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Celebrating Green for St. Paddy’s Day

green fish platter

Oh, the luck of the Irish! To me, St. Patrick’s Day has always been a fun excuse to wear green and enjoy a pint of Guinness. I’ve never really thought about the historical significance of the Irish holiday, so I thought I would dig a little deeper to find out who this St. Patrick was and why all the green.

Who is St. Patrick?

st patrick greenIn the fourth century, a British born man – Magonius Sucatus Patricius – was kidnapped by Irish raiders when he was 16 and ended up spending six years in captivity in Ireland. During his captivity, he became a devout Christian. Eventually he escaped, but through a series of realized dreams he became a missionary and actually return to Ireland.

Patrick went back to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. According to tradition, he spent many years evangelizing in Northern Ireland and converted “thousands”. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland’s foremost saint. Hence, St. Patrick.

Saint Patrick’s Day, a religious feast day for the patron saint is celebrated on his day of death every year around the world on March 17th and was observed as early seventeenth century. 

So why all the green?

According to legend, St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. However, green and Ireland have gone hand in hand since at least the 1640s, when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St Patrick’s Day since at least the 1680s.

Celebrating green for St. Patrick — My top picks:

Canister – Lime Green Fish

canister-lime-green-fish

This light green canister has a rustic charm that exudes the tranquility of the French countryside where it was made.

Small Casserole with Top – Lime Green

green canister

With butter yellow glaze inside, this delightful casserole is just the right size for baking brie or a small apple crisp.

Milk Pitcher – Lime Green

green milk pitcher

The perfect size for serving milk or holding daffodils.

Fish Platter – Lime Green

green fish platter

The pop of green color in this serving dish will certainly highlight your St. Paddy’s day meal.

St. Patrick’s Day is a day of celebrating a centuries old saint who impacted a nation, and revolves around feasting. I hope you’ve enjoyed these fun little tidbits about the holiday and are inspired to add more green to your St. Paddy’s Day.

Browse our entire selection of green ceramics here.

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3 Ways to Chase Away Winter Blues with Ceramic Flower Pots

How do you get rid of wintertime blues? Sunlamps, bright colors, and warm cups of hot chocolate are some favored approaches, as is sprucing up indoor greenery to give your eyes a break from the dreary greys that dominate this time of year. Here are 3 easy ways to refresh your home for 2014 using plants and planters:

blue and white planter

1. Fill up your windows with greenery.

Chase the winter blues away by accenting your home with chic blue and white ceramic flower pots or large planters and window boxes. If you don’t already have blooming indoor plants, add color with ferns, coleus, or forced white azaleas and hydrangeas. Their delicate snowball-like bloom fits the season perfectly. Plants that get western light tend to fare better in the winter, so go all out in your west-facing windows.

2. Tuck plants into unexpected places.

Does your bathroom get any good natural light? Add aloes, bromeliads, and orchids (plants that all love humidity) to countertops, shelves, or by the tub.

bathroom plants
Try air plants if there’s not a good place for a blue and white ceramic flower pot filled; they often just need daily misting. For living or dining rooms, add unexpected greenery by training your favorite vine around the top of the room’s walls. Kitchen windows, breakfast nooks, and bedrooms are also ideal places to add a blue and white planter filled with lush greens.

3. Focus on entry spaces.

blue_and_white
The weather outside is frightful, but a sheltered porch or entryway is a good place to add some color and texture with hearty plants. Decorative grasses, camellias, winterberries, even ornamental kales work wonders placed in blue and white ceramic flower pots. Complimentary colored planters will make your plants really stand out from the dull landscape around you, cheerfully welcoming anyone who comes to your home.

Do you have favorite winter plants? Other ways to chase away the winter blues? Share them in a comment below!

camellias

Bathtub plants image courtesy JohnHedtke.

Camellias image courtesy Jocey K.

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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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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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Seeing Green: Bringing Pantone’s Color of the Year 2013 into Your Home

860 - SouthWestern Gem
Lush, vivid, sophisticated, and luxurious – that sums up emerald, Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2013, quite well. The color of unity, healing, and regeneration, interior design ideas with this year’s green range from energized prints to cool and calm solids. Looking to incorporate the richness of emerald into your home? Try out some of these ideas from wall planters to Mexican vases:

Illuminate

Get some light on the subject with a green table lamp, like this one-of-a-kind lamp by Richard Esteban. Large or small, lamps are a quick and practical way to give any room a design lift (and create atmospheric lighting).

green table lamp

For a romantic touch, add some green candles to the mantle, bedside table, or sideboard. If you love the look of ivory or cream tapers, choose a green candle holder that’s full of personality like this whimsical double candle holder.

green candle holder

Serve

Bring emerald to your guests with green trays, green plates, green glasses, and green pitchers. Ok, maybe all of those at once will feel too much like St. Patrick’s Day, but emerald green serving ware definitely adds a luxe tone to a meal or a party. One of my favorite green trays is this French country cheese platter. The border and handle detail makes your favorite cheeses or other appetizers look extra delicious.

large green cheese plate

Green pitchers add style to water, juice, or wine, and make your favorite drink easy to pour at the table.

green pitcher

Soften

Green also makes for great fabrics that invoke gardens, jungles, jewels, or just a sense of vibrancy. Update your living room with green chevron curtains or add patterned emerald throw pillows to your couch. A green blanket or patterned rug also packs some emerald punch and keeps things looking fresh.

Plant

Flowers and house plants are another quick way to add some natural emerald to your home. This green Mexican vase with an abstract pattern looks stunning filled with blooms or empty on a shelf.

green vase

For those that live on the patio, add some green wall planters with French chic. Wall planters are ideal for trailing plants or for those who want to make the most of small garden spaces. Why leave the emerald only inside?

green wall planter

How are you using emerald for 2013? Do you love green plates, furniture, or other home accessories? Leave a comment and let us know!

Jewel image courtesy of Patrick Hoesly.
Living room image courtesy of decorpad.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

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Our Favorite Italian Ceramics, Patterns, and Pieces

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

Italian platters

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

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

oval_due_limoni

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

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

Tuscan Fruit Long Platter

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

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

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

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Warm Up Your Winter Garden with These Hot Outdoor Pots and Plants

Even though it’s January, there’s no reason for your garden to be neglected. Inspired by Sunset Magazine’s tips to refresh a winter garden, here are some ways to keep your garden looking chic all winter long with outdoor pots and more:

Change your color palette

Highlight white blooms and bright green leaves, perhaps with touches of purple or burgundy. If you don’t get snow in your area, this is a way to stay seasonal and fresh at the same time. Accent your white blooms with white cushions on patio furniture, giving the garden a serene look as it prepares for the colors of spring.

Get creative with greenery

Ferns are not the only answer to your greenery needs. Grasses are another hearty option, or try something interesting like this fiber optics plant in a zig zag ceramic planter. Coleus plants with their wide variety of colors and patterns are another creative greenery choice for your ceramic pots for plants indoors or out.

Accent your entryway

Nothing says welcome quite like a door flanked by pots and tall plants. Spiky or fountain-like shapes draw the eyes, particularly when in striking outdoor plant containers. Layer in low growing plants around the rim for a stacked effect that’s particularly eye-catching.

Bring plants inside

Fill your windowsills with greenery (particularly if you don’t have an outdoor garden of your own). Not only does this chase the winter blues away, you can also accent your home with chic black and white planters or cleverly designed small flower pots. Another idea: fill large flower pots indoors with white azaleas and hydrangeas forced into bloom; they look like delicate snowballs.

Group pots on a doorstep

Instead of a formal style door flanking, a small cluster of large and small flower pots dress up any porch or doorstep. A mix of patterns – zig zag planters, ceramic striped outdoor pots, and plain clay flower pots – filled with an interesting plants like purple kale and crimson ‘Fire Power’ nandina makes for a colorful homage to the season.

How do you warm up your winter garden? Have any tips for using outdoor pots or ceramic zig zag planters? Leave a comment and let us know!

Narcissus image courtesy of nosha.

Coleus image courtesy of Pharaoh Hound.

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Ceramic Pitchers, A Stylish and Functional Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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New Arrival: Owl and Rooster Cream and Sugar Sets

Sometimes I get new pieces and I’m tempted just to hold onto them myself. The new rooster pitchers and cream and sugar sets from Gorky Gonzalez are definitely in that category. Given the popularity of Gorky’s salt & pepper sets, I was thrilled on my last buying trip to Mexico to see more animal additions for the table in the form of some useful feathered friends. These owls and roosters are definitely a fun addition to any home, lending charm to your kitchen counter, tabletop, or afternoon tea service.

I love the owl creamer’s huge green eyes ringed in yellow. The handpainted detailing of feathers and feet give this little owl lots of personality, making it the ideal addition to any cream and sugar set. The small owl pitcher is another newcomer to the collection. Bigger than the creamer, its angles and colorful patterning almost feel art deco in shape and line, particularly in the clever construction of the stylized beak as a spout. Use either of these owls as a wise addition to the breakfast table or for afternoon coffee and tea; they also look great as a little accent vase for a small bouquet of wildflowers.

Besides the new owls, the new one of a kind rooster sugar bowl is another great addition for anyone who loves roosters. The comb comes off as the lid, and the vibrant colors compliment other pieces in Gorky’s collection, particularly the rooster and chicken salt and pepper shakers. Pair this sugar bowl with a rooster creamer to create your own one of a kind cream and sugar set that’s sure to get compliments whenever you use it, especially when paired with the brightly colored Gogo mugs.

Judging by how people love Gorky’s salt and pepper shakers, I don’t expect to hold onto these new arrivals for long. I think they would make excellent gifts, particularly for a housewarming or hostess present (or even just for yourself). Like these new creamer sugar set pieces or the salt and pepper shakers? Leave a comment and let us know which are your favorites.

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New Italian Soap Dish from Ceramiche Bartoloni

Do you get excited about Italian soap dishes? Have you ever even thought about Italian soap dishes? Believe it or not, these little ceramic pieces can be quite exciting. I wasn’t much of a fan myself before I visited Ceramiche Bartoloni on a buying trip years ago. The beauty of their hand-painted Italian soap dishes was astounding and the variety of shapes and sizes was a revelation. Practical and decorative, I found that these small accessories add big style throughout the home.

Our newest Italian soap dish at Emilia Ceramics is no exception. In the ever-popular blu limoni design, this square Italian soap dish is too pretty just to stay in the bathroom. It’s also perfect for holding sponges, hand soap, or other cleaning supplies by the kitchen sink. More alternate uses for this Italian soap dish include using it as a small serving dish; it holds lime and lemon slices for drinks or taco night, olives or nuts for appetizers, and any other garnishes for your meal. I’ve also seen these Italian soap dishes used to organize rings, as a place for depositing keys, or even as a stylish spot to store a cellphone.

With so many uses for this small piece, an Italian soap dish is the perfect go-to hostess, housewarming, or birthday gift. Pair this square Italian soap dish or one of the round ones with a luxurious bar of soap and voilà! The vivid blue, yellow, and green of the blu limoni pattern works in both modern or traditional spaces, making this Italian soap dish truly versatile in both usages and design aesthetics. Who knew that soap dishes could look this good and do so much?

Stay tuned for more new ceramic arrivals on the website in coming weeks as I get through sorting all the new pieces arriving from Mexico. Check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages for photos and updates as they happen.

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Adding French Country Charm to Your Home

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

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

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

French country kitchen image courtesy of thekitchendesigner.

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What Makes French Ceramics So Special?

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

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

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

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

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

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No Foolin’ When It Comes to Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

How does Gorky Gonzalez pottery link up with April Fool’s Day? For one, I think this collection of plates, bowls, mugs, salt and pepper shakers, and so much more is the perfect example of fool-proof design. It doesn’t matter how gullible you might be when it comes to pranks, you can trust in Gorky pieces for a consistently stylish and eclectic table setting.

What makes Gorky Gonzalez pottery fool-proof is that everything literally goes with everything, whether through matching patterns, colors, or motifs. Instead of having to pick just one design, you can indulge in all your favorites for a truly unique collection. Plates are the perfect example with rooster plates, caballero plates, fish plates, palm tree plates, and a range of border motifs from la fiesta to las flores or la mexicana. This mix of motifs extends throughout Gorky Gonzalez pottery with platters and bowls that work together for a bright and fresh place setting for any table.

If you want something a little less decorated, the sleek and modern Gogo collection features solid colors for plates, mugs, bowls, and espresso cups. Contemporary Gogo pieces make it easy to work within a defined color palette (perhaps blue and white or yellow and green), and then add to it with a variety of patterned and solid colored pieces, creating your own Gorky Gonzalez pottery collection.

But what’s a table with just some plates and bowls? Fun salt and pepper shakers add a note of whimsy, like these bunnies (great for the upcoming Easter holiday). Butter dishes, candle holders, cream and sugar sets, and little dishes for dips and condiments complete your look, whether enjoyed by just the family or a group of guests.

Gorky pottery remains one of my favorites in part because it’s just so much fun, and what dining experience isn’t enhanced with fun?

You could say that I’m a fool for Gorky Gonzalez pottery and you’d be right. Thankfully I’m not alone. It’s hard not to be taken by the great design, craftsmanship, and personality of this collection. Whether it’s a small rooster plate for salad or a large serving dish, there’s nothing foolish about adding some Gorky Gonzalez pottery to your table.

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Spring-Inspired Home Design Ideas

Now that spring is officially here, what better time to revitalize your home design with some fresh color? This year’s design trends have lots of bright colors paired with neutral creams and grays, says Patch. While we’ve all heard about Pantone’s Tangerine Tango for months, this vibrant orange is one of many brights to choose from: Lemon, lime green, and other warm colors are also on the scene for everything from paint to throw rugs and furniture. The graphic chevrons of this burnt orange ginger jar lamp are a perfect example of this color design trend at work in the home.

ginger jar lamp

Graphic patterns like chevrons and stripes have been on the radar for months and their popularity shows no sign of letting up. When graphic prints and colors combine, you get tiles, blankets, plates, trays, and fabric that instantly enlivens any room, like these examples at Elle Décor. The age of the single statement patterned piece is over, with prints and patterns mixing with reckless abandon. My tip for making this mix harmonious is to stick with the same color palette for different pieces. Blues and white, yellows, and greens are some of my personal favorite starting points, depending on the room. The textures will create a richness that instantly brightens any space.

I was clearly excited to read in the Coloradan that ceramics themselves are especially popular this spring. A focus on textures and finishes continues the fascination with graphic patterns. Artisan work quickly gives design cachet to everything from the foyer to kitchen. Mix up your plates for some spring color at the dining table or showcase fresh flowers with bud vases perfect for single blooms. Every design aesthetic has complimentary ceramic styles, it’s just a matter of finding what works for you. Ginger jars are a great example: Chinese ginger jars, ginger jar lamps, or modern ginger jars by Talavera Vazquez all interpret a gorgeous design piece in a very different way.

With all these design ideas, I’m thinking about a simple makeover for the living room. Add a couple fun throw pillows in unusual sizes or shapes to couches and chairs, a smart ginger jar lamp or statement vase, and perhaps a coat of a bold paint on one wall. Take advantage of spring cleaning fever to clean out a closet or clear your living room shelves of items you no longer need. By creating more space, you’ll feel more free to try out some fun spring-worthy design, from ginger jars to unique textiles and colors. Happy spring!

Traditional textile image by shaire productions.

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Italian Style, Italian Ceramics: 5 Top Tips

Italian style seems so effortless, from a relaxed afternoon sipping espresso in the piazza to zipping around town on a Vespa. I know that life in Italy isn’t all what we see in the movies, but there’s still an enviable charm about “la dolce vita.” It’s one of the reasons that Italian ceramics are consistently top sellers – people long for a way to incorporate some of this laid-back style into their own homes.

So how can you add a little Italian style into your home? Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years when it comes to Italian ceramics:

1. Matchy matchy. Italian style dinnerware comes in many textures, colors, and sizes. Some people have a favorite Deruta pattern and only buy pieces from a particular artist or manufacturer (much like what my grandmother’s generation did with china patterns). I encourage mixing and matching various styles instead of becoming dependent on one specific Deruta pattern, which could stop being produced before your collection is complete or as soon as you break a few dinner plates. Ceramics that are painted by hand will always vary anyway, so why not embrace the variety!

2. Start small. All transformations take time, so gradually introducing Italian ceramics into your home with a piece or two is a smart way to go. An Italian earthenware utensil holder adds color and personality to your counter while keeping ladles, wooden spoons, whisks, and all your other kitchen tools in easy reach. Other options are perhaps an Italian ceramic centerpiece platter for your kitchen or dining room table, a spoon rest for your stovetop, or a handmade Italian ceramic vase in your living room.

3. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Sometimes a price tag can be informative… “made in Italy” on a platter that costs $19.99 for instance, probably means it was signed in Italy. However, that doesn’t mean you can always equate expense with quality. I think this assumption is one reason people spend so much money on Vietri dinnerware. While well-known for emulating Tuscan style, I think that Vietri ceramic fails to capture a truly handmade spirit. While quality is definitely worth paying for, a large price tag doesn’t guarantee quality. Skip Vietri dinnerware and find Italian ceramics that showcase the artist’s personality and match your aesthetic.

4. Color counts. Instead of trying to get the patterns of your Tuscan style dinnerware to all match, chose a few colors and build a collection around those. The variety will add depth and interest to your table, particularly when it comes to layering pieces. From Deruta patterns to Italian majolica pottery, you’re sure to find colors that work with your style. Warm yellows, soft greens, vivid blues, and rich reds are just the beginning.

5. Pack a design punch. Statement pieces are another quick way to transform a room or entire home. Instead of an entirely new collection of Italian style dinnerware, incorporate some stylish serving platters. Italian ceramic planters are another favorite as are wall plates or large Italian earthenware vases. Tuscany here you come!

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Why Buy Ceramics for Valentine’s Day?

My Love Comes Bearing GiftsI’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day recently (as those of you who get the newsletter already know). If you have a special someone to celebrate it with, it’s time to come up with a plan. It’s probably one of the worst times to try and go out to eat (reservations fill up fast and set menus don’t usually showcase a restaurant’s best dishes). Roses are cliché, the same goes for chocolates. But what about buying ceramics online for your sweetheart?

Think about it. Ceramics are durable (just like your love). They’re timeless (just like your love). They look good for years and can be used as a daily reminder of your love, whether simple coffee mugs or an elaborately-decorated vase. Of course, when you buy ceramics online, you’ll have many options – here are some ideas to help you decide what’s right for your Valentine’s Day gift:

Seeing Red: Valentine’s day is full of red and pink. If your sweetie loves those colors, bonus! Red ceramic platters, mugs, and bowls are just some ceramics to buy that fit personal tastes and the holiday. I think red’s cheerful year-round, but if it’s not a favorite, think about classic blue and white, warm yellows, or even rich greens. A gift that reflects personal taste is always best, no matter the occasion. From clean, graphic ceramics to rich Tuscan and French country pieces, there’s something for everyone.

Shipping: When you buy ceramics online, check out the shipping policy before shopping around. Is there an express option to get your gift delivered before February 14? What’s the policy on breakage? With a week to go, most places should be able to deliver your gift with a day to spare.

Special Touches: Traditional gifts are sweet, don’t get me wrong. But why not add something a little extra? A vase with a note saying “For all the flower bouquets to come” sets up a year-long romantic gesture that’s sure to be appreciated. For wine lovers, this black and white striped wine bottle holder would work well with a bottle of Lucky Night wine by Swanson Vineyards. Love someone who loves coffee or tea? Find the perfect ceramic mug for their daily cup along with some of their preferred brew. The Gran Taza ensures they have enough for the morning at home or the office.

      

When Size Matters: Good things come in both big and small packages. When choosing ceramics to buy, think about your sweetheart’s space and preferences. A statement vase might be beautiful, but take up too much space on a small shelf. If space isn’t an issue, try a bold planter for the window or patio. Even better, complete this gift with a flowering plant, so your Valentine can enjoy flowers long after February 14th.

Pink package image courtesy of Vincent van der Pas.

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New Year, New Growth in Ceramic Flower Pots

morning in the garden . . .Happy New Year! It’s the time of year we make optimistic resolutions, invest in new gym memberships and generally pursue good intentions for at least 6 weeks until old habits kick in. Change is good, of course, but drastic and dramatic changes in our daily routine are hard to sustain. So how to make 2012 get off to a fresh start that will actually last past February (and doesn’t involve the gym every 12 hours)?

Changing our environment is a great way to make a sustained impact this year. So think green. Literally. With ceramic flower pots and beautiful plants you can instantly alter your environment, bringing lush vibrancy to any room in the home or even brighten up the office. Decorative pottery is always an easy way to change the tone of a space, so add plants to the mix for a more dynamic personal touch.

If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry. “Greenifying” your home doesn’t require extensive gardening knowledge. Start maybe with some bulbs in ceramic flower pots – buy them at your favorite florist while they’re blooming and stick the whole pot into a piece of decorative pottery (like the round Paloma planter).

There are lots of hardy ferns and vines that only need minimal watering and look fantastic in the square hidalgo planter. The black and white is incredibly striking with green.

Succulents are another low-maintenance way to fill ceramic flower pots. An oval planter, round ceramic flower pot, or rectangle shape fits several different plants, creating a miniature garden with cacti, air-plants, aloe, and other curious shapes with names too long for me to remember. I love the air-plants at Paxton Gate here in San Francisco, they can go anywhere from wall to centerpiece.

Plants help filter the air and are cited in studies for everything from helping with fatigue to making people feel happy and focused. If you work in an office, hang this great ceramic planter by Richard Esteban on your cubical or office wall with a cascading vine or lush fern. Or add the square hidalgo planter to a corner of your desk. If your bathroom gets enough light, add a small ceramic flower pot or two there as well for a bit of color in an often lifeless space. Orchids thrive in the humid environment your showers create, making them easy to care for.

No matter what you fill your ceramic flower pots with, here’s to a happy, thriving, and green new year for all!

Plant image courtesy of hortulus.