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How To Set a Beautiful Thanksgiving Table

It’s almost that time of year… when family and friends gather, prepare delicious food, and sit down together to give thanks for all their blessings. I am the first to admit that serving dishes and colorful plates are not the most important part of this holiday. However, I do believe that food tastes better when it is displayed well and that hand-crafted pottery is the perfect pairing for hand-crafted recipes. With that in mind, I’ve put together a guide to setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table.

ceramic holiday serving dishes
#1 Size: Be sure the food fits the dish.

The first consideration in how to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table is the size and shape of your plates and bowls. You want to choose ceramic serving dishes that fit your food comfortably, with plenty of space for hands to pass the dish or serving spoons to rest within it.

#2 Color: Show off your food.

While often overlooked, the color of the food is an important determining factor when deciding in which plate, platter or bowl it should be served. You want to highlight the food and make it look it’s best, which usually means serving it on contrasting colors. Here are a few examples:

Cheese Plates

I love adding grapes and dried fruit to a cheese plate, both for the visual effect (adding color) and to balance the richness of cheese. The Tuscan Fruit Platter (below) is perfect because of its hand-painted fruit motif, which supplements whatever you serve on it by adding a backdrop of fresh fruit color.

cheese plate

Yams or Sweet Potatoes

Colorful foods are always the easiest to make look good. The most important thing to keep in mind with especially bright and colorful food is to serve it on a plate or in a bowl that allows its color to really stand out. If the serving dish is too colorful itself (whether in a different or similar color), the food will not stand out. blue and white platterFor bright orange yams, I opt for a white background so the color can really pop. Here are too great options: Gorky Gonzales’ El Mar Platter (seen on the right) and Ceramica Valenciana’s Rectangular Platter in white (below). The El Mar Platter has always been one of my favorite ceramic serving dishes because of the unique shape and subtle decoration around the edge. In this case, the complimentary colors of deep blue in the glaze and golden orange of the yams play off each other perfectly. Yum!

 

#3 Style: Whether sophisticated or casual, pick a style and stick to it.

You can pretty much tell by the collection of pieces I’ve curated at Emilia Ceramics that I usually opt for a relaxed, laid-back style. But there are definitely events (Thanksgiving being one of them) when a more sophisticated style is in order. That’s why I love Gialletti Giulio’s plates. They have a grown-up, fancy look to them, but still maintain their hand-painted authenticity. You can literally see the brush strokes that were applied by the Italian artists who made them. But they also offer a lovely white backdrop for your meal. And there’s a variety of designs, which look great mixed and matched together or used separately.

italian salad plate

red plate deruta plate

My favorite style for dessert plates is subtle, yet fun and festive. The Spanish dessert plates (below) by Ceramica Valenciana are my ideal, because they work regardless of whether you’re serving pie, cake, brownies, or fruit salad. They are delicate, charming, original, and stylish. These plates are perfect for serving all ages and really showing off whatever dessert you’ve prepared.

spanish bird plate with pumpkin pie
spanish dessert plate
Other great dessert plate options are Richard Esteban’s fun yellow plates with various center designs, from cars, dogs, fish, and birds, to more festive polka-dots and stripes, these plates are as sweet as any dessert imaginable. For a more refined, grown-up look, Gialletti Giulio’s more basic plates with stripes are a lovely backdrop for apple or pumpkin pie.

fish dessert plate

french polkadot dessert plate

Do you have any special tips for how to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table? We’d love to hear them, so please share in the comments section below.

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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.

me_vazquez

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.
italian_canisters

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 >>


blue_and_white_canister
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.

colorful_mexican_ginger_jar
Above: Dolores Tibor by Talavera Vazquez >>

small_black_striped_ginger_jar
Above: Small Black Striped Tibor by Talavera Vazquez >>

black_zigzag_ginger_jar_lamp

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:

richard_esteban_french_potter

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.

italian footed platter

 

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

italian footed platter

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

italian footed platter

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.

 

 

yellow striped vaseorange striped vase

blue chevron vaseblack_striped_vase_roses

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:

red and white mugs

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

italian_cherry_mug

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

blue_striped_mug

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

french polkadot mugs

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:

blue and white oval dish with dip bowl

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.

 

french_red_cheese_plate

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

IMG_0369

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.

tequilla_shot_set

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!

cups_vino_agua

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

salsa_bowls

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).

horseman_plaque

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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How To Set a Beautiful Thanksgiving Table

It’s almost that time of year… when family and friends gather together, prepare delicious food, and sit down together to give thanks for all their blessings. I am the first to admit that serving dishes and colorful plates are not the most important part of this holiday. However, I also believe that food actually tastes better when it is displayed well and that hand-crafted pottery is the perfect pairing for hand-crafted recipes. With that in mind, I’ve put together a guide to setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table.

ceramic serving platters
#1 Size: Be sure the food fits the dish.

The first consideration in how to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table is the size and shape of your plates and bowls. You want to choose ceramic serving platters that fit your food comfortably, with plenty of space for hands to pass the dish or serving spoons to rest within it.

#2 Color: Choose a dish that shows off your food.

While often overlooked, the color of the food is an important determining factor when deciding in which plate, platter or bowl it should be served. You want to highlight the food and make it look it’s best, which usually means serving it on contrasting colors. Here are a few examples:

Cheese Plates

I love adding grapes and dried fruit to a cheese plate, both for the visual effect (adding color) and to balance the richness of cheese. The Rectangular Serving Platter with Tuscan Fruits (below) is perfect because of its hand-painted fruit motif, which supplements whatever you serve on it by adding a backdrop of fresh fruit color.

cheese_plate

Yams or Sweet Potatoes

Colorful foods are always the easiest to make look good. The most important thing to keep in mind with especially bright and colorful food is to serve it on a plate or in a bowl that allows its color to really stand out. If the serving dish is too colorful itself (whether in a different or similar color), the food will not stand out. For bright orange yams, I opt for a white background so the color can really pop. Here are too great options (shown below): Ceramica Valenciana’s Rectangular Platter in white and Ceramiche Bartoloni’s Rooster Bowl with Handles. The latter has always been one of my favorite ceramic serving bowls because even when the center design is covered by food, there’s an equally beautiful decoration around the edge that is always visible. In this case, the hints of golden glaze are a perfect complement to the golden yams. Yum!

White Serving Platter
Italian Rooster Bowl
#3 Style: Whether sophisticated or casual, pick a style and stick to it.

You can pretty much tell by the collection of pieces I’ve curated at Emilia Ceramics that I usually opt for a relaxed, laid-back style. But there are definitely events (Thanksgiving being one of them) when a more sophisticated style is in order. That’s why I love Gialletti Giulio’s plates. They have a grown-up, fancy look to them, but still maintain their hand-painted authenticity. You can literally see the brush strokes that were applied by the Italian artists who made them. But they also offer a lovely white backdrop for your meal. And there’s a variety of designs, which look great mixed and matched together or used separately.

Deruta Dinnerwarered plateorange Italian plateDeruta Dinnerware

My favorite style for dessert plates is subtle, yet fun and festive. The Spanish dessert plates (below) by Ceramica Valenciana are my ideal, because they work regardless of whether you’re serving pie, cake, brownies, or fruit salad. They are delicate, charming, original, and stylish. These plates are perfect for serving all ages and really showing off whatever dessert you’ve prepared.

spanish bird plate with pumpkin pie
spanish dessert plate
Other great dessert plate options are Richard Esteban’s fun yellow plates with various center designs, from cars, dogs, fish, and birds, to more festive polka-dots and stripes, these plates are as sweet as any dessert imaginable. For a more refined, grown-up look, Gialletti Giulio’s more basic plates with stripes are a lovely backdrop for apple or pumpkin pie.

fish dinner platefrench polkadot dessert plate

Do you have any special tips for how to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table? We’d love to hear them, so please share in the comments section below.

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Ahhh, Valentine’s Day

roses_1
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)
Cherry_Red_Mugcherry_mugmug_te

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).

pink_polkadot_pitcher_3large_pom_pitcher_1

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.

oval_platter_amorvive_amourlong_cherryoval_platter_lemons_on_red

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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Giulio Dishware Sets: Three Ways for the Holidays

Charger with Orange Stripe

The holidays are a time to embrace tradition, whether that means baking up dozens of cookies for the school bake sale, hosting the neighborhood cocktail party or adding new heirloom pieces to your dishware set. As for me, I will be doing it all (including tackling a new egg nog recipe that I can’t wait to try out!)

Today, I will show you some of my favorite holiday displays featured on our Pinterest board. Then, break down each display by item and show you how to get the look with Emilia Ceramic’s gorgeous Gialletti Giulio collection.

pasta_dinner_2

Run by third generation brothers, the Ceramiche Gialleti Guilio studio is in the heart of Deruta, a picturesque medieval hilltown in Umbria, Italy. Ceramics are a typical product of Deruta and there is a century-long history of spectacular craftsmanship and beauty. The Gialletti Giulio style of ceramics combines tradition with original, innovative designs; the dishware sets are fun to mix, match and combine.

Here are just a few ideas for highlighting these colorful pieces.

Red with Turquoise

Love this look! It’s modern, fresh and still holiday-ish. Red and turquoise from designer Kathryn Greeley. Take the red and turquoise color trend even further by coordinating tree ornaments and other home decor items.

turquoise and red holiday table

Get the Look

Charger with Red Stripe

Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio / Charger with Red Stripe

Plus, Salad Plate with ‘Fogliame’ Border

Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio / Salad Plate with 'Fogliame' Border

Letting the Plates Shine

The simplicity of the natural setting of this table allows the beauty of these stunning plates to shine (image by Premier Table Linens.) I like the natural feel of this look and would even jazz it up with more natural elements such as adding evergreen tree branches and sparkly pine cones.

hand painted deruta dinnerware

Get the Look

‘Il Sole’ Salad Plate

Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio / 'Il Sole' Salad Plate

Orange and Blue

Who doesn’t love orange? Orange is a happy color, and goes wonderfully with darker blue. It’s no surprise they look so great together, on the color wheel these are complimentary colors that are on opposite sides (which means they really pop when put together).

Charger with Orange Stripe

Get the Look

Charger with Orange Stripe

Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio / Charger with Orange Stripe

Plus, ‘Alba’ Salad Plate

Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio / 'Alba' Salad Plate

You can see how Gialletti marries a refined, sophisticated look with the authenticity of visible brushstrokes, which is a true Italian characteristic.

The combinations of these pieces are endless and can allow for a unique table setting year  after year. Check out all the options on the Emilia Ceramics website here.

What Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio color combinations will you enjoy this year?

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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.

signature

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).

raffaelesco deruta
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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 3.48.46 PM
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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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.

Deruta patternDeruta pattern

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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Capelo’s Mexican Vases: High Impact Style

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

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

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

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

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The Perfect Mexican Ceramics to Celebrate the Day of the Dead

Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) was last week, so it’s no surprise that I have had Mexico and Mexican ceramics made by my favorite Mexican artists—Talavera Vazquez, Gorky Gonzalez, and Capelo—on my mind.

day of the dead skullsThe Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 and 2, right after Halloween. The purpose of Día de los Muertos is to remember and celebrate one’s ancestors and friends who have died. The celebration has ancient roots in Aztec, Purepechas, and Totonacs traditions as well as links to the Catholic All Souls Day. Its two days of celebration are full of feasting, traditional foods, and lots of skulls. You’ve probably seen the joyful skeletons, especially the iconic couple of Catrina and Catrin. These dandy skeletons have a long tradition in their own right and are found in all kinds of art from sculptures and dolls to Mexican ceramics.

Mexican ceramicsOne of my favorite expressions of the Catrin figure is on this tile hot plate by Gorky Gonzalez. This smoking skeletons might be associated with the Day of the Dead, but he will bring Mexican charm to your kitchen all year round.

hot_plate_smoking_skeletonThe sugar skulls, cookies, and chocolates made for Day of the Dead celebrations are more than just eye-catching. By eating these sweets, people take a symbolic “bite of death” to rid themselves of the fear of death. Intricate altars are another important part of the holiday, decked in yellow and orange marigolds or chrysanthemums, food, sweets, photos, and religious amulets. Traditionally people also journey to their relatives’ graves on November 1 to decorate them with flowers and candles, then picnic there in celebration of the dead.

Day of the Dead skullsAll parts of this Mexican holiday blend the dead with the living. Maybe next year I’ll host my own Day of the Dead celebration… Invite people over to feast on my favorite Mexican dishes and share our memories of loved ones who are no longer alive. A playful Mexican ceramic skeleton bowl or trivet adds the perfect Day of the Dead touch. I especially love the effect of mixing these special Mexican ceramics with more oridinary dip bowls, serving platters, and pitchers of drinks. Felicidades!

skeleton bowlCandy skulls image courtesy of Glen Van Etten.

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Showroom Spotlight on Decorative Dinner Plates and Stylish Dining

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

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

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

cowboy decorative platecowgirl decorative serving plate

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

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

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French Ceramics: Patrice Voelkel vs Richard Esteban Pottery

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

richard esteban potteryPatrice Voelkel

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

blue mix and pour bowlyellow French vase

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

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

indigo pitchergreen fish canister

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

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

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Capelo Pottery, a Unique Take on Mexican Ceramics

Capelo's studio and countryside

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

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

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

Capelo pitcher

square serving dishCapelo plates

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

Capelo fluted footed bowl

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Gorky Gonzalez, a Lesson in Making the Traditional Modern

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

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

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

Gogo bowls

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

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

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Pinterest Finds: Mexican Ceramics

Love Pinterest? The new look is pretty great, making it easy to find all kinds of incredible things. I’ve been exploring Mexican ceramics to add to the Emilia Ceramics Mexico board and wanted to share some of my favorite findings with you.  The new Pinterest doesn’t have the incredibly easy sharing feature it used to, so simply click on images to take you to the original pin, complete with credentials.

We’ll start with Mexico City.

I love these colorful Mexican ceramic plates, but the majolica toilet might be a bit much.

Mexican ceramics pair beautifully with Mexican food (no surprise, right?). Just check out this salsa set up. And a blue and white plate is the perfect compliment for mole.

Of course, some of my favorite Mexican ceramics are those made by Gorky Gonzalez.

Gorky Gonzalez PlatesGorky Gonzalez Pottery

Mexico itself is a stunningly beautiful place.

I think Capelo‘s unique Mexican ceramics are just as beautiful as the views from his studio!

Capelo Ceramics

Capelo Mexican ceramics

Then there are Talavera Vazquez’s ginger jars

And, of course, there’s always the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) full of colorful and almost friendly-seeming skulls.

Have some Mexican-themed pins of your own? Share the link in a comment below to your favorite pins or boards so we can check them out. And follow Emilia Ceramics for the latest new Mexican ceramics, decorating ideas, and more!

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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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painting

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

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

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

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

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

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

daniella

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French Finale: Colorful Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

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

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

yellow_tealbowlspitchersdude

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

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

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Update on Sylvie Duriez

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

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

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

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

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market_1

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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!

IMG_2229 IMG_2231

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

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

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

hillsides around Guanajuato, Mexico

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

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

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

Capelo statement vase

footed serving bowllittle blue plateCapelo Mexican ceramics

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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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The Staying Power of Fine Italian Ceramics, Past and Present

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

fine Italian ceramic loving cup

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

Italian canister

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

Italian soldier plate

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

Italian ceramic plate

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

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

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

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Bartoloni’s Lemons: More than Simply Decorative Plates

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

lemon decorative plate

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

white lemon square plate

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

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

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

lemon muglemon pitcher

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Rooster Ceramics from Around the World

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

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

Italian rooster pitcher

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

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

rooster plate

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

blue and white rooster ceramic

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

Rooster Creamers at Emilia Ceramics

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

Choisy rooster

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

Crowing rooster image courtesy of hans s.

French rooster plate image courtesy of Patrick.charpiat.

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Emilia Ceramics Pop-Up Shop 2012 Grand Opening This Weekend

I’m excited to announce the opening of our Palo Alto pop-up shop this Saturday, November 10th. This will be our fourth year with a physical shop for the holidays… and I’d venture to say, it is our best shop yet! The last week has been a flurry of painting, unpacking, and putting the final touches on our new space at Town & Country Village. We’ve already had a number of curious passers-by come in, look around, and tell us they’re anxious for our actual opening day. Personally, I’m looking forward to having everything set up well before Thanksgiving and getting to talk with customers about handmade and handpainted ceramics as they discover the perfect gift for loved ones and themselves.

This year the shop is once again at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto, but we’re now in the beautiful Suite 10, located between Cold Stone Creamery and the UPS Store, across from LuLu’s Mexican Restaurant and Kara’s Cupcakes. I am already enjoying the many delicious offerings of my neighbors! Here’s a map so you can find us.

Starting this weekend, the shop will be open Monday-Saturday, from 10 am to 7 pm and Sunday, from 11 am to 6 pm. Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to the newsletter to find out about upcoming events (we’ll be having a few wine tastings and at least one holiday bash), flash sales, and other fun (like new pieces debuting from Mexico) in the coming weeks. Hope to see you soon!

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Behind the Scenes: Gorky Gonzalez’s 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 handpainted ceramics come to life.

A visit to Gorky Gonzalez’s workshop in Guanajuato, Mexico is truly a feast for the senses. There’s color and creative genius everywhere you look, piled in ceramics both finished and in process. Considering the number of awards and international acclaim Gorky’s pottery has received, it’s no surprise that his development as a ceramic artist has international flavor as well.

An antique piece of Majolica pottery that Gorky found in the early 1960s inspired him to rescue this basically forgotten craft. After studying in Japan (where he met his wife Toshiko), he returned with a variety of techniques that have truly revitalized Mexican ceramics. The results blend past and present, creating Mexican ceramics that are unique and timeless.

Today Gorky Gonzalez and Toshiko’s son Gorky Jr. (known as Gogo) handles the daily responsibilities of the business, continuing the family tradition. On my most recent visit to Mexico this past June I was delighted to find all three members of the Gonzalez family hard at work with their dedicated team of artists. I visited with about six artists who were working on the wheel or painting these vibrant Mexican ceramics by hand. Whether dinner plates or mugs, each piece is treated with care through the multistep process that Majolica requires including multiple firings in the kiln.

With a workshop as large and bustling as this one it can seem like it might get old painting the same Mexican ceramics every day. However, there are always plenty of new pieces and designs being created as well as the continuation of old favorites. I talked with one artist who’s been painting Gorky pottery for nine years and still loves it. Each piece has a design guide that the artists follow, but they are encouraged to put their own individual stamp on it so in the end, no two pieces are ever exactly alike.

On this trip I was lucky enough to find some truly unique pieces to add to my Gorky pottery collection: dinner plates with the Catrina design (perfect for Dia de los Muertos), new creamers with owls and roosters, and even some fun new dip bowls. As Gorky pottery designs expand to include more traditional patterns as well as the modern Gogo collection, I’m always excited to share these amazing Mexican ceramics with you.

 

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Behind the Scenes: Richard Esteban’s French Ceramics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mas de Mexico!

Capelo is the definition of a ‘Jack of all trades.’ Trained (and renowned throughout Mexico) as an architect, he now splits his time between teaching classes at the University of Guanajuato, managing the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art, supervising a team of artists in his ceramic studio, and occasionally fulfilling some very special commissions — While I was visiting yesterday, Capelo showed off the gold ‘key to Guanajuato,’ which he was commisioned to make for the Pope during his visit to celebrate Mexico’s 200 years of independence. One copy of the key (which is made of gold and nickel) was gifted to the Pope and the other (which I held yesterday) will soon be exhibited in the museum. In his downtime, Capelo enjoys riding his horses in the beautiful mountains surrounding his home.

But enough about Capelo, let’s talk about his ceramics. There is something so unique and captivating, so soft and inviting about the glazes that Capelo uses… it really is difficult to explain. I asked him what it was about his glazes that made them so different. He said simply that he used all-natural glazes, without any modern-day additives, which we are more accustomed to seeing these days. Sounds almost too simple, but it fact it fits Capelo’s shy, old-school personality perfectly. Capelo has refused to compromise or change his glazes or technique over the years. He does things the right way, or not at all. He’s definitely much less interested in sales than he is in creating beautiful artwork. I still think there’s got to be something more to his technique — some secret that makes the colors run together like watercolor, with a glass-like sheen.

Whatever it is, I’m hooked. I couldn’t stop finding pieces I thought belonged in the Emilia Collection. I was especially drawn to some large vases and pitchers. Here are a few of the pieces I chose:

Because Capelo doesn’t deal with shipping, we had to fit my purchases in the cab I had hired. (Capelo lives and works about 15 minutes from Guanajuato, perched on top of a beautiful hill overlooking the city). But nobody else seemed concerned. Four helpers appeared out of nowhere to help us count, price, and wrap up my selections. And then we fit them neatly into the trunk and backseat of the cab. It all fit so easily, I wondered if I should have bought more!

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Gorky Gonzalez: Better Than Ever

I admit it… I forgot just how much I love Gorky Gonzalez’s pottery. I first visited Gorky over four years ago and have been importing more and more of his ceramics ever since. I sell a ton of Gorky’s work, I blog about it often, am surrounded by it on a daily basis, and when I’m at my parents’ house, I even eat off it! But still, I forgot the excitement of visiting Gorky’s workshop in Guanajuato and seeing all the creative and colorful genius spread in piles around me. I forgot the pure joy of looking through those piles and discovering the gems: A perfectly painted rooster or fish, a serving dish begging to be filled with fresh guacamole, a new shape or design that I know my customers (not to mention my mom) will love.

Mrs. Gorky Gonzalez met me at the door and brought me upstairs to the showroom. We exchanged pleasantries and I reminded her that we had met about 2 years ago (the last time I was here in Mexico). I asked about Gorky Sr., her husband who founded the business and is renowned for reviving the majolica tradition in Mexico. Gorky Jr. (or Gogo), who runs the business now, joined us a few minutes later. He took me on a tour, visiting about 6 artists, either working on the wheel or painting. I spent a few minutes talking with one young man who said he’s been painting for Gorky for 9 years and still loves it. I was slightly disappointed to learn that he does not use Gorky pottery in his own home!

Then is was back to work… I spent more than an hour digging through each stack in every corner of Gorky’s showroom, selecting on the best plates, bowls, pitchers, and even a few gravy boats I could find.

All I can say is this: Get excited, get very excited! I’m pretty sure these new pieces will remind you just how much you love Gorky Gonzalez pottery. That is, in case you had forgotten.

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Celebrating Easter with Tulips!

What does springtime and Easter mean to you? Among other things, for me they signify longer days, tulips, and daffodils, all three of which seem to bring a general feeling of optimism into my life. Growing up, I loved that April brought tulips and daffodils to my mom’s garden. They appeared like magic, announcing spring with instant color and cheer. There’s just something about the sharp contrast of bright yellow and orange petals against green stems and leaves — so fresh, so alive, so promising of all that’s to come.

I recently came across these photos from an event that I went to last spring. My good friend had volunteered to do the floral arrangements for the dinner and she asked me to bring vases from the Emilia Ceramics collection to display the flowers. There were about 20 tables to decorate, plus the reception and bar area, so I brought a wide variety of vases and pitchers from France, Italy and Mexico. We used colorful, yet small Italian pitchers, large Italian vases with handles, rustic French pitchers, and striped vases from Mexico. A wild, yet beautiful mix of tulip varieties brought all these vases and pitchers together.  Everyone loved the centerpieces! Using hand-painted ceramic vases instead of plain glass looked bohemian and rustic — bringing an authentic and homey vibe to the otherwise staid decor.

Here I am, sitting with all our arrangements. I especially love using these Italian pitchers for displaying tulips — they are the perfect size and shape.

Hope you have a great Easter weekend, filled with spring hopefulness, loved ones, and lots of tulips!

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Is the Price Right for Italian Ceramics?

Have you ever watched “The Price is Right,” the game show where people guess how much things cost and then win them if they’re correct? After spending a few months in our pop-up shop explaining pricing to customers, I feel like I could be a big winner on that show, especially when it comes to Italian ceramics. People often ask – why are they so expensive, particularly when compared to pieces at big box stores like Sur la Table or Williams Sonoma?

There are many factors that go into the price of Italian ceramics, but the major ones are materials, the manufacturing method, and quantity of production, particularly for majolica style ceramics. Supplies for Italian ceramics include clay, glazes, and temper, as well as all the tools and equipment from kilns to potter’s wheels. Rising costs and inflation in recent times have affected ceramic artists just like they have everyone else (especially in Italy). When materials cost more, the product itself becomes more expensive. In fact, many of the larger Italian ceramic manufacturers have sadly gone out of business in the last 5 years.

Artists then face the tough choice between cutting costs and compromising on quality or raising prices and keeping to a high standard. It’s a phenomenon that’s not limited to Italian ceramics – designer clothes, handbags, even peanut butter have all seen rising material costs over the past few years.

Manufacturing method also makes a major difference in pricing. Handmade ceramics require skilled craftsmanship to create, whereas mass-produced pieces require workers to operate machines. I’ve talked about the difference in these Italian ceramic types before, particularly the trend of pieces being made somewhere else and only finished in Italy with a “Made in Italian” signature. There are lots of “Italian ceramics” on the market currently with dubious origins, often actually made in China or Portugal.

The last aspect of Italian ceramic pricing is quantity. At Emilia Ceramics, we work exclusively with small manufacturers, some of which are made up of a single artist. At Ceramiche Bartoloni, for instance, it is just the Bartoloni brothers (Patrizio and Stefano) who do all the ceramic artwork. And because our orders are selective, requesting one of a kind pieces with their own unique character and style, they are relatively small. Importing these small productions of handmade Italian ceramics means higher shipping costs than larger manufacturers sending over boat-loads of a manufactured product.

With all these factors in mind, I think it’s more important than ever to support artists that are continuing a craft that’s generations in the making. And I feel good about cutting out all the middlemen and paying my money directly to the hardworking and talented artists in Italy. While there might be ceramics “inspired by” Italian methods, nothing quite matches up with the real thing. And to me, that’s worth every penny.

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Everyone’s Favorite Striped Vase: The Especial

I’ve recently joined Pinterest and am amazed at how many people love the stripe painted vases of Talavera Vazquez just as much as I do. The biggest stand-out is the Especial stripe vase in blue and white. Completely modern, yet with a timeless curve, what is it about this vase that makes everyone love it?

The colors of this stripe painted vase are definitely a strong point. With crisp black and white, rich blue and white, or warm burnt orange and white, there’s an Especial vase to fit every decorating scheme. The stripes are actually a continuous hand painted spiral that wraps around the vase, giving it a wonderfully smooth line that looks good from all angles.

The shape of the vase also plays a big part in its allure. The gentle curves that flair up at the top lend both functionality and style to the vase. In fact, the sculptural appeal makes the Especial stripe painted vase striking even without flowers; it’s an eye-catching accent on a bookcase or side table.

Of course, the narrowing at the top is perfect for keeping bouquets aligned just the way you want them. The large format of the Especial vase means it looks lovely with big flowers. Sunflowers and tulips are some of my favorites. Yellow forsythia or pussy willow branches are another great fit since this vase won’t easily topple over and it’s tall enough to balance long branches.

Sometimes though, a smaller stripe-painted vase is needed. Talavera Vazquez makes a whole range of smaller vases with this striking spiral pattern. Small flower arrangements look stunning in the blue and white round vase or a small stripe painted vase. The classic cylinder shape of the striped simple vase is perfect for flowers, toothbrushes, or pens on a desktop.

Large or small, stripe painted vases are easy to love with the range of shapes and colors by Talavera Vazquez. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

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What Sets Fine Italian Ceramics Apart?

There are many diehard lovers of Italian ceramics out there, and for good reason. Whether it’s Tuscan pottery or a piece from Sicily, there is just something about Italian ceramics that sets it apart from the other other forms of maiolica-type wares being made elsewhere.

The majolica technique itself still flourishes throughout the world, seen most often in Portuguese, French, Mexican, and Spanish pottery. While the majolica process varies little between countries and hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years, there’s definitely a wide variety of results.

Both Spanish and Portuguese pottery have long been recognized for their gorgeous tiles, in addition to their tableware. Called azulejos, these glazed tiles decorate large swathes of Portuguese buildings from churches to houses to train stations and their use dates back to the 15th century. The geometric patterns and later figurative motifs create stunning mural-like decoration in the most unexpected places. Truly beautiful and useful, the tiles also help with temperature control.Igreja da Misericórdia de Tavira - Azulejos

The tradition behind both Portuguese and Spanish pottery (as well as most of the Mediterranean region) started when Arabs introduced the technique in 711. An important coastal town for centuries, Valencia remains a major center of Spanish pottery and I’m still hoping to start carrying pieces by some artists from there in the near future (stay tuned).

So how is Italian Majolica different? I believe it is a combination of excellent artists (many of whom have dedicated their entire lives to perfecting the craft) and the traditional designs which generations of Italians have enhanced, individualized, and improved upon. Tuscan pottery is what many people picture when it comes to fine Italian ceramics. From the noble tradition behind the wares made in Montelupo Fiorentino to more commonly found pieces from Deruta, the bright colors, practical shapes, and ineffable charm truly put Italian ceramics in a class of its own. Who can resist the cheerful lemons, proud roosters, and rustic flowers that decorate plates and other majolica dinnerware from Tuscia d’Arte and Ceramiche Bartoloni?

Italians are masters at blending art and function to create masterpieces that are beautiful and unique. But just as Italian ceramics stay near and dear to our hearts, there’s no reason to overlook the gorgeous producers of ceramics in Portugal, Spain, France and Mexico. Among all these individual traditions there’s sure to be a majolica-inspired pottery that’s just right for your home.

Azulejos image courtesy of Concierge.2C.

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Gorky Gonzalez: Why Style Matters

Maybe it’s red plates for your holiday party. Or charming salt and pepper shakers for your table. Or modern espresso cups for your coffee. When it comes to Gorky Gonzalez pottery, there truly is something for everyone.

So what is it that makes Gorky Gonzalez so popular in the United States? The blend of fun motifs with sophisticated techniques is one reason people turn towards Gorky Gonzalez pottery. His complex background brings together defining elements of Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Indigenous-Mexican roots, casting these traditions with a modern flair, particularly with the Gogo line. Gorky pieces have appeared in publications and exhibitions worldwide, just another proof of his universal appeal.

But what I love about Gorky Gonzalez pottery are the subjects he paints. Since every piece of handmade ceramic is handpainted, no two pieces are exactly identical, adding to their charm and unique character. Here are some of my favorites, from Gorky Gonzalez plates to mugs to platters.

The Gorky Gonzalez wedding collection

This collection centers around the Amor Platter, one of my most popular pieces. The not-quite-rectangular, not-quite-oval, shape makes it versatile as a centerpiece, serving dish, or wall hanging. “The wedding couple” as this design is typically called is, unsurprisingly, popular as a wedding gift. Other pieces in the Gorky Gonzalez wedding collection (also great for engagement or anniversary gifts) are the Amor oval serving dish and octagonal serving dish. The La Mexicana motif around the border makes the pieces in the Gorky Gonzalez wedding collection easy to mix and match with other examples of his work.

Gorky Gonzalez animals

Bunnies, roosters, chicken, fish, frogs, and birds — All of the playful animals motifs of Gorky Gonzalez pottery are sure to make you smile. I love the rooster creamers that just came in recently, as well as the bunny salt and pepper shakers.

The blue frog cream and sugar set brightens any kitchen counter while serving bowls and plates add personality to any meal. Animal pieces are also great gifts since you don’t need to worry about matching existing kitchen wares; they truly hold their own in any setting.

Gorky Gonzalez original designs

From multicolored borders to just simple blue and white, Gorky Gonzalez plates, bowls, platters, serving dishes, and mugs easily go with any kitchen colors and style. Layer different plates for a truly personalized table setting, mixing and matching Rama Azul with El Mar, Las Flores, and your other favorite patterns. Know someone who loves the mix of traditional technique and modern lines? The Gogo collection has platters, mugs, espresso cups, and plates that would make the perfect Gorky Gonzalez pottery for them. The vivid colors also mix easily with favorite patterns that may already exist in the kitchen.

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Preparing for the Pop-Up Shop!

This will be the third year that Emilia Ceramics opens a pop-up shop for the holiday season. You’d think I would know exactly what I was doing by now, but the truth is that the challenges involved in opening a retail store never get easier. But I do feel less overwhelmed this time around and a lot more excited. I cannot wait to have this lovely shop filled with pottery, set up my Christmas tree, turn on some good tunes, and start interacting with customers! That’s always my favorite part — getting to talk with shoppers who share a passion for handmade and hand-painted ceramics. I often meet world travelers who are familiar with the ceramic artists I work with, or have suggestions of others I should meet the next time I’m abroad. Nothing beats the affirmation of watching as customers fall in love with a special vase from the Emilia Ceramics collection or discover the perfect gifts for family and friends. It makes all the effort of setting up a pop-up shop worth it!

This year Emilia Ceramics will be at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto. We are in space #37 which has most recently held Scandia Down. For those that know the shopping center, it is on the opposite side of the building from Peet’s, Jamba Juice, and Hobee’s, situated between Ambassador’s Toys and Kara’s Cupcakes. Here’s a map.

We are moving in next week and will be open by next Saturday, December 10th. Our hours will be 10am – 6pm Monday through Saturday and 11am – 5pm on Sunday.

There is more information available on the Emilia Ceramics Website.

I will be updating the Emilia Ceramics Blog in the coming weeks with photos from the new shop. Stay tuned and if you’re in the neighborhood, please come visit!!

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the Emilia Ceramics shops in the past two years to whet your appetite!

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Displaying Your Favorite Italian Plates

One of the best things about ceramics is their ability to combine function with art. A masterfully-painted design you can eat off! That said, there are some plates and platters you would rather just look at – I grew up with handpainted Italian plates like these on my parents’ walls. Wall plates are making a comeback in the decorating world. And there’s no law that says if you display your favorite Italian plates on the wall you can’t take them down to use them when the need arises.

There are many ways to display your favorite handpainted Italian plates (or really any plates you want to decorate with). Here are my quick tips for making your wall plates shine.

  • Use the Right Tools. A v-shaped hanger is best for delicate or antique plates, recommends Martha Stewart. Spring-loaded hangers are another option, but the best wall plates already have holes in them: that’s one of the things I love about these Italian plates from Tuscia d’Arte. You can use strong monofilament or wire for security and hang from a picture hook strong enough for your plates’ weight.
  • Go Beyond the Wall. Of course, you don’t have to display wall plates on a wall. Italian plates make a great addition to a sideboard, table, or cabinet when displayed upright on small plate easels. These little display helpers come in a variety of colors and sizes to match your style and plate size. Layer Italian plates with other objects like candles, pitchers, pictures, or other art for personalized decorating.
  • Be Creative in Groupings. A single plate can be beautiful, but a collection of Italian plates packs a decorative punch. Arrange wall plates in columns flanking a mirror, in clusters above a table, over a doorway, or on dedicated plate shelves or racks. Pick plate shelves (they have a groove in them that keeps plates from slipping) that compliment your existing décor and finishes as well as sets off the colors in your wall plates.
  • Think about Scale. A single tiny Italian plate over a fireplace looks lost, but a collection with multiple platters and plates fits the space nicely. Use smaller plates for smaller spaces, like this interestingly shaped Italian plate that compliments a houseplant on an end table. Large pieces need space around them to prevent a cluttered feeling.

  • Mix it Up. Rotate your hanging plates for a quick décor refresher, perhaps seasonally or whenever the fancy strikes. Don’t feel like your plates need to completely match either: groupings that have a common color, shape, or style make for even more attractive decoration.
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The Roosters Have Landed!

We just received a huge shipment from Gorky Gonzalez and among other things, I am happy to announce the arrival of the adorable Rooster Creamers. Although we ordered more than a dozen of these darling creamers, the fact that they were hand-painted means no two are alike. Each is decorated with its own unique pattern, from the color of the beak, to the handle and plume. Some have long and colorful eyelashes, while others have alert and fully-dilated pupils. The artists at Gorky’s studio must have had fun painting these! In fact, the only thing the roosters have in common is an immense amount of personality. I recommend using your favorite rooster to serve cream with the more subdued Gogo mugs — or filling it with a small bouquet of flowers on the sink in the bathroom.

I have to admit that I don’t consider myself a true rooster fanatic (while I can attest to the fact that there is a formidable group of them out there), but this time of year, I am drawn to game birds of all sorts: roosters, turkeys, chickens, and hens. There is an obvious synergy between these birds and the upcoming holiday, which happens to be my personal favorite.

Whether you’re decorating your own table for Thanksgiving or going to a friend or relative’s house to celebrate, here are some awesome rooster-inspired pieces — they make great hostess gifts!

1. Salt & Pepper Shakers: The perfect finish to any table setting, rooster or chicken salt and pepper shakers are colorful, functional, and always fun! My favorites are the big headed roosters with huge, mascara’d eyelashes.

2. Blue and White Rooster Serving Bowl: Great for passing a green salad, mashed potatoes, or stuffing.

3. Octagonal Rooster Bowl: Perfect for a smaller side dish, like green beans. This is one of my favorite pieces in Gorky’s entire collection. I love the unique shape and colorful rooster design. It’s one of those pieces that can be equally enjoyed on display and on the table.

4. And then there’s the rooster that speaks for himself: El Gallo Azul. This proud bird makes a fun statement as a centerpiece or on the kitchen counter. I love the idea of placing him amongst the many dishes on a Thanksgiving buffet to watch over the action.

Not into Gorky’s rustic roosters? Ceramiche Bartoloni in Tuscany make a more refined Italian ceramic rooster – choose from bowls, pitchers, plates, and mugs! I love the rainbow of colors the Bartolonis include in each rooster’s feathers. Okay, so maybe I am a bit of a rooster fanatic after all!

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New Tabletop Trend: Decorative Ceramic Plates

What’s trending on your tabletop? Do you love a massive centerpiece or a more subdued minimalist design? It’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of hand painted dinner plates blended with other personal accents to make a unique statement. And recently I’ve noticed that more and more restaurants are using decorative ceramic plates, vases, and colorful table linens to punch up the dining experience.

I recently read this great article on tabletop trends for restaurants at FE&S. Tabletops really set the tone for a restaurant, whether it’s bare wood and paper napkins or crisp white table clothes and polished silver utensils. More and more restaurants are moving to unique statements with decorative ceramic plates instead of boring white china. Ready to up your dinner party ante? Let’s look at some trends you can take from restaurant tables and put into your own home.

Prioritize Plateware. Presentation of food isn’t just how it’s arranged on the plate, but the plate itself. Restaurants are moving towards more playful and unique small plates for things like dessert or appetizers instead of sticking to a uniform (and boring) white. A natural artisan style is great for small plate restaurants like chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat in Chicago. Here they use hand painted plates to enhance both décor and food. In your home, choose decorative ceramic plates for both fun accents and main dishes; the durability of majolica means they’ll last for years to come.

Match Plates to Food. Restaurants want to amp up their “wow” factor when it comes to presentation and part of that is having the right size plate for the job. If you serve an individual appetizer on a full size dinner plate it will look lost and lonely. Think about large bowls, platters, and decorative ceramic plates for serving with style while small plates work great for salads or individual desserts. Layering hand painted ceramic plates is another great way to add texture to your table.

Shapes Matter. I love using plates and bowls that have a surprising shape. Visual interest is increased with variety, so mix decorative ceramic plates that are square, rectangular, and oval. Octagonal plates by Gorky Gonzalez are a great addition for serving a special dessert.

Less is More. A cluttered table can seem overwhelming. Minimal trends in restaurants like bare tables with textured placemats work great in the home, letting you focus on the details. Try bar towels for napkins, high quality silverware with striking design, and maybe a hand-painted pitcher of water or wine.

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French Ceramics: Spotlight on Quimper

One thing I love about ceramics is its rich history and variety worldwide. French ceramics is a great example: From Provence to Brittany (Bretagne), French ceramics are as varied as the people and traditions that make them. Recently I came across my parents’ collection of hand painted plates from Quimper (pronounced kemper) and got inspired to find out more about this famous center of French ceramics for myself.

Artists in Quimper have been making pottery since the Roman times. Near four rivers there’s both an abundance of clay and an easy way to ship the finished product. But Quimper faience (remember, faience shares the same glazing methods as majolica) began around the start of the 18th century. Its history reads a bit like a soap opera: Jean Baptiste Bousquet moved to Locmaria (or Loc-Maria) in the 1690s, setting up production for useful items like pipes and tablewares. His son Pierre Bousquet came to help out later on. Pierre’s daughter married Pierre Clément Caussy, an artist trained in the multicolored glazing approach like that in Rouen. Before pieces had been blue and white, but now red, purple, green, and yellow began to be used as well.

The nobility clamored for faience for their tables (a trend that started when Louis XIV confiscated dinnerware made from precious metals as a fund-raising move, says Antiques Journal) since it was easier to get than porcelain from China. These antique hand painted French dinner plates are popular with some collectors today. Even with the link to nobility, Quimper ceramics survived the French Revolution by changing production to brown and reddish earthenware. In the early 1800s glazes using multiple colors reemerged and around 1880 the “petit Breton” motif appeared.

There are still many “Faïenceries” in Quimper, including Faïenceries H.B. Henriot started by the Bousquet family. They continue the tradition of handpainting without transfers, which is an impressive feat in itself. There’s also a Quimper Faience Museum you can visit and learn more about the methods of these famous French ceramics. If you start delving into more about Quimper ceramics on your own, be prepared: the best information is in French.

 

 

Image of Henriot faïencerie courtesy of Thesupermat.

Image of “petit Breton” courtesy of Patrick.charpiat.

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My Obsession with Handmade Ceramic Pottery

I don’t know when exactly it started. On my first solo trip to visit my artist uncle in LA, I spent all day making clay models of his dog and trying to figure out the potter’s wheel; I proudly centered my first pot sometime around the second grade; And my mom hand-crafted and painted an entire set of miniature dishes for my doll… no kidding! I went on to take ceramics classes in school through my senior year of college, when my professor was so fixated on the foot of each piece (the ring of clay that protrudes at the base) that to this day I immediately flip a piece over to analyze its foot.

After college I moved to Spain and immediately sought out a ceramics class. I landed in Yoko’s workshop, where little Japanese Yoko and ten Spanish señoras gossiped every Wednesday night about their husbands and neighbors… while making ceramics of course!

Apart from my personal attempts at the craft, I grew up surrounded by the handmade ceramic pottery of real artists. It was normal for my parents to return from a trip with delicately painted Italian ceramic plates to hang on the wall or Mexican dishes for serving chips and salsa. Our home was full of Quimper faience, those simple French designs that capture your imagination and transport you to another era. I loved that these handpainted ceramic works of art could decorate your walls like paintings, your shelves like framed photographs, and your table as an actual dinner plate. Function and beauty together… I was hooked.

My obsession quickly moved from household names like Quimper and Deruta to the unexpected and original. Artists worldwide have adopted the timeless techniques of handmade ceramic pottery and made them their own. I find it fascinating to see how different cultures and moments in history have influenced the craft. For example, traditional artists like the Bartoloni brothers in Italy and Gorky Gonzalez in Mexico have created their own interpretation of timeless images like the rooster:

Meanwhile, individualists like Sylvie Duriez and Richard Esteban follow tradition only so far as their technique on the potter’s wheel. When it comes to glazing their handmade pottery, these artists exert their own unique creativity — resulting in handpainted ceramics that express the artist’s true personality and cannot be replicated.

Large Bowl by Sylvie Duriez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is this mixture of tradition, innovation, and originality that really draws me to handmade and hand-painted ceramic pottery. Each piece has its own unique story, which not only impacts its look and feel, but also its function. These are not just beautiful paintings by amazing artists that we hang on our walls to appreciate. They are also our everyday plates, our special occasion serving dishes, our favorite mugs, and the centerpieces on our tables. They are thrown by hand and expertly painted in order to be used, enjoyed, and passed on to future generations.

So yeah, I’m obsessed with handmade ceramic pottery, but at least I’m willing to admit it!