieces look like they came from Asia because they were imitations of pieces from Japan and China that only the very rich could afford. Today’s French ceramics embrace colors, shapes, and textures of a timeless (yet contemporary) French aesthetic. French country pottery is a pleasure not only to see, but also to use, though the delicate artistic touches on Sylvie Durez‘s birds or the edging of Poterie Ravel’s French platters invoke the early examples of this tradition the LACMA exhibition highlights.

“Daily Pleasures” runs until March 31, 2013, so if I make it down to L.A. before it’s over, I’ll definitely check it out. Have you seen this exhibition or know of others that focus on French ceramics in your area? Leave a comment below and let us know!

“Daily Pleasures” images courtesy of LACMA.

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Using Ceramic Planters for Curb Appeal and More

What are your favorite ceramic planters like? Round or rectangular? Deep or shallow? Do you keep the same plants in them year round or switch out annuals for an ever-changing display? Are your planters indoor or outdoor? Large or small? Just like any other home accent piece, there are pottery planters out there to fit every style and planting need. In fact, there are so many choices that it can be easy to get overwhelmed – do you want a zig zag planter or striped planter? Planters that are big enough for an entire miniature garden or just one plant? Sometimes it’s hard to know where exactly to begin.

With the coming of fall, planters are a way to keep plants growing just a little longer or even throughout the winter, depending on how hardy they are. Whether or not in ceramic planters, there are many plants and flowers that thrive during the autumn months. Verbena will continue to flower even after a frost, sage and lambs ear make great centerpieces of a mixed planter, and decorative cabbage are totally stylish with their greens, pinks, and purples. An arrangement of pottery planters on your porch filled with flowers or greenery definitely adds a warming touch to any home, amping up its curb appeal.

Last fall I was traveling in France and remember being amazed by all the ceramic planters I saw in both city and countryside. A building with cascading flowers at every window seems so much more inviting than one that’s just plain and stark. Poterie Ravel, my newest French artist, is famous for their large planters in ceramic, some plain terracotta and others glazed.

The wall planters by Richard Esteban echo this French country aesthetic; I love the exposed clay and how it contrasts with the glazed body of these planters. They look fantastic filled with ivy or other cascading plants on the wall of a porch or patio.

If French country isn’t to your taste, try the graphic appeal of a zig zag planter with bold lines in black and white. Check out this fall plant combination, which would look stunning in the round zig zag planter by Talavera Vazquez. The striped ceramic planters are another variation with a modern feel perfect for your favorite fall blooms.

Of course, ceramic planters are ideal for indoor greenery as well. A kitchen herb garden fits nicely into an oval planter like this one with blue and white stripes; other pottery planters house ferns, orchids, and other plants year round.

Whether indoors or out, what are your favorite ceramic planters? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Blue and White Serving Platters with a French Twist

Need a surefire way to make your food look better? Reach for blue and white serving platters. This color combination is elegant and versatile, adapting to any occasion from a formal dinner to an impromptu barbeque with friends. If you want your serving plates to really stand out, I love those with some French flair, like the large serving platters by Richard Esteban or white platters by Poterie Ravel and Patrice Voekel. These take a common color combination and turn it into something that feels unique and truly special.

So how do you determine the right blue and white serving platters to meet your needs? Whether you’re looking for white platters, unusually shaped ceramic dishes, or especially large serving platters, there is a whole range of options. Here are three tips for choosing French serving plates that are both practical and fun to use.

Have at least one large serving platter. These are the workhorses of entertaining, holding a range of appetizers at a party or showcasing a main dish at dinner. Because you can load them up, large serving platters can save on table space and make passing food around simple. The teal fish serving platter is a perfect example of this type. It’s 19 inches long, giving your food plenty of room, and the border adds a hint of sophistication that’s unexpected. Another great large serving platter is the petal platter; its slightly sloping sides are equally good for meats that have sauces or assortments of cookies.

Aim for multifunctional pieces. The best ceramic dishes are ones that you can use everyday. Pick a decorative blue and white serving platter and then hang it on the kitchen wall when you don’t need it for serving. A white platter like this footed piece elegantly holds fruit during the week on a table or counter, but also wonderfully highlights desserts when you have guests. Choose serving plates that do many things and they won’t get lost in the back of a cabinet, just taking up space.

Everyone can use a cheese plate. Cheese assortments are an easy way to create elegance at your next gathering. Pick the right size for your needs – these serving plates should have ample room for multiple cheeses as well as your favorite garnishes (fruits, nuts, and honey are all good pairing ideas). A small cheese plate holds 2-3 varieties, while a large cheese plate can take center stage with 4 or more of your favorites.

Don’t use this ceramic dish as a place to slice bread though; that’s bad for your knives. A rustic cutting board or pre-sliced baguette and crackers look better and will keep the crumbs out of the cheeses. These serving plates definitely add the perfect French note to any party, especially when filled with your favorite French cheeses.

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A Look at French Ceramics, Past and Present

Think you know French ceramics? Many people picture porcelain when they think about French ceramics, such as the famous Sèvres porcelain. Louis XV became the owner of this producer in 1759 and it was a major maker of French porcelain throughout the eighteenth century (according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Most of these early porcelains were imitations of pieces from Japan and China that only the very rich could afford, though there was plenty of French innovation once the new processes got traction. Because of a lack of essential materials to make a clay body that was the same as the Asian pieces, all of the French ceramics made before 1770 were soft paste porcelain, not hard paste. (For those that are wondering, soft paste porcelain requires a higher fire temperature and is much harder to form than the more plastic and malleable hard paste porcelain, which contains minerals like kaolin and quartz.)

Technical talk aside, these old French ceramics are certainly beautiful to see. If you’re in the LA area, an upcoming exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art will feature examples of porcelain from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France that have a whole range of style and function. What’s particularly interesting about this collection is that it also features faience, which is simply another name for tin-oxide glazed pottery… also known as majolica.

Flash forward to today where faience/majolica is still going strong in French ceramics. Sturdy, rustic, yet also refined, this ceramic tradition continues to grow with modern sensibilities while staying true to its roots.

Just look at the curves of the pitchers by Richard Esteban and Poterie Ravel. Simple and elegant, their rich glazes are enticing for hands and eyes alike. Compare a faience ewer circa 1700 (like the photo above) to Richard’s barn red milk pitcher – they have the same clean lines and visual appeal with tall, stately spouts.

Poterie Ravel’s fancy pitcher, stunning in mustard yellow or creamy ivory, also reflects shapes and function from the past that fits in with today’s aesthetics for French ceramics.

Then there are French ceramics like those by Patrice Voelkel and Sylvie Durez. Patrice does so much with colors like white or blue, creating pieces that are deceptively simple. His large serving dish has a delicate rim that exposes the black local clay of Provence, while the white irregular glaze gives it real character. Sylvie goes a completely different direction, treating her bowls, serving platters, and pitchers as canvases for playful animals, dreamy women, or pastel landscapes with a surreal feel.

No matter your style, the variety of French ceramics being made today are sure to be just as sought after in hundreds of years as those that were made in the 1700s. So which French ceramics suit you best?

French faience ewer image courtesy of Sean Pathasema/Birmingham Museum of Art.

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5 Ways to Create an Instant Café Experience with French Coffee Mugs

Did Bastille Day make you long for France? It did for me! I keep thinking about my favorite French experiences and near the top of that list is whiling away the morning or afternoon at a sweet Provençal café. From croissants to French coffee bowls, here are my top tips for creating your own French café experience, no matter where you are or what time of day it is.

  1. Pick the cup to suit your drink. Whether you love strong espresso or equal parts coffee and cream, the right vessel makes all the difference. Tiny espresso cups allow the ideal amount of crema to cover the shot for the best taste possible. Like American style coffee? Then treat yourself to a polka dot mug for your brew. And for you hot chocolate and tea lovers, there’s nothing better than French coffee bowls for capacity.
  2. Try using a saucer. At a café in France, every beverage is served on a saucer that holds a tiny spoon, perhaps a lump of sugar, and a small sweet. French coffee mugs with saucers do the same at home, giving you an easy way to transport your cup to your favorite chair or seat on the patio. The saucer also provides protection for your table and won’t go missing the same way a coaster always seems to.
  3. Eat fresh. In France people usually pick up croissants or pain au chocolat from the local boulangerie or pâtisserie when they are only a few hours old. This makes for flakier pastry that tastes even better with a coffee at the local café or breakfast table. While you might not have a bakery right down the street, pair the contents of your French coffee bowl with the freshest breakfast possible, from fruit that’s in season to treats you picked up from the bakery the night before (shhhh, we won’t tell anyone).
  4. Pick up a newspaper. When traveling in Provence, I always see people reading their favorite newspapers at cafés, particularly in the mornings. It’s an easy way to slow down and truly savor what’s in your French coffee mug, whether it’s your first or fifth cup of the day.
  5. Don’t neglect the details. From interesting sugar cubes to those tiny spoons, the right details make your French coffee mug feel even more authentic. Recreate a French breakfast with Nutella or jam spread on toast or a croissant; then dip it into your French coffee bowl and enjoy the delicious results. Whether it’s a playful polka dot mug, gently steamed milk, or a cheerful cream and sugar set on the table, these little details will make any cup of espresso, coffee, or tea seem like someone else made it for you.

Interested in more coffee rituals? Check out our Pinterest board for coffee and tea lovers and let us know what you think.

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French Ceramics at Design Miami/Basel 2012

Did you make it to Design Miami/Basel 2012? This international forum on art took place in Basel, Switzerland June 12-17 with a whole host of furniture and other objects on display from almost 40 galleries, Design Talks, performances, and more. I was curious to note the strong presence of French ceramics in this year’s show and decided it was worth taking a closer look.

One of the things I like about Design Miami/Basel 2012 is that it’s not just about contemporary design, but pieces and movements from the 20th century to today. The strong French design presence with works by Jean Prouvé, Maria Pergay, and Roger Tallon (who designed Air France interiors, the French high-speed train TGV, and the Mexico City subway, among other major public commissions) really dominated this year, according to The New York Times. These iconic designers have an industrial feel that somehow also translates into timeless appeal. Pergay’s work with stainless steel is truly stunning, like her “flying carpet” daybed and other shiny furnishings – if you’re not familiar with her work (as is the case with many Americans), I recommend looking up her unique creations to see more for yourself.

But this design fair isn’t just about furniture. French ceramics were just some of the many smaller pieces on offer, with other ceramic work from places like Korea, Sweden, and Japan. On the last day of the fair there was even a talk called “Collecting 20th and 21st Century Ceramics” which discussed the evolution of the form and international ceramic styles.

As with other discussions around design and French ceramics, function and form come into question. Is this an art, a craft, or a combination of both? Looking at some of the pieces on offer, I am personally drawn to those that can be used. The delicate porcelain bowl, the smooth flowing vases with solid color glazes, and the stacked plates all are true highlights of this design fair in my opinion. They look great on display, but also in use.

Thus, inspired by all the great design of Design Miami/Basel 2012, I present you my own selection of French ceramics that fit into the aesthetics displayed there:

The simplicity of the celadon pitcher and fluted bowl by Poterie Ravel are definitely elegant, while cheerful yellow plates and bowls add unexpected fun to these appealing French ceramics.

Sylvie’s modern, minimalist Sunrise platter is a one of a kind gem that bridges that gap between form and function, looking beautiful on the wall or the table. In keeping with smooth glazes and solid colors, look no further than the burnt honey round vase, petal platter, and cheese plate by Richard Esteban. These French ceramics all have a touchable appeal and exude a real warmth.

With all these accessible, artistic French ceramics, it’s hard to decide on a “best in show” for French ceramics that fits in with the pieces on display at Design Miami/Basel 2012. But I think the winner would be the chalk white shallow dish by Patrice Voelkel (pictured at the top of this post). Stark and minimal, yet also inviting, it’s a piece worth collecting even if not displayed in a design fair tent.

What do you think of the offerings at Design Miami/Basel this year? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Adding French Country Charm to Your Home

Who can resist the unique combination of elegance and simplicity that is French country charm? It’s not just the French manor house or the French country cottage, but somehow both at once. This irresistible combination of seemingly conflicting style elements manifests in French ceramics as well as décor. Colors, shapes, functionality, and charm all work together to make something truly unique, whether it’s a fun polka dot mug or a striking ceramic serving platter.

Want to inject your home with some French country chic? Give these five tips, many inspired by the French Country Decor Guide, a try.

  1. Get regional with color. French country can mean Provence, with warm, sunny colors, or the paler hues of northern France. These regional differences mean that it’s easy to find French country elements that already fit into your existing design aesthetic (French ceramics are a perfect example). The strong colors of Provence can include terracotta reds, dusky violets, Mediterranean blues and turquoises, and soft butter and creamy saffron yellows. Go north for colors with a touch of grey, including soft sage greens, milky whites, creamy pinks, and pale blues.
  2. Mix old and new. Antiques are a hallmark of French country, whether it’s a chair, bed, or accent piece. With a country estate-inspired bedroom for example, gilded edges on the bed make for a soft glow that contrasts with crisp sheets and textured walls. Or reupholster that great chair you found with a lush fabric and add it to more modern furnishings in the living room or study. Rich patina and distressed finishes make everything seem softer and slightly relaxed.
  3. Repurpose with abandon. If something is beautiful, it’s worth holding onto, even if no longer needed for its original use. Repurposed items can be anything from glass jars as table decorations to metal buckets acting as planters. I see this with French ceramics often – a chipped bowl becomes a place for change or a decorative element on a shelf. A ceramic serving platter holds keys and sunglasses by the door. A polka dot mug turns into a pen and pencil holder on a desk.
  4. Show off what’s in your kitchen. Why hide those gorgeous plates behind closed doors? A French country kitchen will often have open shelves that turn your dishware into decoration, as well as make things easier for the cook to access. Display your collection of French ceramics with pride, making them a part of your daily life.
  5. Let simplicity rule. French country is not about clutter or overwrought design. Smooth curves, clean lines, and subdued accents are all its hallmarks. I see this in some of my favorite French ceramic serving platters, whether the curves of the petal platter by Richard Esteban, the stark chalk white of the serving dish with handles by Patrice Voelkel, or subtle white streak on the lemon yellow round platter by Poterie Ravel.

French country kitchen image courtesy of thekitchendesigner.

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Have you heard of Poterie Ravel?

Because apparently they’re quite famous the world over. I wish I could share their beautiful catalog with you. It is a powerful piece of marketing that transports you instantly to refined restaurant patios, well-manicured historic gardens, and chic 5-star lobbies — yes, it’s true, those are the places that Poterie Ravel is! Well, those places… and www.EmiliaCeramics.com. Let me explain…

On my first buying trip to France in 2007, I stumbled upon Poterie Ravel. They are renowned for their terracotta planters and ship to luxury hotels and restaurants throughout France and around the world: “Ravel. A name and now a brand. A promise of true French style. Ravel epitomises all the elegance and the simplicity of a unique and timeless art of living. Ravel creates new forms and new products that blend into a classic decor or embrace pure, contemporary lines.” Such an accurate description (quoted from their catalog) — the clean lines and modern class of Poterie Ravel’s work is unchallenged. But what’s even more exciting, is that they also make smaller, one-of-a-kind pieces for the home, such as pitchers, vases, plates, platters, bowls, etc. I quickly fell in love with their luscious, touchable glazes and soft, subtle shapes. It took me 4 years, but I have finally added these beautifully-crafted pieces to the Emilia Ceramics collection. And unlike Poterie Ravel’s famous pots, I seem to be the only person to whom they’re shipping home-ware. Check it all out here: Poterie Ravel on Emilia Ceramics.

While pure aesthetics and beauty may first attract you to Poterie Ravel, the history behind this company is sure to keep you interested/wanting more. It is a 5th-generation family-run business that dates back to 1837, when the earthenware and pottery studio was first founded in Aubugne, France. In 1935, when Gilbert Ravel took over the pottery studio from his father, he changed things up a bit… focusing more on modern, exciting designs aimed at high-end interior and landscape designers. Two sisters, Marion and Julie Ravel, took over in 1994. I met Marion when I was last visiting in September (see photo below) and can attest to her passion and genuine love for growing the business. I leave you with another quote from the Poterie Ravel catalog: “The rare and authentic expertise of one of the oldest terracotta studios in France has been forged by five uninterrupted generations of family history. The style, shape, and body of Ravel pots make them perfect for setting the scene in gardens and terraces, on squares and indoors. The way they are finished and fired afford them unrivaled quality and color, and make them unique to the touch.” I could not agree more. Enjoy!

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What Makes French Ceramics So Special?

I still have some French ceramics that haven’t quite made it onto the website yet, and it might just be because I love them so much and am not sure I can part with them! French country pottery has a whimsy that’s unlike other pieces I’ve seen. That plus fabulous, rich colors, unexpected play with textures, and versatile functionality set handmade French pottery apart.

The recent shipment from France included great pitchers, fun platters, and some truly wonderful pieces of art that just happen to be bowls as well. French bowls are always popular, from Richard Esteban’s playful polka dots to sturdy prep bowls by Patrice Voelkel. Add to these pieces by Sylvie Durez with languid scenes that are painted directly onto the base glaze to create one of a kind artwork. There’s no lack of variety when it comes to the personality found in French ceramics – all these artists have a unique style that makes their pieces easy to identify.

While Sylvie’s work is full of whimsy with intimate and personal scenes, I think most French ceramics have a certain playfulness about them. Fanciful shapes, animal motifs, and directives like “Vive le bon vin” (which roughly translates to “Long live good wine”) are all hallmarks of French country pottery. These are pieces that definitely get people talking at a party or a dinner.

Thick glazes and rich colors are also trademarks of handmade French pottery. Think warm butter yellow, jewel-toned spring green, and vibrant blues. Then there are the reds, from a barn red to dark cranberry. The contrast between smooth glaze and the roughness of exposed clay add textural appeal to pieces like this pitcher by Richard. It’s a delight to multiple senses, whether filled with flowers, wine, or water.

Like this pitcher, French ceramics beg to be seen and used daily. Whether it’s a platter that hangs on the wall or a vase that decorates a shelf when empty, these are pieces that people love to have around in their homes. Add to all this the truly personal handmade touches, and it’s no wonder that people just like me consistently fall in love with French ceramics.

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A Few of My Favorite (French) Things…

Back in September, I took an amazing buying trip to Provence. I revisited my favorite artists: Sylvie Duriez, Patrice Voelkel, Richard Esteban, and the 5th-generation family-run Poterie Ravel. It’s difficult not to overbuy on a trip like that. I was overwhelmed by the creativity of each artist and just kept falling in love with one piece after another. By the end of the trip, I was pretty convinced that I had bought way too much. But as it turns out, that’s nearly impossible. You just can’t buy too much of the beautiful ceramics these French artists are creating. I am constantly blown away by the color and creativity surrounding me in my pop-up shop in Palo Alto and my customers have absolutely loved my French finds. Speaking of the shop, it is closing next Wednesday, March 14th. So if you’re in the Palo Alto area, now’s your last chance to stop by. As for the rest of you, here are a few of my favorite new French ceramics… most of which are now available online.

Pitchers with Personality.

I fell in love with the Three Hearts Pitcher (above left) in Sylvie’s workshop and had to convince her to sell it to me. It is packed with personality (like all of Sylvie’s pieces) and defines one-of-a-kind. It combines fun with authentic and raw emotion all at once. And don’t even get me started on Patrice Voelkel’s large pitcher in (what I’m calling) dark cranberry (above right). The soft glaze on this pitcher is irresistible and the shape is both functional and absolutely breathtaking. These two pitchers are everything a pitcher should be: useful, beautiful, artistic, and individual. In addition to these attributes, they convey a rustic and earthy quality that communicates pure Provencal personality.

Functional and Fun Platters.

 

Continuing the theme of soft and inviting glazes, Richard Esteban’s platters are beautiful pieces to look at, but even better to use. The large petal platter (above right) is just begging for a selection of charcuterie or a main dish like roast chicken. The cheese plate (photo on the left) boasts a fresh, spring-inspired glaze with rustic flecks of brown around the edges. If appetizers of cheese and fruit are your kind of thing, then this serving platter is perfect. I love the way the green makes a relaxing backdrop for the more elaborate Limoni plates and mugs by Ceramiche Bartoloni.

Everyday Pieces You’ll Want to Use… Everyday.

  Whether for cereal, ice cream, snacks, or dipping sauces, the polka-dot bowls in 3 different sizes will bring a smile to your face all day long. Our new arrivals from France also include polka-dot mugs, creamers, plates, and pitchers. Mix and match the polka-dots with plates depicting birds, houses and dogs for a dinner table that is as interesting as the people gathered at it.

Artwork You Can Eat Off, But May Not Want To.

While hand-thrown with the intention that they get used as serving dishes, bowls, pitchers, and creamers, nobody can deny that Sylvie’s pieces are first and foremost works of art. The bowls pictured here are perfect examples – whether depicting birds chatting happily on a flowering branch or expressive (and oh-so-French) women lounging on a lazy afternoon, her soft, watercolor-like glaze transports us much like a painting on a canvas would do.

One reason I have always loved Sylvie’s pitchers is simply that they can be looked at and used simultaneously. Both the mini pitchers and small pitchers are great as creamers or to hold a small bouquet of flowers. The whimsical paintings are pure delight.

I always suggest Sylvie’s one-of-a-kind artwork to customers looking for the perfect birthday or Mother’s Day gift. They are unique, expressive, and unfortunately, almost completely sold-out after my extended season in the pop-up shop! Click here to see what’s left.

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Polka Dots: A Trend to Love

I love polka dots!

Polka dots continue to wow us, both in fashion and home décor. Cheerful and fun, large and small, you can find polka dot mugs, dresses, wallpapers, French ceramics and just about any accessory you can think of. I even saw some polka dot sunglasses the other day.

While sporting polka dots is the trend this winter, it’s important to use moderation, says chicology. Instead of an entire ensemble, use polka dots as a fun accent: a skirt, a hat, even a chic scarf or umbrella. Perhaps it was the overkill of polka dots that lead to chatter about Rihanna’s new video looking a little too much like photographer Sølve Sundsbø’s work. Dappled in dots, the star is striking, but so are the photos from a 2008 editorial shoot Sundsbø did for Numero, as the side-by-side comparison on Fashionista points out. Just goes to show that you can still get creative with polka dots (and the value of giving credit where credit is due).

Home décor is another area where polka dots shine, from kitchen wares to furniture. French ceramics by artists like Richard Esteban are playful with their bold polka dots. The polka dot mugs, bowls, ceramic serving platters, plates, pitchers, and hanging planters make it easy to add a splash of polka dots to your décor without going too overboard.

But why be subtle? The bold patterning of polka dot wallpaper can really turn a room into a statement, says Decorators Best. Try a simple two-color print, or you can get more crazy with multicolor dots on a plain background (great for a kid’s room). Graphic black and white polka dots look modern, while a subtle grey and white adds just a hint of texture and sophistication. Generally there’s something simple and sweet about polka dots on textiles that keeps it fun no matter what.

My favorite place to see polka dots remains the kitchen. Lighthearted polka dot mugs or coffee bowls are a great way to start any day, whether it’s with your favorite hot beverage or cereal. The butter yellow ceramic serving platter with multicolored dots dresses up any party. And the new midnight polka dot pitcher is a real knock-out. With the whimsy of these French ceramics, it’s easy to make every day just a little brighter.

Polka dot image courtesy of {AndreaRenee}.