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Gift Ideas for Celebrating The Special Women in Your Life

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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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Part III: Fresh Fall Design Trends This Year

In Part 2 of my look at fresh fall design trends this year, I reviewed options for how to add metallic accents and mix metals and woods when designing in the home. And since winter has yet to hit Colorado, there’s still time to experiment with the third and final trend among this year’s seasonal décor styles.

From leading with neutrals to mixing materials and patterns, this is probably my favorite among the three trends I’ve explored this season.
Continue reading Part III: Fresh Fall Design Trends This Year

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Ohhh Valentine’s Day… The holiday of love that either makes you excited or just plain annoyed. Valentine’s Day is a romantic, sweet holiday designed to show the people you love how much you care about them. And while this is a great gesture, let’s be realistic: It can be stressful! If you’re married or in a committed relationship, you may have a jump start on what your loved one would enjoy for this holiday. Flowers, chocolates, a romantic fancy dinner, or maybe a fantastic bottle of wine? While you’re contemplating your plans, let us help with some meaningful, thoughtful Valentine’s gift ideas that will be sure to please any and all loved ones in your life.

 

1. A Gorgeous Vase

A vase filled with stunning flowers is a beautiful, meaningful gift that will be sure to please. Whether for your special someone, best friend, or parent – there really isn’t anyone who won’t enjoy a beautiful vase of flowers. And while flowers can feel a bit cliche for Valentine’s Day, a gorgeous vase won’t! Pair a stunning ceramic vase with a flower arrangement and your loved one will have a gift they can enjoy for months to come. Bright florals including pink, yellow, red, and white really make a statement in a ceramic vase. Thankfully, Emilia Ceramics has vases in various colors and designs – so you’re sure to find something you love! Check out some of my personal favorites below.

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Shop our entire Vase Collection here >>

 

2. A Beautiful Jewelry Box

Jewelry is another typical gift for Valentine’s Day. And while you can never really go wrong with jewelry, why not combine it with a stunning jewelry box? Give the perfect gift of jewelry with an element of surprise – your special someone will be sure to ooh and ahh and enjoy every time they see it. Here are some colorful and unique jewelry boxes:

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Shop our Jewelry Box Collection here >>

 

3. A Fabulous Dessert Plate

Chocolate is another go-to gift for Valentine’s Day. While giving chocolate can feel very cliche, the truth is, everyone loves chocolate! So why not forget the heart-shaped box and instead, give someone you love some delicious chocolate (or any other sweet) beautifully displayed on a fabulous, handcrafted dessert plate. Handmade by our exclusive artists, simple dark chocolate becomes a generous, thoughtful gift when it’s placed on a decorative and meaningful dessert plate… Making it the perfect gift for friends and family!

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Shop our entire Dessert Plate Collection here >>

 

How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? Any creative gift ideas you’d like to share?

 

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The Artists and Stories Behind Handmade Ceramic Artwork

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

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

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

Cultural & Historical Uses:

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

italian_fruit_canisterAbove: Frutta Venezia Canister by Ceramiche Bartoloni >>

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

black_and_white_canisterAbove: Ajos Garlic Keeper Canister by Ceramica Valenciana >>


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Above: Garbanzos Canister by Ceramica Valenciana >>

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

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Above: Dolores Tibor by Talavera Vazquez >>

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Above: Small Black Striped Tibor by Talavera Vazquez >>

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

Cultural & Individual Business Practices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gift Guide Part IV: Gifts for Your Special Someone

Whether you’ve just started dating someone special, been together a few years, or have been married half your life, picking an original, thoughtful gift can be tough! It’s enough to make you want to forget the whole thing. But don’t despair… I’ve got a few ideas that’ll make a big statement, at a variety of price points. Hopefully, you’ll find just the thing to wow your special someone.

For Her: An Italian Footed Platter

Looking to splurge on a statement piece that shows just how much you love her? A classic Italian footed platter is a unique gift that will be sure to surprise and impress! A footed platter looks gorgeous filled with fruit or as a sophisticated centerpiece on the dining room table. Every time she looks at this handcrafted work of art, she’ll think of you and feel loved. Handmade by Ceramiche Bartoloni and Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia in Tuscany, starting at $145.

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Above: Foglia e Frutta Footed Platter by Ceramiche Bartoloni, $145.

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Above: Pomegranate Footed Platter by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia, $185.

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Above: Tuscan Fruit Footed Platter by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia, $185.

Shop all Italian platters here >>

For Her: A Fun and Festive Mexican Vase

Starting at just $48, these vases are bold, colorful, and totally unique to the Emilia Ceramics collection. The small round vase doubles as a makeup brush holder, the medium size vase looks amazing with tulips, and the largest makes a statement on its own and filled with long-stem roses or sunflowers. Your only decision is color — Is her style cheerful, bright, and sunny? If so, opt for the yellow or burnt orange vases. Is she more of a traditionalist? Go with blue and white. And if she’s more contemporary, then a black and white vase is an easy choice. You really can’t go wrong with these Mexican vases, handmade by Talavera Vazques.

 

 

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Above: Clockwise from left Yellow Striped Round Vase; Burnt Orange Striped Vase; Black Striped Vase – Especial; Large Blue ZigZag Vase. Shop the entire Vase Collection Here >>

For Her: An Original, Meaningful Mug

Does she love her coffee time in the morning? Or cherish a cup of tea before bed? Make those moments even more special by giving her a one-of-a-kind, handmade mug that reminds her of you every time she uses it! Here are a few of our favorite mugs, starting at $20:

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Above: Cherry Red & White Mugs by Gorky Gonzalez, $20 each.

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Above: Cherry Mug by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia, $48 each.

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Above: Blue Striped Mug by Talavera Vazquez, $34 each.

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Above: Polka-dot Mugs by Richard Esteban, $90 for the pair. Also available individually.

Shop the entire Mug Collection Here >>

For Him: A Functional Serving Plate

Lots of guys like hosting their friends, but they don’t want to make a big fuss about it. Help him make the most of his chips & guac, cheese spread, or barbecued meats with these platters:

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Above: This is the perfect oval dish for chips and salsa, guacamole, or any other dip. La Azteca Oval Dish and Matching Dip Bowl by Gorky Gonzalez, $84 for the set.

 

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Above: This richly-glazed French platter will elevate any cheese spread. Medium Cheese Plate in Barn Red by Richard Esteban, $145.

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Above: The Pomegranate Oval Serving Platter (or any other Italian platter for that matter) dresses up any meal, making even sausage look sophisticated! By Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia, $165.

For Him: Pottery with Personality

These unique pieces will surely bring a smile to his face… and remind him of your love whenever he’s using them.

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Above: The Tequila Shot Set by Gorky Gonzalez ($58) might encourage a little too much tequila-drinking, but at least it’s beautifully handmade and painted, exuding tons of Mexican charm!

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Above: The simplicity of these Spanish Cups by Ceramica Valenciana is what makes them so stylish. $46 for the set, also available individually.

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Above: Does he love salsa? For the guy who can never have enough salsa, these bowls are sure to be a big hit! Pair of Salsa Bowls by Ceramica Valenciana, $56 (also available individually).

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Above: Whether he’s a lover of everything Italian or he’s always dreamed of drawing his sword on horseback, this beautifully-painted, one-of-a-kind piece will show him how much you love and appreciate his colorful sense of humor. Harlequin Tile with Horseman by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia, $285.

Be sure to check out our first three gift guides as well:

Gifts for Under $50 >>
Fabulous Gift Ideas for Under $100 >>
The Perfect Gift for Mom >>

 

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Ahhh, Valentine’s Day

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Is Valentine’s Day officially the most controversial non-religious holiday? I think so. Some people love it. Lots hate it. And then there are the parents of young kids, who equate it with mandatory baking and craft-making responsibilities. Whatever camp you fall into, it definitely feels like a day that’s loaded with pressure. If you’re a teenager, you feel the pressure to have a Valentine… to give or get cards or roses (mostly to not be empty-handed). If you’re in a new relationship, Valentine’s Day is especially stressful: What should you do to celebrate? What kind of gift is appropriate? Should you pretend you don’t even know that February 14th has any sort of significance? (Probably smart).

If you’re in a long-term relationship or married, it becomes a bit easier (I think). You actually know your Valentine and know whether it’s important to him/her to go big or not. I think it’s nice to celebrate Valentine’s Day some years, whether that’s with a romantic dinner, roses, or a heart-felt card, but then to skip it other years. As far as I’m concerned, it’s like birthdays: some of them you want to celebrate and others you want to forget. It shouldn’t be expected that Valentine’s Day has to be perfect every year and it definitely shouldn’t cost a ton of money. But if you are feeling romantic this year and do want to celebrate the special person in your life, I suggest giving them something thoughtful, unique, and of course meaningful. While there are plenty of non-ceramic gifts that fall into this category, I think a useful and beautiful piece of ceramics makes an ideal Valentine’s Day gift. Here are some ideas that are sure to please!

A Handmade, Hand-Painted Mug

The great thing about a mug is that it gets used everyday. And while you want it to look good with other kitchen decor, it doesn’t have to match. In fact, almost everyone likes a little diversity when it comes to their mug collection. These are my current favorites and they would all make great Valentine’s Day gifts. (From left: Mexican Cherry Red & White Mug, Italian Cherry Mug, Spanish Te Mug)
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A Vase to Hold Flowers All Year Long

Who wants to get flowers only on Valentine’s Day, when it’s most expected? Not the women I know. They would rather be surprised on April 14th or August 14th, instead of just in February. (Or maybe in addition to February). What better way to make flowers a year-round tradition than to gift a new vase to show off all the flowers to come — And to look good between flower deliveries as well! Depending on the size of flower your Valentine prefers, these are great vase options: The Mexican Black Striped Vase (pictured above with long-stem roses, it also works well with sunflowers), French Polkadot Perfection Pitcher (great for tulips or daffodils), Italian Large Pomegranate Pitcher (for a mix of fresh flowers straight from the garden).

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A New Platter for Serving Double-Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate is closely linked to romance and Valentine’s Day. But really, the important thing is indulging with whatever dessert makes you feel loved and/or puts you in the mood for love. Why not dress up your Valentine’s favorite cookies, brownies, or cupcakes with one of these beautiful platters?! They also make great serving pieces for other types of food, all year long. (The depth of the Mexican Amor Oval Serving Dish makes it perfect for cupcakes; The French Vive l’Amour Plate says it all for you!; The Mexican Cherry Red Long Platter is a great backdrop for cookies or chocolate-covered strawberries; And the Italian Oval Serving Platter with Lemons is just begging to be topped with rich chocolate brownies.

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Need more Valentine’s Day inspiration? Check out the Emilia Ceramics Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas. Or read these posts from previous Valentine’s Days…
2014: Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Beyond the Clichés
2013: Vases for Your Valentine from Around the World
2012: Why Buy Ceramics for Valentine’s Day?

 

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The Real Deal: How to Find Authentic Deruta and Spot Fakes

Deruta ceramics are justly famous. Their rich colors and intricate patterns also make this Italian ceramic style one of the most copied. Today seemingly every store sells Deruta and Italian style dinnerware, but most of it is not actually from Italy. So how can you avoid fake Deruta and get the real stuff?

Deruta ceramics

Buy handmade Italian ceramics

Many of the “Deruta-inspired” ceramics are labeled as such, but not all. Of course there are plenty of beautiful Italian handmade ceramics from other regions than Deruta. If a piece hasn’t been made by hand, it isn’t real Deruta majolica. Price can be an obvious give-away. If the price of a platter or pitcher seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Look for the mark

Genuine handmade Deruta should have a maker’s signature on the bottom of the piece, whether it was made this year or in the 1500s. This mark will often say the country of origin along with the name of the studio. Some pieces will even have the artist’s name or initials.

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Check out the glaze

Authentic handpainted ceramics have an unglazed foot at the bottom. This ring will look and feel slightly rough to the touch, like in the photo above. If a ceramic is completely glazed, including the foot, it’s likely been painted by a machine. Handpainted glaze will also have slight variations in thickness that you can feel.

Learn about pattern types

Deruta majolica has a fair number of named, traditional patterns. Some standouts: Raffaellesco (look for the dragon), Galletto (look for the rooster), Arabesco (inspired by Persian calligraphy), and Ricco Deruta (based on stylized wheat-shafts and scrolls used by early Romans).

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All are characterized by intricate details and rich colors. Deruta artists also create their own pattern variations, making for lots of options (sometimes too many!). Get familiar with what’s available, then mix and match to your heart’s content.

Find the brushstrokes and crazing

Even the most experienced artists have visible brushstrokes on their ceramics. Deruta’s intricate patterns can make these a little hard to see, but any large section of color will have visible variations. You’ll also likely see slight variations in the pattern from piece to piece. Any older Italian majolica ceramics will have crazing, little hairlines in the glaze, a natural result of the aging process. Be suspicious of anything that looks too perfect.

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Ask about the artists

Deruta’s artists made the region famous for majolica in the 1600s. If you can find out about the studio where the ceramics were made, you’ll be less likely to end up with something manufactured on an assembly line elsewhere.

 

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Santa Fe Indian Market: Incredible Handmade Pottery and More

I ended up at Santa Fe’s incredible annual Indian Market just the other week purely by chance. But what a feast for the eyes! The entire plaza downtown was covered in booths with art ranging from ceramics to handweavings to paintings. Native American artists bring to the market truly incredible examples of their work, often from multiple generations.

New Mexico landscape

This was my first visit to New Mexico. It was much greener than I expected, thanks to recent rains. Santa Fe was full of cool spots, like the revitalized Santa Fe Railyard that now boasts cafes, restaurants, and weekly market events.

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Walking towards the Plaza we passed a bunch of beautiful doorways, churches, and lots of hanging bunches of peppers. Apparently dried peppers are a New Mexico thing; they were everywhere. We got to the fringes of the market and suddenly there were rows and rows of artist’s booths. I have an unerring eye for locating silver jewelry that’s completely beyond my price range, but looking at the incredible, detailed earrings, I knew they were worth every penny.

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The Indian Market covers 14 blocks, with more than 1,000 artists in over 600 booths. All that art plus all the people browsing made for quite a crowd. I saw ceramic artists with tables full of figurative pottery next to other artists who specialized in black glazed bowls and other decorative-looking vessels. Different pueblos have different clay available for their craft, the secrets of which have passed down from generations. I talked with a family who had an array of shiny, black glazed animal ceramics. The smallest pieces had been done by the 12-year-old daughter, larger pieces by the daughter in her 20’s, and then incredibly intricate, large figures made by their grandfather. It seemed that everything the mother had made was already sold. Lesson: if you got to the Santa Fe Indian Market, go on Saturday. And have cash or checks with you.

Unfortunately the batteries in my phone drained taking this video of a boy doing a traditional hoop dance, so I have no photos of the incredible array of handmade pottery that was there. He had incredible flair and verve; he also can’t be more than 5 years old.

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Although the Indian Market is only once a year, handmade ceramics abound year round. I saw talavera ceramics quite frequently, including these ceramic tiles on the wall outside of a shop.

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It’s like the red sports car phenomenon: when you have one, you can’t help but see them anywhere. Though in my case I can’t help but see majolica-style ceramics. It’s probably no surprise that much of the majolica I saw looks quite similar to traditional Mexican ceramics. After all, these ceramic traditions stretch back before today’s borders.

Have you been to Santa Fe’s Indian Market? What caught your eye? Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

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Have You Heard of Capelo Pottery?

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

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

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

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

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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!

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Let’s Talk Home Decor

I’ve never had a house of my own… but I’ve had a few apartments, first in San Francisco and now in Boulder, CO. The styles of the apartments have differed quite a bit, but wherever I live, I try to put my own personal stamp on the space pretty quickly. It’s the best way to feel ‘at home’ when nothing else in life feels familiar.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my personal style really is, as I troll through my favorite design websites and blogs and find myself coveting certain houses, rooms, and remodels I see displayed around the internet. I am definitely drawn to home decor that mixes art and color (I guess that’s pretty obvious if you’ve seen my website!). Here are a few pics from a really cool house in New Orleans, where they’ve perfectly layered fun artistic finds with bold colors to create a homey, welcoming, yet cheerful living space.

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I love the turquoise chairs! They’re so inviting and yet so unexpected and original. In a similar vein, I think this blue couch (below) is amazing. I love the old-fashioned flair it lends to an otherwise modern room. It’s this sort of eclectic style that really draws me in.

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In my living spaces, I often use oil paintings (my mom is an amazing landscape artist), photography from my travels, and of course, ceramic artwork to provide that colorful, yet contemporary and totally personal feel. Really, any favorite piece of art works well. These cheerful accessories have the power to transform a new house into a home that feels lived in, loved, and super inviting. Some examples:

I love these fun whale bookends! So unique:

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This Italian Lamp is colorful, yet sophisticated. It’s functional artwork at its finest:

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Here, a Chevron Ginger Jar is used to add personality, depth, and a hand-crafted touch to an otherwise plain white corner.

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Kids artwork is another great way to add color and personality to your walls:

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Creating a Great Bridal Registry

angel_platter_2When it comes to putting together the perfect gift registry, the most important thing to remember is: ‘you are what you register for.’ In other words, choose stores and products that speak to who you are (both bride and groom)… and who you are as a couple. If you achieve that, your guests will enjoy buying you gifts and you will love receiving them.

So don’t just list what your mom tells you to list. And don’t just go to Crate & Barrel because everyone else you know did. Think about what you really want and need, what your fiancé wants and needs, and most importantly, what the two of you will truly use and enjoy together. And then list away! Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking…

For Entertaining

Do you love having people over for drinks, dinner, brunch, or barbecue? Maybe you aren’t a great entertainer yet, but you aspire to be one. Either way, if hosting parties is something that excites you, be sure to include the supplies you need on your registry. The bonus of these gifts is that your friends and family will be able to see them being used and enjoyed when they come to your next dinner party!

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Best Stores for Entertaining Supplies:
– Emilia Ceramics for Unique Platters and Serving Bowls
– Williams-Sonoma for Barbecue Supplies
– Crate & Barrel for Glassware

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For New Homeowners

Does getting married coincide with moving into a new house? Lucky you… what a great time to ask friends to contribute special additions to your home that will become future family heirlooms. When you’re shopping for gifts that will be incorporated into your new home decor, it’s important to pick classic objects that won’t be out of style a year from now.

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Best Stores for Home Decor:
– Macy’s for Bed and Bath
– Emilia Ceramics for Lamps and Vases
– Sur la Table for Pots and Pans

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For World Travelers

Again, you don’t have to be a world traveler to aspire to travel the world… now’s your chance to get help from friends and family who want to encourage your dreams as a married couple. So think big, whether that means new suitcases, camping equipment, or ceramics that mentally transport you to the South of France or the Mexican Riviera.

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Best Stores for Travel-Related Gifts:
– Macy’s for Luggage
– REI for Camping Equipment
– Emilia Ceramics for Worldly Mugs

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Spring: The Official Season of Emilia Ceramics

Yesterday, I sent out a newsletter with 6 Ideas for Spring Entertaining. The hardest part was getting the list down to 6! I could easily offer up 60 pieces from the Emilia Ceramics collection that are made for all the fun events this time of year: The beginning of barbecue season, outdoor dinner parties, Easter and Passover feasts, casual brunches, Mother’s Day celebrations, the list goes on and on. So I thought I’d put together a more exhaustive list of all my favorite serving dishes, pitchers, vases, and tableware for spring. Here goes…

Serving Platters

Let’s start with platters… whether you’re serving honey-baked ham, leg of lamb, burgers, or barbecued chicken, these are my favorite go-to platters:

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Serving Bowls

When I think of spring entertaining, I think of salad. Green salad, fruit salad, and of course, potato salad. These are my favorite salad bowls — as well as a few dip bowls that also come in handy this time of year!

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Pitchers

I love how in Europe they serve wine from hand-crafted pitchers. It seems to add to the earthiness of the beverage and can actually keep white wine colder than a bottle. Of course, these pitchers are also great for serving lemonade, iced tea, or water. And when they’re not being used to pour, they look fantastic with a bouquet of fresh flowers.
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A beautifully crafted and painted vase looks just as great with flowers as it does without. These are my three picks for displaying fresh spring blooms:

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Tableware

I love all the new tableware we have at Emilia Ceramics. Whether it’s Gogo’s salad plates, Richard’s polka-dot mugs and bowls, or Ceramica Valenciana’s adorable dinner and dessert plates, adding one of these sets to your table is the perfect way to celebrate spring.

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Loving Sylvie Duriez!

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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What Makes Deruta Patterns Unique Among Italian Ceramics?

Deruta is one of Italy’s historic ceramic centers, known for intricate designs and truly amazing Italian ceramics. Vietri dinnerware is famous for its animals, Tuscan majolica for its nature motifs of flowers and fruits. Deruta patterns are intricate and detailed, often combining organic and abstract motifs. The results are similar to the patterns in a kaleidoscope: ever-changing and always beautifully striking.

Italian Deruta

 

Deruta is especially famous for hand painted dinner plates. Patterns go back to the Renaissance when the area manufactured ceramics for popular demand (Faenza catered to the aristocrats and Montelupo Fiorentino to trade outside of Italy). The geometric motifs continue with today’s Italian ceramic artists, many of whom use the same colors and techniques as their predecessors.

Looking at the plates from Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, I see a rough divide in motifs: organic flourishes and stylized geometry. The organic-inspired plates are what many imagine when they think about Deruta patterns: arabesques, plenty of colors, and whimsical figures (like the dragons on these hand painted dinner plates in the traditional Raffaellesco pattern).

Raffaellesco Deruta plate

These Italian ceramics are full of personality and whimsy. Every time I look at the Raffaellesco and Fogliame (inspired by waving leaves) I find something new. The Fogliame design makes me think of waves and breezes, not just curled leaves.

fogliame Deruta plate

The Deruta patterns with stylized geometry have an almost Art Deco feel. Though inspired by natural phenomenon as their names suggest (Nevicata is “snowfall,” Alba is “sunrise,” and “Il Sole” is “the sun”), the patterns feature more angles and repetition.

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The contrast with deep jewel tones and bright gold also makes these geometric plates stand out. Although rooted in centuries of tradition, this Italian style dinnerware feels quite modern.

Deruta patterns definitely stand out from other Italian ceramics. They also mix well with less intricate motifs, like these boldly striped plates. Much as people did in past centuries, layering Deruta plates is a wonderful opportunity to mix patterns and colors to create a table fit for your most special occasions. And since Italian majolica is quite sturdy, you can use these gorgeous Italian ceramics for every meal, adding elegance to your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s no surprise that people can’t get enough of their favorite patterns for plates, serving ware, and table accessories.

Deruta Italian plate

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Fancy a Striped Vase #DIY?

Striped vases seem to be everywhere on DIY sites as people look for a quick and chic way to craft home accessories that fit their style. Dwellings by Devore transformed a glass vase with electrical tape (it looks pretty amazing). On Two Twenty One, vases mix with painter’s tape and gold spray paint for horizontal, vertical, and swirling stripes that really stand out. And anyone looking for inspiration for how to incorporate a striped vase (or two! or three!) need look no further than Houzz. There are striped vases of every shape, size, and color palette.

I completely understand why people love the handmade look of a DIY striped vase. Manufactured, printed vases seem too perfect, too sterile. Handpainting lets for a little variation and true personality. Plus you can really experiment with colors and spacing for a unique look that fits your own style. I think that’s why so many people love the striped vases by Talavera Vazquez. Solid ceramic, the variety of sizes, shapes, and colors makes them a wonderful, authentic addition to a home. A large striped vase by a fireplace or as a centerpiece stands out; a collection of vases in mixed patterns looks modern instead of fussy.

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No matter if you’re making your own vases or leaving their creation to expert artists, stripes are an excellent way to play with shapes. Tall and thin, wide, round, curved, fluted: there’s no shortage of striking vases that add a chic finishing touch to a room. I think that’s why there are so many striped vases around online—they have timeless appeal and always feel modern.

Blue Striped Round Vase Do you have a striped vase DIY success story? Favorite shapes or sizes? Other tips for using them to decorate? Leave a comment below to share! We’ll add our favorites to our Pinterest boards for stripes and vases.

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Capelo’s Mexican Vases: High Impact Style

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

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

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

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

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Blue and White Mexican Pottery Promises Good Luck in 2014!

How would you like some good fortune in 2014? Good luck traditions range all over the world from breaking plates in Denmark to wearing polka dots in the Philippines. I recently learned that in medieval Europe people listened for a dove’s first call since they believed it indicated the luck to come in the new year. If the call came from above, good luck would come; if from below, bad luck was on its way.

I like to believe that all of the doves on the paloma blue and white Mexican pottery collection bring good luck. I love the mix of patterns and textures that surround the subtle shape of a flying dove on these ceramics; they are at once ornate and warmly rustic. The tall blue and white vase is striking filled with colorful blooms or left empty. The smaller round vase works well for small flowers or as a pen and pencil holder on a desk.

blue and white Mexican pottery vase For those with birthdays in January, the versatile oval paloma box makes a great gift, holding jewelry, toiletries, or keys. Another perennial favorite is the paloma oval serving dish.

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If doves aren’t your good luck bird of choice, why not celebrate the New Year with roosters? Blue and white Mexican pottery pieces such as this rooster serving bowl possess a unique charm all their own. Another of my personal favorites is Gorky’s large blue and white rooster. He would be perfect as an accent in a kitchen or in the home of any rooster collector. All that personality has got to bring good luck, right?

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Here at Emilia Ceramics, 2014 is sure to bring more beautiful blue and white Mexican pottery pieces, as well as new French and Italian ceramics, and the return of some old favorites. I feel so fortunate to work with such talented artists, not to mention our dedicated and energetic customers (both new and returning). No matter what you do to bring yourself good luck this year, from toasts at midnight to eating grapes to wearing red underwear, here’s to it being fantastic!

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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.

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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

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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!
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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New Showroom in Boulder, CO!

We’re finally open for business — By appointment, 7 days a week. Call or email and then come visit!

2232 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
Phone: 303.442.0180

It’s been an exciting (and exhausting) summer for Emilia Ceramics. After months of finding the right space, moving hundreds of boxes across country, unpacking, painting, and setting up, we’re ready for visitors! Here’s a photo journal of all the work we’ve done, as well as a little peak at what’s in-store…

May, 3013: My mom and I visited Boulder to find a new location for Emilia Ceramics. After 2 full days of looking at warehouses, shops, and even some dentist offices (which would have required lots of construction), we found the perfect space: 2232 Pearl Street. It’s the green building in the middle. How amazing are the clouds in Boulder?!
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Below: The inside before we moved anything in.

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Of course, before we could make any headway in Colorado, we had to pack up the entire business back in California. Luckily, we had the best 3 packers/movers/helpers imaginable — Thank you Edgar, Thomas, and Estuardo! (If anyone in the Bay Area ever needs any sort of help, from painting and construction to moving, these are your guys. Contact me and I will hook you up!)

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We filled the biggest U-Haul truck there is, a 26 footer! Once full, this truck was expertly driven across 4 states and over some huge mountain passes by the most reliable (and reasonably priced) truck driver I could find: my dad! Miraculously, he arrived in Boulder in one piece and still smiling. IMG_3321IMG_3324
Our next job was unpacking this monstrosity, which proved more difficult than you’d imagine because of how well-packed it was. But “The Brown Family Moving Co.” managed it and pretty soon that nice open space was so filled with boxes you could barely move.

IMG_3337IMG_3368 IMG_3371Somehow, over the last month, we’ve found space for everything. In addition to unpacking, we have painted the inside a soft butter yellow, set up furniture, displayed ceramics representative of all the artists we work with, and most recently, painted the outside of the building a Tuscan yellow with blue trim. Next steps include blue window boxes and a new door to match, plus new Emilia Ceramics signs. Needless to say, it’s been a lot of work… but somehow, it seems to finally be coming together.
IMG_3428IMG_3507IMG_3511Mexican ceramicsMexican ceramicsrooster and owl creamersItalian ceramicsIMG_3557IMG_3558I am so excited to finally be open for business! There’s no way I could have done all of this without the help of my family and friends… most especially my parents who have helped every step of the way. THANK YOU!

So if you’re in the Boulder, Colorado area, please come visit! You can set up an appointment to view the space 7 days a week. Just call — 303.442.0180 — or email me at [email protected].

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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The New Home of Emilia Ceramics: Boulder, CO

IMG_3312As I mentioned in my last post, moving a bunch of ceramics is a tough job. I’ve dealt with large orders before, sometimes getting a few different shipments from my artists at the same time. It can get pretty chaotic unpacking, sorting, taking inventory, and photographing all the new pieces. But unpacking a huge moving truck is quite different from a crate or two of ceramics. My team of helpers (pictured on the left) had done such a good job squeezing all the ceramics and furniture into the uHaul that extracting it all from the truck-puzzle took some major effort.

Now that the dust has settled a bit—shelves built and organization well underway—I wanted to share some photos of the new Emilia Ceramics showroom. Building all the shelves needed took more time, but the results are exciting… I am looking forward to being much better organized with a much more streamlined process of fulfilling orders than I ever had in CA. Of course, in a few months I’ll have the addition of all my new pieces from France and Italy to think about, so things are sure to stay exciting!

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Whew. Unlike Emilia Ceramics San Francisco, our new location on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder will be regularly accessible to the public. No more having to wait for the holiday pop-up shop when the desire for gorgeous handmade ceramics strikes! I’m looking forward to decorating my front windows and having a more flexible space instead of the former warehouse.

Having everything in one place should also streamline how quickly new pieces get onto the website once I receive them. Look for some new ceramics to post soon, like yellow chevron lamps by Talavera Vazquez. Their lamps are some of our most popular pieces, so I’m excited to expand the collection to include more colors and sizes.

I should get back to organizing, but look forward to getting settled into my new town after all the unpacking is over. Here’s thinking of you, San Francisco!

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Last Stop: Italian Ceramics and the Amalfi Coast

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

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

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

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

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Majolica Madness in Deruta!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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La Dolce Vita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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French Finale: Colorful Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

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

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

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

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

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Update on Sylvie Duriez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Poterie Aigues-Vives: Another Great Visit with Richard Esteban

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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We’re Ready for Summer Entertaining with Mexican Serving Dishes

Frog Cream and Sugar SetMemorial Day is just around the corner, and with it comes picnics and barbeques galore. Instead of reaching for paper plates, which can blow away in the wind and cause serving disasters, try using sturdy ceramics, like Mexican serving dishes. Your food will look better and be easier to handle as a result. No more worrying about if your burger will end up in your lap or your mouth.Mexican serving dish

I’m not the only one who loves Mexican serving platters for summer entertaining. As the weather has warmed up, I’ve been seeing a surge in orders for these party essentials. The long platter, part of Gorky Gonzalez’s Gogo collection, is ideal for grilled asparagus, raw veggie assortments, or cheese and crackers.

The handles on Mexican serving platters mexican serving platterby Talavera Vazquez make them ideal for passing meats fresh from the grill. Pasta salads or greens fit perfectly into one of Gorky’s cheerful serving bowls. And with Gogo dinner plates in a rainbow of colors, a fun, festive atmosphere was never easier to achieve.

But my favorite part of summer table décor are Gorky Gonzalez’s whimsical Mexican salt and pepper shakers. These are a fun way to season that corn on the cob or grilled steak. Quirky but not too crazy, I can’t get enough of these fantastic animals for any table setting inside or out. Bonus: use salt and pepper shakers to keep an outdoor tablecloth from blowing away before everyone sits down to feast. The blue and white chickens are quite popular (and lend themselves well to patriotic picnics like Memorial Day and Fourth of July), though all of these handpainted animal pairs has its own personality that’s definitely ready to party.

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I can’t wait for my own Memorial Day grilling to start. With Mexican salt and pepper shakers, serving dishes, and the location set, all I need now is to figure out the menu! Here’s to a fun-filled holiday weekend; hope you enjoy it.

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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!

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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.

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I Heart Gorky Gonzalez Pottery…

Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

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

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

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Owl Pitchers

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

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

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Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

May is coming up fast and with it Mother’s Day, a time to celebrate the importance of moms everywhere. Stuck on gift ideas for that special lady and need some inspiration? Here are some handmade handpainted Majolica gift ideas that are just as special as she is.

If Mom likes…

Entertaining: Think about serving plates and platters. Unusually shaped pieces like the rounded rectangle Mexican serving platters will definitely stand out at her next event.

Cheerful polka dots or stripes make for whimsical French serving platters, while fruit and floral motifs characterize Mexican serving platters. Choose motifs or colors that already go with what’s in her kitchen to ensure she loves her gift.

Gardening: Help her plants shine with eye-catching planters and ceramic pots. Handmade handpainted Majolica works both indoors and out, decorating patios, porches, doorsteps, gardens, and windowsills with ease. Use a round planter as a cachepot for a blooming orchid or one of her favorite flowers or gift a larger planter with seeds and soil to start spring off right.

Drinking coffee: Then the right mug is a must. Consider the size of this large mug, big enough for an entire morning’s worth of coffee or tea. Or if she loves espresso, a colorful set of espresso cups might be just the thing she needs to start her day off right. Creamers, sugar bowls, and other coffee and tea accessories are also great gift ideas, especially if they make their first appearance on a tray for her indulgent Mother’s Day breakfast in bed.

Unique artwork: Consider one of a kind handmade, handpainted Majolica. Whether it’s a wall plate or serving platter, vase or pitcher, unique ceramics are sure to please. Majolica ceramics are elegant and sturdy, which is great for mothers of young children. She’ll love knowing that she has the only one in the world. I’d say she deserves nothing less.

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

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

handmade ceramics: bowlmodern handmade ceramics

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

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

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

handmade ceramic tray

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

amor platehandmade ceramic bowl

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

tall vaseblack pitcher

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

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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