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Gift Ideas for Celebrating The Special Women in Your Life

gift-ideas-special-women-emilia

While the month of May brings many things – warmer weather, the end of the school year, Memorial Day getaways, and summer vacation planning – the most important is probably the celebration of mothers. But what’s the best way to communicate our appreciation and gratitude to those special women who gifted us life? While many kids and husbands tend to defer to the typical stand-by’s of flowers, brunch or jewelry, we recommend taking a moment to consider what would best support her and her unique lifestyle.

Outdoor Enthusiast

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Watering Jug – Yellow and Exposed Terracotta by Richard Esteban (Aigues-Vives, France)

For the special mom in your life who would prefer to spend her free time outside, your gift opportunities are plentiful. Maybe she’s longing for a weekend retreat to the great outdoors, in which case, you could make the trip possible or buy some supplies for the experience. Need some ideas? REI suggests a list of ways to incorporate nature into the celebration.

If backyard patio time is more her style, you might find the right gift item amongst our Garden and Patio pieces. You could consider making a date to take your mom to the nursery and then surprise her with a planter, (the Round Paloma Planter is a personal favorite). Or if gardening isn’t her thing, try this one-of-a-kind Gorky Gonzalez Hurricane Candleholder – she can enjoy it on the patio all summer long.

Crunched for Time

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Deruta Salt & Pepper Set by Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio (Deruta, Italy)

If the mom you have in mind spends her days rushing to and fro, the gift of relaxation is always appreciated. Gifting a massage or pedicure encourages her to take a moment for herself, when she can leave her worries behind. Another way to pamper the hard-working mom in your life is to cook her dinner, clean her car, or anything else that would make her day easier and more enjoyable.

If you’re looking for a tangible gift for the mom with too much to tend to, consider common-sense items, such as the Deruta Oil & Vinegar set, a set of Blue Stripe Mixing Bowls, or a Large Pomegranate Pitcher.

If it’s just too hard to predict what she will find useful, an Emilia Ceramics gift card is a no-fail option. Then she can decide which beautiful piece she needs and wants most.

Dinner Party Host

Thankfully, there really is no way to go wrong when picking out gifts for the woman who loves to host. We’ve written in previous posts about considering an individual’s personality when gift giving, but it’s also important to remember her décor style. Here are a few of our favorite collections for those who love to have party guests:

Separate from these collections, a few of my favorite entertaining items include the La Fiesta Round Serving Dish or a set of the Little Square Plates in Blue.

Whether the special woman you’re celebrating this May fits into one of these categories or not, we expect you’ll find any number of relevant options here. We’ll leave you with just one reminder – spend a little time to find something that suits her unique personality and she’ll know just how much you care.

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5 Tips for Adding Blue and White Ceramics to Your Home

Blue and white looks sharp no matter where it’s found. A classic color combination in home décor, blue and white kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms have a timeless appeal. I’ve always been a fan of blue and white (and have the Pinterest board to prove it), and I am not alone. Blue and white ceramics rank consistently as top sellers for a variety of homes and uses. So what are some great ways to incorporate blue and white ceramics into your home décor?

Here are five tips for instant blue and white style.

blue and white ceramics

Use unexpected containers

Instead of a change jar, why not make coins look like part of your design with a blue and white ceramic bowl? Arranged on an end table, bowls or serving platters also hold everything from candles to a miniature rock garden. I even have a friend who considers this platter her “remote control keeper.”

Mix style with functionality

I think when it comes to blue and white ceramics the more uses, the better. A large blue and white pitcher is the perfect example. Use it to hold ice water, wine, or fresh squeezed mimosas for a weekend brunch. It can be a dramatic centerpiece (empty or full) on a dinner table, or hold a bouquet of fresh flowers on a kitchen sill or countertop. A mix of rustic and modern, pitchers like this are perfect in almost every home.

Go for the walls

Hang blue and white plates, shallow bowls, and serving platters when not in use in your kitchen or dining room. I’ve even seen wallpaper patterned with blue and white ceramics for a two-dimensional take on this idea.

Make snacks attractive

Food just tastes better when it’s presented well, so create appetizing snack options on your kitchen or dining table with carefully chosen ceramics. Blue and white platters hold mini snack bags of trail mix, nuts, or other healthy options for on-the-go bites while a large blue and white bowl brimming with fresh fruit makes it hard to resist.

Mix patterns

Keeping in the same color palette lets you explore fun textures and patterns. In the bedroom, mix a striped carpet with a printed duvet or chair, adding a feeling of depth and luxury to the room. A blue and white ceramic lamp or two, cozy throws, and eclectic pillows further the pattern play.

What’s your favorite use of blue and white decor? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Shop Blue and White Ceramics here.

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Fabulous French Coffee Bowls

french coffee bowls

French coffee bowls, also known as café au lait bowls, exude a cozy European charm. Though, not typically used in cafés or restaurants, they are mostly found in French homes. The draw of these fabulous bowls is that they are not just for coffee or hot chocolate, they can also be used for ice cream, soup, fruit, dips and so much more.French coffee bowl

 

The history of french coffee bowls dates back to the early 19th century. After a Turkish ambassador introduced coffee to Paris, cafes started popping up and coffee was enjoyed along with conversation. Though it was the Turks who introduced coffee, it was the French who contributed milk to the coffee. In the beginning, coffee was served in elegant Paris porcelain cups with a handle, and mostly enjoyed by the elite. But by the late 19th century coffee was affordable to almost everyone, and café au lait bowls were designed to enable “dunking” of left-over baguettes in the coffee for breakfast.

For more: French Coffee Bowls: Adding Provence to Your Morning Routine

antique french coffee bowls

French coffee bowls come in so many colors, shapes and sizes. Start a modern collection or add to an antique collection. Mix and match old with new, patterns with stripes, polka dots with flowers, add these lovely café au lait bowls together on a shelf for an added piece of French charm.

You may enjoy: Making Beverages Special: From French Coffee Bowls to Espresso Cups

Follow along our French Coffee Bowl Pinterest board here!

Don’t forget, you can enjoy 10% off your first order when you subscribe to our newsletter. Grab your code here

 

 

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Have You Heard of Capelo Pottery?

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

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

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

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

capelo_store

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Where Ceramic Pitchers Meet Italian Style

Italian countryside
Italian country decor is truly timeless. Rustic, inviting, and always the perfect blend of function and beauty, it’s no surprise Italy inspires countless households outside of its borders. A Tuscan vase or little bowl on the table can invoke years of tradition to even the newest home. But the most versatile piece of Italian country decor? I give you the ceramic pitcher.

Think about it. Ceramic pitchers keep drinks cool and protect a table from drips, whether wine or water. Pour in a bottle of red wine about a half hour before your meal and even the least expensive table wine will greatly improve. Your pitcher just became a less-breakable wine decanter. A ceramic pitcher is also easier to pass around the table. Refill anyone?

ceramic pitcher

Nothing reminds me more of my time in Tuscany than a bouquet of wildflowers in a ceramic pitcher on a well-used, large wooden table. The embrace of natural beauty without artifice is relaxed and authentic. Using pitchers as vases also saves on storage space in your cabinets (bonus).

ceramic pitcher

Other ways to add the Italian touch to your dining experience? Italian hand painted plates showcase appetizers or desserts for a special touch. Try a ceramic salad bowl to serve your salad at the end of the meal like they do in Italy instead of at the beginning. Serving plates piled high with delicious food, little bowls filled with olives, and a Tuscan vase on the sideboard: your Italian feast is complete.

Tuscan vases
What are your favorite examples of Italian country decor?

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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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The Best Decorative Dinner Plates for Summer Dining: 3 Tips

Summertime means incredible fresh fruits and vegetables, grilling adventures, and leisurely outdoor dining with friends and family. Even if you’re not planning to eat every meal outside this summer, it’s the perfect time to embrace playful motifs that celebrate the season. Bring on the bright colors and interesting textures!

decorative dinner plate
Looking for the best decorative dinner plates for your summer meals? Here are three rules to follow when updating your table this season:

1. Matching is so yesterday. It’s really true: plates and bowls don’t need to match. Mix up your classic dishware sets with square plates, oblong bowls, and other unusual shapes. Highlight that incredible dessert by serving it on distinct plates from the rest of the meal. The eclectic vibe will make your meals feel more relaxed and personal.

 rectangle serving platter

2. Color rules. Have at least two colors in your dishware sets; the variety makes even the most ordinary weekday meal feel more fun. If working from a base of white plates and bowls, mix in colorful serving or salad plates. Bold reds, cool blues, bright greens, brilliant yellows – there are no wrong answers. Patterns are also an excellent way to incorporate texture and more color without getting too crazy.

decorative dinner plate - orange stripeyellow dinner plate

3. Avoid plastic plates and cutlery. Nothing ruins that gorgeous masterpiece from the grill quicker than trying to cut it with a flimsy knife. The same goes for having your plate fly away in the wind. Unless you’re carrying your dishware multiple miles on a camping trip, take the time to use decorative dinner plates and solid silverware. The guests at your next barbeque will thank you.

dishware set

Need some ideas for what to serve on your decorative dinner plates and tableware sets that is suitable for summer? Check out Emilia Ceramic’s Pinterest boards for delicious recipes and ways to entertain as the days get longer.

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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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4 Spring Design Trends Beyond #Coloroftheyear

Radiant orchid is just the tip of the spring design iceberg (if I may mix my metaphors). Pantone’s color of the year 2014 is everywhere from makeup to home accessories, coating the world in a wonderfully vibrant purple-pink. Inspired by sunshine, pastels, and warmer temperatures, here are four more on-trend ways to refresh your home in time for spring entertaining.

flower bowls

1. Get crafty!

I’m a sucker for DIY and love Apartment Therapy’s recent posts about spring craft projects: lots of Easter-themed ideas here (many of them great for kids), floral-themed projects here. Maybe this year I will finally make those paper flowers I keep seeing all over the blogosphere. Maybe.

paper flowers

2. Bring on the pastels.

The pastel hues this year are a bit richer than I remember, playing well with existing neutrals. HGTV calls the pastels “romantic” – shades of lavender, soft green, pink, and (you guessed it), orchid are definitely fresh. Pair these shades with neutrals (think gray, navy, or cream, not beige) for an uplifting pop.

Radiant orchid room design

3. Go outside…

Sure, it’s still not really all that warm in most places yet. But it will be soon! Take heart and plan for living outside on your patio/deck/porch/balcony. I’m inspired by Elements of Style’s take on the Gramercy Park Hotel’s terrace. The fig leaf pillows are particularly wonderful, especially with the black and white palette and lush greenery.

 terrace at the Gramercy Park Hotel

4. …Or bring the flowers inside.

Soft, diffused watercolor florals are all over the runways. The same goes for graphic florals: mirrors, wallpaper, purses, and dresses only get things started. Check out Elle Decor for more ideas. The take home is that no matter how stylized or abstract the flowers, these harbingers of spring are a definite must for both fashion and home decor.

mini flower bowlHow are you decorating for spring this year? Will you do anything special for Easter or Passover? Leave your decorating tips and ideas below and enjoy the sunshine!

Paper flower image via Sweet Paul Magazine.

Orchid inspiration via Pantone.

Patio image via Elements of Style.

 

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Bright Colors, Clean Lines: 3 Ideas to Redecorate and Reinvigorate Your Home this Spring

Spring is about renewal, cleaning, and color. I’m in good company with my love of bright colors for home decor, supported by the likes of Refinery29 and Domino. Looking for ways to enliven your spring cleaning this year? Inspired by my own efforts, here are three ways to make redecorating a pleasure, not a pain:

1. Start small and work outwards. I work from home, so I spend lots of time at my desk. Reorganizing it with colorful bins, finding space for my newest vase, and a new orange ergonomic seat gave me the energy to tackle other, less visible spaces in my home (like the closet). Another great way to get started is to hang a piece of colorful art; it doesn’t take a lot of time and the rewards are immediate.

decorate with color

2. Try new shades. On the subject of color, now is the time to bring in some brights to your space. Add a few new colorful, patterned pillows to couches or chairs for a refreshed living room. Why not try a vibrant orange, yellow, or green as an echo of the flowers that are starting to bloom? A bold runner enlivens your entry or hallway; the same trick can be used with other colorful carpets throughout your space. If you already decorate with lots of neutrals, start with one color and build out. If you already have a bold color in your palette then pick a complimenting color; crisp blue and white or a strong yellow are good places to start.

blue and white bowls

3. Refresh items you use every day. Redecorating can also be as simple as giving your space a deep clean. Wash your curtains and prepare to be amazed at the difference. The same goes for carpets and furniture (but call in the professionals when necessary). If you’re tired of your current window treatments, look for a new solution (blinds, shades, sheers, different curtains) in a warm color or new pattern. In the kitchen, add some blue and white bowls to your collection. Like to bake? Try a blue and white mixing bowl. Entertain? Serve food for your next party in blue and white bowls in a variety of patterns.

green vase with daffodils
And my favorite way to add color this spring? Fresh flowers! What are some tricks you use to refresh your home as the weather warms? Leave a comment below and share your favorites.

Room image courtesy of Domino.

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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.

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Her paintings are much like watercolors, they consist of only a few brushstrokes, delicately applied and sometimes smeared, but they come together to convey huge emotion and personality. Regardless of their color or size, her dogs, cats, birds, and people spring to life. Even the flowers jump off their ceramic canvas and become animated… so real you can almost touch and smell them.
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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Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Beyond the Clichés


Roses are red (and tired), chocolates are cliché. What Valentine’s Day gift ideas do you have for this year? If you’re stumped (or want to give some gentle hints), try one of these swaps for your sweetheart this year.

Instead of chocolates, try cheese.

Does she love brie? Maybe he adores Roquefort. For fans of cheese, a cheese plate paired with a specialized server or two will get plenty of use during your dinner parties or intimate evenings in. And unlike a box of chocolates, a good cheese plate and cheese knives will last for years instead of days.

barn_red_cheese_plate

Instead of a bottle of wine, try cups to toast your love.

Ok, if you both like wine, why not add some new ways to drink your favorite vintage this Valentine’s Day? Stemless wine glasses are always a good move (and won’t break in your dishwasher). I’m also loving these rustic chic vino cups and wine pitcher by Ceramica Valenciana.

Whatever kind of wine vessels you choose, take my advice and avoid black glass. They look great, but it’s impossible to tell what’s inside, which becomes a problem when you need to tell the red from the white.

Instead of a necklace, try a jewelry box.

Maybe she has an entire collection of jewelry from all the time you’ve spent together. A jewelry box that matches her personal style prepares for many more beautiful pieces to come. Think about specialized storage for the pieces she collects. Earrings do well hanging on a tree while rings and bracelets are right at home in a smaller box.

unique vases

 

Instead of flowers, try a unique vase.

Flowers fade, but a vase is a great way to make a lasting statement. Try giving your bouquet in a vase suited to the style of your recipient (and the flowers inside). Whether covered in ornate patterns or a single shade, made of ceramic, glass, or another material, these gift ideas have endless possibilities.

Instead of dinner out, try breakfast in.

Valentine’s Day is on a Friday this year, so instead of going out that evening, have a special breakfast the next morning. Serve your sweetheart coffee or tea out of new mugs just for the occasion. A red and white espresso cup is festive; blue and white mugs are also sure to please. Other gift ideas from kitchen accessories to table cloths can also feature in your morning repast. Add some mimosas and you’re ready to go!

 

Still stumped for gift ideas? Try one of our new gift cards. They always fit and that way your love can truly get their heart’s desire (at least ceramic-wise).

Heart image courtesy Muffet.

Breakfast image courtesy Will Merydith.

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Pasta Lovers and Culinary Connoisseurs

Counting down the days until Christmas and still need some gift ideas for pasta lovers on your list? What about your foodie friends? Hard to buy for friends and relations always pose a challenge this time of year, but here are some practical and delicious gifts that are sure to delight those who love to cook (and eat!) on your list.

Here some some Holiday Gift Ideas for Pasta Lovers

Pasta bowls: Ensure that the pasta lovers in your life have pasta bowls that are just as tasty as the sauce and noodle creations they consume. A good pasta bowl should be large enough for a hearty serving of everything from pesto gnocchi to spaghetti bolognaise. Gorky’s pasta bowls are colorful, large (but not overwhelming), and, with an array of bright colors, compliment pasta dishes from all over the world. Pair a set of pasta bowls with a hefty serving bowl for a family gift that’s sure to please. My favorite dish for mixing and serving a large bowl of pasta is Talavera Vazquez’s La Fiesta Bowl.

pasta bowlsPasta makings: Making fresh pasta is actually easier than you might think. Encourage pasta lovers to take their dishes to the next level with the durum and semolina flour that is the base for Italian-style pastas. Orecchiette requires no special equipment and is the base for tasty sauces like this carbonara. If shopping for more adventurous or advanced cooks, go for pasta making machines, specialized cookbooks, or hard-to-find ingredients sourced directly from Italy.

Gifts for Wine Lovers

Wine holders & serving pitchers: Help the wine lover in your life show off the perfect bottle in style with a ceramic wine holder or spacious pitcher. Wine bottle holders make for decorative centerpieces and keep bottles neat; in the hot summers a ceramic wine holder will also keep chilled white wines cool. Ceramic pitchers are another way to casually serve wine and are especially good for reds since having more exposure to the air allows their flavors to deepen. This vino pitcher, a new arrival from Spain, clearly lets people know what’s inside. Pair with a set of vino cups for a wine-inspired gift that’s much more original than another bottle of Pinot Noir.

vino wine pitcher
Wine glass markers:
No one likes mixing up glasses at a party. If your wine lovers like to entertain, the multitude of wine charms, bands, and other glass markers make for fabulous stocking stuffers. Choose markers that somehow fasten to the glass, suction-only markers are more likely to fall off at inopportune moments.

Gifts for Bakers

A specialty class: Many communities have short-term (a couple hours or a weekend) courses on topics like chocolate making, laminated dough (the basis for croissants), French macarons, or breads. Pair the gift of lessons with an appropriate ingredient or tool (quality chocolate, vanilla beans, dough scraper, or a candy thermometer) for a gift that keeps on giving.

baking class
Storage canisters:
If the baker on your list regularly can be found in the kitchen, a stylish canister will brighten the counter and keep essential ingredients at hand. Large or small canisters are perfect for favorite pastas, baking materials like sugar and flour, or even coffee and tea.

canisters from Spain
Need more gift ideas for pasta lovers or others on your list? Check out our holiday gift ideas as well as specialized gift categories for inspiration.

Baking image courtesy star5112.

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New Spanish Ceramics, Just in Time for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spanish Ceramics Coming Soon from Ceramica Valenciana

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

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

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

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Showroom Spotlight on Decorative Dinner Plates and Stylish Dining

cactus and rooster platesOne of the best parts of the Emilia Ceramics Showroom is arranging ceramics in ways that people actually use them. I love the way that stacks of decorative dinner plates look and have had fun displaying lots of plates and bowls. The results look good enough to eat (off of)!

The dishware sets by Gorky Gonzalez are consistent favorites with customers and looking over the many styles, sizes, and patterns, it’s not hard to see why. Their mix of colors means there are plates for every taste. There are plain dinner plates for the minimalists and richly decorated salad and dessert plates for those who like more personality with their place settings. Gorky’s whimsical designs make for decorative dinner plates that people use daily instead of only for special occasions.

decorative dinner plate rooster plates Gorky’s studio has an entire team of artists who paint his plates and bowls. Although there is a traditional design that the artists follow, Gorky encourages them to add their own creativity and style to the piece. So no two fish or cowboys look exactly alike, giving each plate its own intentional charm. I particularly love the new caballero plates with their mustached cowboys in a variety of sizes and the Mexican cowgirl (la charra) serving plates. They definitely add some spice to the other characters in Gorky’s tableware sets.

cowboy decorative platecowgirl decorative serving plate

Stacking smaller plates on dinner plates is an easy way to add style to the table, whether it’s a family brunch or formal dinner. Having a variety of colors and patterns creates texture and can quickly change the feel of your space. Often people mix the designs of the smaller dessert and salad plates, having a set with a variety of animals or figures. I think it makes everything just a little more dynamic. If patterns or figures lack appeal, simply mixing colors can be an easy way to update a table and add a personal touch to the meal. Pair a stack of plates in rainbow hues with neutral table linens for a table setting that really pops.

decorative dinner platesNow that fall is truly here, I know people are starting to think about all the entertaining that cooler temperatures bring. For me the biggest question will be which plates and bowls to leave off the table—and with so many great options from Gorky, it’s definitely a question that will take time to answer!

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French Ceramics: Patrice Voelkel vs Richard Esteban Pottery

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

richard esteban potteryPatrice Voelkel

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

blue mix and pour bowlyellow French vase

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

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

indigo pitchergreen fish canister

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

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

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The Ultimate Registry Guide: 5 Things to Not Forget

So you’ve registered with your favorite stores for your upcoming wedding. You’ve figured out the big items that you’d love to receive and are ready to rock… right? Not quite yet. While kitchen appliances and bakeware are the most popular registry items, there are plenty of overlooked items that make great wedding gifts and may have been left off your registry.

Here are my top 5 forgotten things you might just want to include on your wedding registry.

  1. Quality sheets. We all know how important sleep is, so why not use your registry to improve the quality of sleep you get. Find a set in 100 percent Egyptian cotton or 100 percent pima french coffee bowlcotton (known as Suprima) with a 300 thread count minimum. A set (or two) of luxury sheets will have you luxuriating in hotel-worthy comfort. Extra pillow covers are always useful too, so don’t forget to add a few more of those to the list.
  2. Coffee or tea supplies. How do you caffeinate in the morning? French coffee bowls are a fun choice for a gift that’s small and versatile. Like French coffee mugs but bigger, coffee bowls work wonderfully for small servings of soup and cereal. Everyone can use another couple of mugs, particularly for when guests come by. A coffee maker, whether a quality French press or fancy espresso machine, and/or a capacious tea pot are other must-haves.green and white tea pot
  3. More plates and glasses. Even if you only think you need a place setting for eight people, remember that things do break. So ask for others to help you buy ceramics you’ll need in the future, replacing that favorite dish or bowl. No matter if you have a design that’s fine china or handmade ceramic, few designs are produced forever, so stocking up now will pay off in the future. The same is true for glassware, both regular and wine glasses.
  4. Organizers. A spice rack, storage containers, or shelf dividers are definitely items that will see daily use. Use this as an opportunity to streamline the design of your home organization. A quality trash can, set of recycling bins, or garage storage are other useful items that many homes could use.
  5. Home bar accessories. A good corkscrew, wine bottle stoppers, and wine rack are a must for anyone who loves to have a few bottles of wine always on hand. Quality bar tools like a cocktail shaker, muddler, bar spoon, or a good ice bucket make mixed drinks even better. The square ice cube trays are also ideal for anyone who’s looking to take their drinks up a notch; the ice takes longer to melt when it’s in a big square block. And no matter your drink of choice, coasters are another item you never have too many of.

cocktail shakerHave other items you think should be on wedding registries? Do you like to buy ceramics or other daily use items as wedding gifts? Have any items you left off your registry and wish you hadn’t, like French coffee bowls or specialized serving ware? Leave a comment below.

Polka dot bed image courtesy of browndresswithwhitedots via Pinterest.

Cocktail shaker image courtesy of lennox_mcdough.

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The Nostalgia of Blue and White

Remember when you were a kid visiting relatives and how wonderfully different their homes were from yours? Or when guests would come over and suddenly there would be an entirely different set of dishes to serve dinner? My favorite was my grandmother’s etched glassware, which I actually now have and use whenever I have guests over. It always transports me back to her house and the iced tea she made in the sun each day.

blue and white tea partySimilarly, there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about running into plates and bowls that remind you of your childhood. Whether it’s the fact that your parents still have and use the same dishes or coming across a blue and white bowl at a friend’s house, restaurant, or antique shop, the memories can be incredibly vivid. My parents had (and still use) small, delicately painted blue and white bowls — blue and white bowlthey served me soup when I was sick and  held ice cream when I was healthy. I think this is one of the reasons I was immediately drawn to Richard Esteban’s French coffee bowls. They have a similar feel and shape to the bowls of my childhood.

I think this is why people love blue and white ceramics so much. Blue and white is a classic color combination for fine porcelain, but those delicate plates, bowls, and cups aren’t really suited for the contingencies of everyday life. Sturdier ceramics that evoke the same associations are an ideal compromise. Although not every ceramic piece brings up a memory, the link between objects and experiences is definitely a strong one. I came across this intriguing blog post discussing the link between objects and memories if you’re interested in reading more about the phenomenon.

mug_sideIf you think about it, people do the same thing by collecting souvenirs when they travel. The word comes from the French “to remember” since having a thing makes the memory easier to access. Whenever I want to be reminded of my travels, I reach for an Italian mug or a French coffee bowl: suddenly I’m back in European rolling hills enjoying a drink at a little local café.

Of course, the easiest way to keep a link with the dishware from your past is to use it. This is why so many people pass down their porcelain table settings and fine serving pieces as well as other important objects. Having the creamer that sat on your great-aunt’s dining table or the crystal glasses used by your grandparents is a wonderful way to keep the people from your past as part of your present.
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What objects make you remember your childhood? Are there certain blue and white bowls, plates, cups, or other ceramics that connect you to your past? Souvenirs you try and use frequently? Leave a comment and let us know!

Tea party image courtesy of kevin dooley.

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Capelo Pottery, a Unique Take on Mexican Ceramics

Capelo's studio and countryside

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

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

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

Capelo pitcher

square serving dishCapelo plates

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

Capelo fluted footed bowl

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The Best Large and Small Handmade Ceramic Bowls

handmade ceramic bowls

You can never have too many handmade ceramic bowls. Mini bowls are perfect for serving dips, nuts, holding spices, or small kitchen items. Really large bowls are great for mixing, serving chips or pasta dishes, or holding colorful fresh fruit. And then there are bowls for ice cream, soup, salad… you get the idea. What handmade ceramic bowls are best for your needs? Here’s a roundup of bowls from mega to mini and how to best use them.

handmade ceramic bowls

Massive bowls are best for serving massive dishes at parties or gatherings. The serving dishes by Capelo and Talavera Vazquez are ideal for mounds of pasta, bottomless chip bowls, or even entrée-sized salads when you have a crowd to feed. Large handmade ceramic bowls also make stunning centerpieces on dining tables or in the living room. Fill them with fruit to encourage healthy snacks or leave empty for an artful impact.

large handmade ceramic bowllarge handmade ceramic bowl

salad bowlSalad bowls are a more moderate size — perfect for tossing and serving a green salad or other side dish. They also work well mixing bowls or as centerpieces in smaller dining spaces.

Bowls for individual use have so many potential functions. I love these bowls with scalloped edges that make soups, salads, or sundaes seem extra special. And when the bowl is empty, the design at the bottom becomes a lovely surprise.

 

handmade ceramic bowls

I love guacamole, so I’m always on the lookout for ideal dip bowls that will hold a hearty serving without looking too empty or full. Gorky’s rooster bowl is ideal for guacamole or homemade salsa because of its depth. Triple or double bowls are fabulous for serving condiments for tacos or tortilla soup. These handmade ceramic bowls also hold ice cream toppings surprisingly well.

rooster bowl

How do you use your handmade ceramic bowls? What size is your favorite? Leave a comment and let us know!

dip bowl

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La Dolce Vita

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

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

me

painting

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

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

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

tile

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

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

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

daniella

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French Finale: Colorful Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

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

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

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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Blue Monday: A Photo Essay

Blue and white. This color combination invokes the sea, summers in Greece, island living, as well as refined taste and timeless elegance. Popular with decorators the world over, blue and white accents are an excellent way to get ready for hot summer days. Try blue and white bowls, blue and white vases full of flowers, or even refresh your morning coffee routine with a new blue coffee mug. Here are some favorite uses of this fabulous color combination to keep the vibe cool inside as the temperatures rise outside.

Blue and white bowls are perfect for serving or decorating.

blue and white bowlblue and white bowl

Blue and white accent pillows quickly transform a bedroom or living room.

 

Blue and white pitchers handle sangria or fresh orange juice with stylish ease.

blue pitcher

blue and white pitcherblue and white pitcher

Before the heat of the day sets in, blue and white cups make morning coffee and tea taste even better.

blue and white cup and saucer

Illuminate rooms with blue and white lamps.

blue and white lampblue and white chevron lamp

Blue plates make for appealing food presentation, no matter the meal.

blue plate

blue plate

Show off fresh flowers from your garden with blue and white vases. Or make them beautiful outdoors with blue and white planters.

Blue and White Striped Vase

blue and white vase

blue and white planter

What ways do you like to use blue and white? Check out our blue and white Pinterest board for more uses of this timeless color combination and get into a summer mood.

Blue and white umbrella image courtesy of eli-sabeth.tumblr.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

Blue and white vases on table image courtesy of chinoiseriechic.blogspot.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

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

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

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

hillsides around Guanajuato, Mexico

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

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

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

Capelo statement vase

footed serving bowllittle blue plateCapelo Mexican ceramics

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Set a Rustic Tuscan Table with Ceramic Pitchers and Other Essentials

The charm of a rustic Italian table is unparalleled. Pitchers filled with wines and water are scattered to ensure everyone has plenty to drink. Platters piled with homemade delicacies are passed, then passed again. Exposed wood, ironwork, and handmade Italian ceramics all work together to enhance the flavors and experience.

Want to translate the homey, inviting feel of a Tuscan table to your home? Italian country décor invokes the same materials as Tuscany: large hand painted plates, ceramic salad bowls, Tuscan vases, wrought iron, glass bottles, and natural colors. Now you’re ready to invite over friends and family to feast the night away.

One of the easiest ways to get a Tuscan feel to your table is using ceramic pitchers. The thick clay keeps drinks cool in the summer and makes it easy to pour just one more glass of wine. Detailed patterns also make it easy to distinguish white wine from red wine, or adult beverages from those that are kid-friendly. A ceramic pitcher filled with wildflowers also makes for a great centerpiece, lending casual elegance to your table.

Sturdy serving pieces are also an essential for Italian country dining. A ceramic salad bowl large enough to toss greens for your entire group could also be used for a fragrant pasta dish. Platters stacked with cuts of meat or appetizing vegetables beg to be passed until diners can eat no more. Little bowls filled with sauces compliment everyone’s hand painted plates, large enough to comfortably fit a little bit of everything while adding a festive note to the table.

To feel truly like you’re in Tuscany, look for a wide-planked wooden table built to withstand the feasting of generations. If you’re satisfied with your current eating surface, a handmade tablecloth will transform it for your Italian feast; look for shades of orange and gold to compliment darker dishware. Add a Tuscan vase on the sideboard, some candles in rustic holders, and you’ll have the feel of Italy without getting on a plane. Buon appetito!

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Making Handmade Mexican Pottery Truly Your Own

gorky_paintWith a laid-back charm, cheerful patterns, and vibrant colors, the handmade Mexican pottery from Gorky Gonzalez is the ideal blend of tradition and a unique, modern feel. These ceramics always make me think of Gorky’s bustling studio in Guanajuato with ceramics in every stage all over the place. Whether a red plate for serving or indigo bowls, contemporary serving platters or dinner plates with fanciful animal designs, Gorky pottery is one of my consistent best sellers here at Emilia Ceramics and it’s easy to see why given their innate appeal.

Unsurprisingly Gorky pottery is a popular choice for registries. People love using the variety of colors and patterns to create table settings that reflect their own aesthetic.

gorky pottery

Edge patterns, animal details, and solid colors create seemingly endless possible combinations. And since registries work by the piece, it’s simple to request exactly what you’d like: Like one of each color plate or a matched set of the Las Flores dinner plates.

dinner plate

red plate

But what if the pieces you want are out of stock? Or if you love a certain design but want it on a different piece? Then it’s time for a special order. Special orders are easy (especially with Gorky’s pieces), which means you can have your favorite animal design like Gorky’s fish or bird handpainted on your dinner plates or a set of cups and saucers with your favorite blue and white design around the edge; it’s another way to make handmade Mexican pottery your own (though all of the Emilia Ceramics artists can accommodate special orders if Italian or French ceramics are more your style). Just contact me with your desires and we’ll take it from there.

Sometimes I even get ideas for new pieces from customers. Take the Gogo salad plate. These came as a request of Jennie and Sean who were getting married and wanted the cheerful colors in a smaller size. I worked with Gorky and loved these plates so much that I made them part of the Emilia Ceramics collection. The result? Jennie and Sean’s cupboard is full of colorful Gorky pottery since their wedding about a year ago. The rainbow of colors just begs to be mixed and matched, from red plates to yellow mugs to blue bowls, totally fitting their style.

gogo_mugs_plates_bowls

I like to think that Emilia Ceramics makes a personal registry even more personal. With my close relationship with our artists, these kind of special requests are fairly easy to negotiate. Getting customers’ feedback is great because sometimes their idea or request can become the next best design idea or new piece in the collection. I think everybody involved from artist to customer loves it when that happens; I know I do!

gogo_mugs_plates

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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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Bowls, Bowls, Bowls: A Photo Essay

How do you use bowls? Mini bowls, cereal bowls, soup bowls, serving bowls, salad bowls, pasta bowls, and other kinds of bowls are incredibly useful and — I’ve noticed — make for some excellent photos. Here are some of my favorites:

blue and white fruit bowl

The shelves of Poterie Ravel

Stacked bowls or bowls filled with favorite foods, there are bowl pictures of all kinds.

Bowls by Capelo

Lemon Yellow Bowls and Platters

gazpacho

How cool are these? Open-style serving bowls that look great empty or full:

What would you fill these bowls with? Pasta, salads, or lots of sweets?

Have any favorite pictures of bowls we should know about? Leave us a comment with the link!

Ice cream bowl image courtesy of timsackton.

Stacked orange bowls image courtesy of Lili Vieira de Carvalho.

Silver serving bowl image courtesy MOMA.

Blue glass bowl image courtesy of Craftori.

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Contemporary Blue and White Ceramics with Mexican Flair

blue and white cups and saucersBlue and white is certainly one of the most classically chic color combinations. Think Wedgwood or the Hope Diamond. But classic doesn’t need to mean “stuffy.” Just take a look at blue and white ceramics by Mexican artists like Talavera Vazquez and Gorky Gonzalez. Blue and white mugs, planters, vases, bowls, pitchers, and lamps never looked so chic!

The Gogo collection by Gorky’s son is a great example of this contemporary treatment. These blue and white cups and saucers have modern sensibility without looking over-designed. The Gogo long platter and oval serving dish are other blue and white ceramics that bring some flair and fun to any meal or party.

Graphic executions of blue and white, like the chevron zig zags on Vazquez’s blue and white ginger jars, are another fusion of modern and tradition. Ginger jars are beautiful accents for the home, and these designs are definitely not stuck in the past.

blue and white ginger jar

blue and white vaseI particularly like the zig zag and stripes of blue and white ceramics for plants. Cheerful and eye-catching, it’s no wonder that these blue and white planters and vases are consistent bestsellers. I think they are a fabulous foil for greenery. For example, this blue and white striped vase is stunning whether filled with a bouquet or sitting empty on a shelf, while this smaller blue and white vase accents a counter or desktop beautifully.

More typical floral motifs get an updated feel by these Mexican artists as well. The playful borders on Gorky’s blue and white dinner plates mix and match with ease, complimenting serving trays and blue and white bowls. The blue and white salad bowl by Talavera Vazquez is the perfect backdrop for your greens (much like blue and white planters and vases, now that I think about it). Solid-colored pieces put the focus more on form, highlighting the modern shapes of these blue and white bowls and plates.blue and white ceramics

Mexican flair also comes with Vazquez’s blue and white lamp bases. Truly a fusion of design and function, these blue and white lamps add a modern decorative touch along with accent lighting. Use them as a reading lamp, flanking a bed, or simply another light source for your living room.blue and white lamp base

What are your favorite blue and white ceramics? What do you think about these contemporary twists on such a classic color combination? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Much Loved (and Used) Favorites!

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One of the best things about the pop-up shop in Palo Alto is interacting with customers. Many people who walk into my shop just assume I’m an employee. Sure, I might know something about ceramics, but they don’t expect me to be quite as intimately connected with the goods as I am. I don’t blame them… I make the same assumption when I visit other stores. It’s fun to get to surprise customers by sharing that I actually know the artists who make the pieces, that I personally pick out each piece, and that I use many of the ceramics myself at home. The last piece of info is probably the most helpful to perspective customers. I can give them precise knowledge of food that looks great served on Tuscia’s square platters, promise them that all the mugs work well in the microwave, and assure them that the Vina Azul salad bowl is the best size and shape for tossing/serving salads. I love sharing personal stories of how my parents use an eclectic set of Gorky plates as their everyday dishes, how my sister serves spaghetti, ice cream, salad, chili, and IMG_0779anything else she can think of in Gorky’s pasta bowls, how my brother makes beautiful caprese salads on his Amor Platter, and how I always serve cheese and crackers on my favorite square platter with oranges. Here are some personal photos of Emilia Ceramics in use… Enjoy!

Right and Below: Dinner at my parents’ house with El Mar Platter, Oval Serving Dish, and various Gorky plates.

gorky gonzalez serving platters and plate

Below: My brother’s famous caprese salad served on the Amor Platter

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Below: Delicious and beautiful Gazpacho at my friend’s house, served in Emilia Ceramics’ Italian mugs and blue and white bowls by Gorky Gonzalez.gazpacho

Below: One of my favorite of Richard Esteban’s pieces, this oval serving platter (which I gave my dad for Christmas last year) works great for serving meat dishes and salads. We even served the turkey on it for Thanksgiving this year (but I forgot to take a photo)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_0384

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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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We’re “Bowled” Over by These New Bowls

It’s been a busy past few weeks. I’ve been setting up the Palo Alto pop-up shop, working on a new website design, and also sorting through new arrivals from Gorky Gonzalez and Capelo. Whew!

Some of my favorite new pieces are bowls. Large and small, bowls can be some of the most heavily used ceramics in anyone’s collection. I think it has to do with versatility. A soup bowl also works for cereal, salad, or a massive ice cream sundae. A ceramic pasta bowl doubles as a fruit bowl on a table or countertop; a shallow serving bowl becomes a decorative centerpiece or a mail catchall.

The large serving bowls by Gorky are a great fusion of fun and utility. The one of a kind El Pajaro bowl has a playful exuberance and would look great filled with a fresh salad or hanging on a wall. The skeleton bowl is perfect for fall with colors in warm orange, brown, yellow, blue, and green. Other Gorky bowls like the octagonal bowl with palm trees or the sunburst pasta bowl are equally charming and unique.

Other new Mexican bowls come from Capelo. I have new pieces similar to the Las Flores bowl currently in the pop-up shop (look for them on the website soon!). With its unique fluted corners, these serving bowls are perfect for mixing up cakes, pancakes, or other delicious treats – just use a corner like a spout! There are also some lovely large footed bowls which will be stunning on a coffee table or in the dining room.

Of course, bowls aren’t just for serving and display. The bright yellow of these smaller bowls by Poterie Ravel are sure to brighten any table, while the rich glazes of Gorky’s Gogo soup bowls add a rainbow of hues to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I know that my family’s table will be full of  with our favorite sides and holiday foods. How will you use bowls entertaining this year? Leave a comment and let us know, or simply share a bowl that you absolutely love.

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Get Personal with the Blue and White Ceramics that Fit Your Style

Do you love the appeal of blue and white ceramics but not sure where to begin when it comes to your home? This color combination is hugely popular for decorating, so it’s really no surprise that the options for blue dinnerware, white dishes, and blue and white serving plates appear to be endless. Broadly speaking you can find blue and white ceramics that fall into the following four categories. Pick the one that suits your aesthetic best and let that guide your choices from blue dishes to white ceramic serving platters.

Abstract Designs

Stripes, zigzags, chevrons, polka dots, and other abstract motifs can feel truly contemporary yet have a timeless appeal. For example, a blue and white ceramic vase makes a great centerpiece for your table, complimenting your serving plates and dinnerware. Geometric designs like the El Mar pattern on this ceramic serving platter have a softer organic feel and set off food to perfection. Pieces with textured patterns, like this teal blue serving platter by Richard Esteban, are also attractive and functional.

Floral Motifs

From small, delicate blooms to bold blossoms, flower patterns are quite popular for blue and white ceramics. Classic and timeless, you can use a singular pattern for these blue and white ceramics or create an entire garden of patterns on your table. Some examples are the blue Las Flores design that edges white dishes and bowls and the abstract floral motifs of this blue and white salad bowl. Another idea? A blue and white pitcher with leaves – it looks great filled with a drink or fresh flowers.

Animals

Whimsical and fun, animal designs can bring a bit of the unexpected to your dining. Choose birds, fish, roosters, or another favorite to enliven your meals. I find that animal serving plates are always a hit as there’s a surprise revealed when all the food is gone.

Handpainted animals ensure plenty of personality as no two are exactly like, such as with this playful blue and white fish serving bowl.

Solid Colors

Of course, patterns aren’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean white dishes or solid blue dinnerware need to be boring. Pick unique shapes like this long blue serving plate or modern espresso cups. Layering a blue dinner plate with white ceramic dishes of various sizes also gives depth to your place settings. Think too about mixing different shades of blue, from pale celadon to deep indigo. No matter the shade, your delicious meal will certainly stand out.

What blue and white ceramics are your favorites for the table? Do you use blue dinner plates, white serving bowls, or a mixture of these colors? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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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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Customer Spotlight: Your Favorite Uses for Serving Trays

I know my favorite ways to use Italian blue and white ceramics (like a blue and white mug for my morning coffee), but it’s always great to hear from customers about ways they use ceramics in their daily lives. Recently people have let me know about the ways they entertain with their favorite pieces, from square serving trays to blue and white ceramic bowls, so I wanted to share some of their stories with you.

At the Brown house, family dinner often involves a mix of ceramics. They mix and match serving trays from Gorky Gonzalez for mains and sides (and dinner in this photo certainly looks delicious!). The rounded shape of this rectangular serving platter makes it perfect for vegetables or desserts alike while the sloped sides of the oval serving dish keep sauces nicely contained for your main course. Even with different designs, the blue and white ties these serving trays together for a stylish meal everyday.

“Sometimes bigger really is better,” Michael wrote about his fish platter by Richard Esteban. He went on to say that this oval serving tray “is great for summer salads when I have people over for a barbeque.” I think this salad looks super delicious with the one-of-a-kind decoration around the edge. Other large trays, like this unusually shaped mustard yellow serving tray by Poterie Ravel, are ideal for handling the fixings for burgers, tacos, or other customizable meals.

On Facebook, Sarah told her secret for throwing a great party: “a beautiful Italian platter with yummy cheese and crackers.” This technique works well for a wine and cheese party, casual get together, or special occasion like a birthday, anniversary or engagement celebration. Square serving trays by Ceramiche Bartoloni with their cheerful lemons or Italian blue and white ceramics decorated with fruit motifs are great ways to use Sarah’s tip. Compliment your cheese and crackers with Italian blue and white ceramic bowls like this one with cheerful lemons.

Many thanks to all of you who have written in about how you use your ceramics and posted pictures on Facebook. Want to share your favorite uses for rectangular serving platters, Italian blue and white ceramics, or salad bowls? Simply leave a comment below!

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How to Throw the Perfect Wine and Cheese Party

There are few things that are more delicious than the pairing of cheese and wine, so it’s no wonder that this duo is the star of so many parties. You don’t need to be an expert to love the idea of wine and cheese, or to throw a fabulous wine and cheese party. Some plates, bowls, glasses, and bottles and you’re already well on your way.

Here are six ideas to make your cheese and wine party a success:

1. Leave out the snobbery. Experts can clearly articulate what makes up a wine’s “nose,” but many of us casual wine drinkers prefer to just enjoy the wine, regardless of its subtle nuances of aroma and taste. The look, swirl, smell, taste method is classic, but encourage people to share what they think using their own vocabulary. One trick I’ve seen is to cover all the bottle labels with a wine bottle holder or paper and only mark the grape (or just a number) so that people can form their own opinions without being swayed as to the wine’s region or brand.
2. Share the work. My favorite cheese and wine parties involve the guests bringing a bottle and a cheese based on a theme. It could be as simple as “red” or “Sauvignon Blanc” or get more complicated with a night dedicated to Spanish reds, New Zealand whites, Californian Wines, or bottles from 2008 only. This ad hoc approach can create some interesting (and delicious) cheese plates as well.wine tasting party idea
3. Arrange your plates in threes. Construct an appealing cheese plate with this simple rule. Have at least three things on your plate (more if it’s big) – two cheeses and one fruit, three cheeses, one cheese with some nuts and honey, you get the idea. Make sure to have a separate knife for each cheese on the plate to prevent mixing.4. Bring on the extras. Fill plates and bowls around the room with fruits, nuts, crackers, bread, and other accompaniments for your cheese and wine. Sliced apples, grapes, and dried fruits are a good starting point and can lead to some complex pairings. Some chèvre and grapes on a plate and a large bowl of fresh sliced baguette always appeals.

5. Let guests know what things are. Clearly label everything from your cheese plate to your non-alcoholic options to help people find their favorites (and know the real name of that amazingly stinky cheese). If you’re providing the wine and cheese yourself, use chalkboard contact paper as a runner to construct a clearly marked table before guests arrive. This tip from Rock UR Party also lets you draw arrows to what foods pair best with which bottles – it’s smart and fun.
6. Label your glasses. From wine charms to ribbons, even using a sharpie (it should wash off) or chalkboard paint to label the glass, there are plenty of ways to help everyone keep track of their own glasses. Pick your favorite (and make sure you have a few extra glasses in case a few end up lost regardless).

Do you have any wine and cheese party tips? Favorite plates you use? Leave a comment and let us know (and enjoy that glass of vino)!

Wine bottles and glasses image courtesy of .craig.

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Ceramica Valenciana: Spanish Ceramics Update

Work schedules are very different in Europe and the United States, especially when it comes to vacation time. It’s very common for businesses to close for weeks in the summer or even the entire month of August. What does this have to do with Spanish ceramics? Well, let’s just say that due to vacation schedules, my order from Ceramica Valenciana (a famous maker of Spanish ceramics and one of the reasons I was inspired to start Emilia Ceramics in the first place) now looks like it will arrive in fall, not summer. (Who am I kidding… let’s just hope it’s here by Christmas!)

But even though I don’t have any pieces by Ceramica Valenciana in stock yet doesn’t mean I can’t give you a sneak peak at what to expect in a few months. The full name of Ceramica Valenciana is La Cerámica Valenciana de José Gimeno and it’s been in business since 1925. This family-run business makes a full range of Spanish ceramics. Most famous for tiles (known as Azulejos in Spain) and reproductions of traditional pieces from the 18th century, they also do many modern pieces, from lamps and canisters to dishes and bowls. What I love about their work is how it combines tradition, innovation, and a fun Spanish spirit.

The quality work at Ceramica Valenciana hasn’t gone unnoticed. They won the Manises “Qualitat i Disseny” award in 1994, 1997, and 2000; the Alfa Gold Award in 1980, 2000, and 2002; and the NOVA for craft (the highest award from the Generalitat Valenciana) in 2006. They also worked with architect D. Santiago Calatrava to construct two huge murals for the Palace of Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia. This dramatic performing arts space is truly stunning; check out their virtual tour and see if you can find the two murals inside.

But even with all these modern accolades, the artists at Ceramica Valenciana still stick to their traditional majolica methods. Pieces are all handmade and hand-painted, which gives every plate, bowl, jar, and vase a truly unique character. Archive footage from 1940 shows José Gimeno himself working on large pieces – check out this video (in Spanish) to see more for yourself. The film quality feels to me like a film noir, but covering Spanish ceramic production. (Fun fact: the factory in the film is the same building that Ceramica Valenciana still occupies today. I’ve been to visit 3 times and it is an old but absolutely stunning building housing endless amounts of ceramic masterpieces.)

http://video.google.es/videoplay?docid=3822281691113565574&hl=es

Even though technology has changed in so many ways, the methods to make these beautiful ceramics have remained the same for hundreds of years. Now that Ceramica Valenciana is almost back from vacation, I look forward to finalizing my order and being able to share their gorgeous Spanish ceramics with you in the near future. Here are a few of my favorite pieces to whet your appetite…

Images and video courtesy of La Cerámica Valenciana de José Gimeno.