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

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

Deruta ceramics

Buy handmade Italian ceramics

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

Look for the mark

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

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Check out the glaze

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

Learn about pattern types

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

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.

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Ask about the artists

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

 

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Loving Sylvie Duriez!

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

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

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

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

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Fancy a Striped Vase #DIY?

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

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

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

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

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Capelo’s Mexican Vases: High Impact Style

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

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

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

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New Spanish Ceramics, Just in Time for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spanish Ceramics Coming Soon from Ceramica Valenciana

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

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

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

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Showroom Spotlight on Decorative Dinner Plates and Stylish Dining

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

indigo pitchergreen fish canister

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

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

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The Plate Designs of Gorky Gonzalez: Endless Combinations

Whenever I make a display of Gorky Gonzalez plates, I am faced with a unique challenge: no matter how I stack the mix of colors, patterns, and designs, these plates look great. So finding the most attractive arrangement can take some time. But the results always are appealing, with unique designs and vibrant colors that are beautiful on any table.

Gorky Gonzalez PotteryStacking plates is a quick and easy way to make any meal feel more like an event, whether you have guests or just your family around the table. Of course, the permutations depend on what you’re serving. Some ideas to get you started: Soup bowl on top of salad plate on top of dinner plate. Three plates of descending sizes stacked on top of each other. Square plates on top of round plates. For brunch, maybe a cup and saucer stacked on top of a bread plate and larger plate.

plate designs of Gorky GonzalezI think what’s special about the plate designs of Gorky Gonzalez is how they just beg to be mixed and matched. I have people who stick to the same color palette—blue and white is very popular—but mix the borders of their smaller plates to contrast with the patterns of their dinner plates. Others choose solid colored dinner plates and accessorize with complimentary salad and dessert plates in a mix of designs. I love a vibrant red plate as a starting point. For a dynamic table setting, things get even more interesting when each individual salad plate has a different central motif, but complimentary colors and border design with the dinner plates.

rooster_plateblue and white mini plateGorky dessert platered plateGorky’s plates are all handpainted, just like the rest of his ceramics, so no two plates are exactly alike. This personality really makes for a striking table, with the motifs of roosters, palm trees, fish, flowers, and more. What’s your favorite Gorky plate? How do you feel about red plates or blue plates instead of plain white plates? Leave a comment and let us know! I’m going to get back to arranging the plates in our new Emilia Ceramics Showroom… I just received a new order from Gorky so I have lots of material to work with!

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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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La Dolce Vita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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French Finale: Colorful Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

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

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

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

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

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Update on Sylvie Duriez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Poterie Aigues-Vives: Another Great Visit with Richard Esteban

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

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

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

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

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

 

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We’re Ready for Summer Entertaining with Mexican Serving Dishes

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

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

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

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

blue and white Mexican salt and pepper shakersmexican salt and pepper shakers

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

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

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

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

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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Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

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

If Mom likes…

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

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

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

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

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

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The Irresistible Charm of Blue and White Mexican Pottery

Blue and white pottery is steeped in tradition, going back centuries in China and the Middle East. Cobalt came from Persia to China in the 14th century, combining beautifully with the translucent white of porcelain. Just look at this plate from 13th century China; it looks like something you might find handpainted by a ceramic artist today.

Today’s blue and white serving ware is just as striking as the ceramics from the past. Though the antique feel of blue and white pottery continues to be popular for interior decorating, modern pieces also abound. Jonathan Alder, for example, creates playful designs on stacking porcelain platters with distinctly modern blue and white appeal.

With blue and white Mexican pottery, rustic charm meets modern aesthetics in the work of artists like Gorky Gonzalez. The playful patterns of these unique serving dishes mix well with other pottery platters, making your next meal or appetizer tray look even more appealing. The sloping sides of the El Mar oval serving dish are useful and the rounded corners of the rectangular Las Flores platter are unique.

These Mexican ceramics pair nicely with other pieces with the same border design or complement plain blue or white platters with ease.

Blue and white Mexican pottery by Gorky or Talavera Vazquez also plays with shapes. For example, the handles on Talavera’s blue and white serving dish make it simple to pass a roast. The curves on the end of this blue and white serving platter make it a piece that looks wonderful at the dinner table or decorating a console in the living room. Blue and white might be classic, but it is definitely still fresh in its appeal.

White on its own also gets updated in Mexican ceramics. Take our new chalk white square serving plate, part of the Gogo collection. This white platter is stunning in its deceptive simplicity. Other pieces in the same warm white – the long platter, oval serving dish, and dinner plate – further demonstrate how white platters can be anything but boring. Paired with deep blue dishware or another favored color, it’s easy to see how these unique serving dishes can steal the show!

Whether ancient or modern, intricately patterned or deceptively simple, blue and white is sure to please. What kind of blue and white serving platters do you love?

Chinese 13th century plate image courtesy of World Imaging.

Stacked tray image courtesy of jonathanadler.com via Emilia on Pinterest.

 

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

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

handmade ceramics: bowlmodern handmade ceramics

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

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

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

handmade ceramic tray

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

amor platehandmade ceramic bowl

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

tall vaseblack pitcher

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

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Making Handmade Mexican Pottery Truly Your Own

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

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

gorky pottery

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

dinner plate

red plate

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

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

gogo_mugs_plates_bowls

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

gogo_mugs_plates

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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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Behind the Scenes: Patrice Voelkel’s French Ceramics

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

Patrice Voelkel

I learned about Patrice Voelkel from a book on French ceramic artists that Sylvie Duriez loaned me many years ago. Since Patrice lived near where I was staying in St. Remy, I decided to check out his studio one rainy spring day. Thankfully it was clearly marked and easy to find – the French ceramics that covered the shelves are truly unique and unlike anything else in the Emilia Ceramics collection.

rustic blue pitcher

Patrice works with his wife Sylviane to create French ceramics with a modern sensibility that are deeply grounded in tradition. They use local black clay and create everything from design to finished product between just the two of them. Their dog Tina Turner keeps them company in their studio, known as Poterie Herbes Folles, which I think is named after the area’s wild and crazy grass. Patrice has worked with ceramics for over 33 years; he started making French ceramics near Lyon and then moved to the countryside and started Herbes Folles.

French ceramics drying in the sun

Poterie Herbes FollesThe Voelkels glaze their pieces with a variety of liquid-like colors, but I especially love their marbled blue and celadon pieces, as well as those in a contemporary chalk white. (Patrice himself seems to love blue – every time I visit the workshop he’s wearing some kind of blue shirt!) Patrice and Sylviane’s French ceramics are often large, heavy, and make a serious statement. The rustic grittiness truly reflects the little farmhouse and workshop where they are made. On my last visit, I saw pieces drying in the afternoon sun while Patrice worked on the wheel and Sylviane prepared ceramics for their final firing.

Patrice at work on French ceramics

I now have some new French ceramics by Patrice and Sylviane on the website. The one of a kind serving platter, rustic pitchers, and olive oil pitcher all in a rich indigo are ideal for bringing a bit of Provence to your home.

rustic blue platter

From spoon rests to prep bowls to serving platters, these French ceramics are stunning additions for any collection, reflecting so much of the people who made them with care and love. After working with Patrice for so long, I’m very happy I decided to take a detour in the rain all those springs ago.

white serving platter

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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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Behind the Scenes: French Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

The most recent addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection, Poterie Ravel has been around since 1837. A fifth-generation family-run business, this French ceramics studio was founded in Aubugne, France, and made tiles and other terracotta products for the home. When Gilbert Ravel took over the studio from his father in 1935, he changed the direction of the company to make planters that had more modern designs. The focus moved to high-end interior and landscape designers; the result is a world-class workshop full of ceramic artists that handle 8 tons of product a day, most of it creating their famous large-scale pots. The next time you see a giant terracotta planter at a major hotel, airport, or other public place, look and see if you can find the Poterie Ravel logo – chances are you’ll find one.

Today two sisters, Marion and Julie Ravel, run Poterie Ravel. Their ceramics are definitely art, a process that begins with the clay itself, which is extracted from their own quarries. Small pots are thrown entirely by hand (including all the French ceramics in my collection), while the massive planters are molded by a ceramic artist using a plaster mold and a piece of wood. All the pieces big and small are finished by hand for a smooth surface and the terracotta pieces left unglazed. Other pieces, like the unique pitcher vases, platters, and serving bowls, are hand painted in vibrant natural glazes before being fired in one of their four gas ovens.

About 20 ceramic artists work at Poterie Ravel, including Etienne (pictured below) and Gil, who I met on my last buying trip to France.

One of my favorite parts about Ravel’s French ceramics is that every piece is stamped with the Ravel logo, date, and initials of the artist. After I had made my selections of these French ceramics, I found out that Etienne had made some of the platters, Gil some of the pitchers. I love how each piece tells a story; this kind of personal connection is definitely one of my favorite parts of working with local ceramic artists.

Poterie Ravel is one of the oldest ceramic studios in France, and the attention to detail is truly incredible. Anyone looking for centerpiece ideas needs look no further than one of their unique bowls or statement-making pitchers and vases. It took me four years to be able to offer their French ceramics as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection and I think it was certainly worth the wait!

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

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

Abstract Designs

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

Floral Motifs

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

Animals

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

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

Solid Colors

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

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

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Behind the Scenes: Richard Esteban’s French Ceramics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Arrival: Owl and Rooster Cream and Sugar Sets

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

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

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

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

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Ceramica Valenciana: Spanish Ceramics Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Decorating Trend Alert! Stripe Painted Vases for Every Style

With stripes as a big fashion trend, it’s no surprise that housewares have followed suit. Stripe painted vases, tea towels, glassware, and other accessories have popped up seemingly everywhere. Whether thick or thin, this is a decorating trend that can adapt to any home style. Let’s look at some examples from Talavera Vazquez to DIY projects; what fits your aesthetic the best?

Large shapes, small stripes

Playing with mixed patterns is a way to keep a room playful and lively. This apartment featured on House Crush shows personality and style; the large multicolored stripe painted vase anchors an eclectic living room with bold magenta carpet and patterned pillows galore. Even when empty on a shelf next to a stack of books (bonus points for complimenting colors), like in fashion designer Liz Lange’s living room, interesting shapes with fine stripes draw the eye.

Blue and white

Nautical? Yes. Serene? Yes. Graphic, bold, and eye-catching? Yes, yes, and yes! The stripe painted vases by Talavera Vazquez are all these things, whether it’s the large blue and white striped Especial vase or a smaller cylinder shaped stripe painted vase. I love the rich cobalt and how the handpainted stripes have deep and lighter bands, giving these vases unexpected dimensionality. (Talavera Vazquez also has these stripe painted vases in black and white if that’s your color scheme of choice.) Designer Samantha Todhunter also features a spectacular blue and white vase on the styling section of her site, which she dubs “Morocco Modern.”

Glass

Shape, color, transparency – with glass, it’s easy to have options. Narrow and frosted at the top, striped in the middle, and dark at the bottom, this vase by D.L. & Co. is perfect for a single bloom. Other straight-sided vases by this company featured on Fashions and Home play with jewel tones and stripes that run up and down, not around the vase.

Mixed materials

Of course, stripe painted vases don’t just have to be glass or ceramic. Why not something like this creative stucco on glass combo with stripes in grey, white, and yellow featured on Nook & Sea? Other ideas might be ribbon-wrapped or even vases made entirely from recycled paper, leading us to the last category…

DIY

Have some neon spray paint, a glass vase, and some masking tape? Then you’re ready for this great stripe painted neon vase DIY from Refinery29. Even if you don’t like neon colors, this project would be fun in silver, gold, or really any color that strikes your fancy. It’s a great way to reuse a blah glass vase that you never use anymore.

What kind of stripe painted vase do you love? Talavera Vazquez blue and white? Glass patterns? Or is there something missing from this list? Leave a comment and let us know.

Grey, white, and yellow vase image courtesy of Nook & Sea.

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Fish and Gorky Gonzalez Pottery: California Style, Mexican Roots

Ah, summertime. With outdoor BBQs, lazy afternoons on the porch, swimming and lounging poolside or at the beach, and all the delicious fresh foods at the farmer’s market, what’s there not to love? With so many options, what is it that says summer to you? To me, there’s something about Gorky Gonzalez pottery that’s very California, very coastal, and very summery. These pieces are simply perfect for this time of year, feeling at home on a picnic table or in a dinning room.

Perhaps it’s because California was once part of Mexico, but I find that many Californians are drawn to the relaxed feel of Gorky Gonzalez pottery with its multiple colors, fun designs, and party-ready plates and platters. There’s something there that speaks to eternal summer and a carefree attitude. For this reason, my current favorite Gorky Gonzalez pottery pieces for a California vibe feature fish (pescados). Playful and fun, fish reflect so many aspects of summer that I love. And while they are similar, each piece of Gorky Gonzalez pottery is hand-painted and so each fish is unique… meaning that collecting various plates, bowls, and platters is like creating your very own hand-painted school of fish for your California-style home.

 

Here are three ways you can incorporate fish into your summertime fun:

  1. Summer snacking: Fill a large serving bowl with tortilla chips and then add your favorite dips, whether it’s salsa fresca, guacamole, or a truly spicy habanero salsa. Small dip bowls around the chips cut down on drips and mess over your chips. This mini dip bowl reveals a playful fish when empty; it’s a pleasant surprise even when all your yummy salsa is gone.
  2. Taco party: The best tacos are ones that have a wide variety of options for garnish. Fresh cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, red onion, lime wedges, and sliced radishes are just the beginning. The pescado triple dish is a fun and practical way to make your three favorites easy to pass around the table. This is Gorky Gonzalez pottery meets California and Mexican fusion in a big way.
  3. Dessert time: Fresh berry pie is one of my great weaknesses, whether it’s strawberry rhubarb with a homemade crust or a chilled cream pie perfectly decorated with blueberries or raspberries on top.

Fish mini plates with a fun octagonal shape enliven even the most ordinary desserts. Need bigger servings of your sweets? Choose larger salad plates with another fun variation on the fish theme (or make a set that mixes your favorite animal motifs so everyone can choose a favorite).

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Finding New Ceramic Wall Plates and Pottery Dishes in Mexico

I’ve been in Mexico visiting artists like Gorky Gonzalez and can’t get enough of the sun, the food, the… roosters. From ceramic dishes to the blue and white rooster that stand alone, I’ve seen roosters (and other fowl) everywhere.

But it doesn’t end with blue and white rooster plates; that’s just the beginning. New triple dishes feature hummingbirds and roosters to join the cactus, palm tree, and fish motifs already in my Gorky collection. I love these ceramic dishes because they’re so versatile: good for dips, condiments, olives, or nuts, they also function as a place to keep jewelry, keys, or the contents of your pockets (no more lost wallets and phones for you!). With both double and triple ceramic dishes, use a variety to add spice to your next fiesta.

With the new black rooster plates from Italy, I’ve been struck at the global nature of animal motifs in ceramic wall art. Chickens, frogs, fish, and flamingos join butterflies (like the pottery dishes by Angélica Escarcega), flowers, and people for quirky and lively decorative plates and bowls. Visiting the artists let’s me not only stock up on popular pieces (like those fun salt and pepper shakers) but also see new ideas from ceramic wall plates to tibors (ginger jars). One of my favorite things is seeing the painted but unfired pottery dishes – the kiln totally transforms them from pale, flat ceramics into the glossy, touchable pieces we all love.

Watching the artists paint every piece is also incredible. Whether it’s geometric patterns or those blue and white roosters, plates, bowls, trays, and other dishes come alive with every brush stroke.

Whether you prefer monochrome or full color decorative plates, look for new arrivals from Gorky, Angélica, Capelo, and Talavera Vazquez in the next few months. There’ll be some old favorites and some new surprises with ceramic dishes that are truly works of art.

Want to see more of my Mexico adventures? “Like” Emilia Ceramics on Facebook for photos and updates.

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The Italian Legend of the Black Rooster

I hadn’t been importing ceramics for long when I got what seemed like a strange request: Do you sell any black roosters?! The answer was no. I had colorful Italian roosters on plates, mugs, bowls, and pitchers, as well as tons of  blue and white roosters decorating Mexican pottery, but not one “black rooster” in the collection. While I was a little thrown off by the request for a black rooster, I did have a faint memory of a story related to the black rooster from when a friend and I tasted our way through the beautiful Chianti wine region.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized Ceramiche Bartoloni paints the black rooster. I was ecstatic, both because of the Bartoloni brothers’ unmatched painting skill and because I’d finally have a black rooster for the Emilia Ceramics collection. After all, we’re not talking about any old Vietri pottery rooster, this is a proud black rooster with a story and tons of personality.

And the new black rooster plates from Ceramiche Bartoloni did not disappoint: The dynamic blue, white, and yellow border perfectly frames a proud black rooster getting ready to crow. It’s also the perfect counterpoint to Bartoloni’s colorful rooster ceramic serving platters, bowls, and mugs.

And now to the story about the black rooster, which goes back to the 1200s in Italy. Florence and Siena had debated for years over who had claim to the Chianti region, each wanting it as part of their territory. Finally, the legend goes, leaders decided to settle the matter by a competition. Two knights (or horsemen, depending on your source) would set out at cock’s crow in the morning, one from Florence and one from Siena. Wherever they met on the road would determine the southern border for each city’s claim over the disputed land.

Siena chose a well-fed white rooster as official timekeeper, while Florence picked a starving black rooster. Again, sources differ as to why the black rooster was starving; the Florentines might even have kept it in a box with no food for several days. In any case, when the day of big event came, the black rooster crowed before dawn while the white rooster slept in and only crowed at sunrise. Thus, the Florentine rider traveled much farther than his Sienese counterpart, and the two men met about 19 or 20 km outside of Siena, giving most of the Chianti region to Florence.

Whether or not this legend is true, the black rooster was branded in 1384 as the emblem for the winemaking League of Chianti and is an important and common symbol for the region. The next time you get a bottle of Chianti, look for the black rooster (gallo nero in Italian) on the seal around the neck of the bottle. Different background colors and borders also represent different kinds of wines, says Wine Trail Traveler.

Complete with a legend, I’m excited to offer these new rooster ceramics. Whether you use them as ceramic serving platters or as a unique wall decoration, these black rooster plates are perfect for anyone who loves rooster chic with handmade Italian charm.

Rooster wine bottle label image courtesy of Live from Italy.

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What Makes French Ceramics So Special?

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Gorky Gonzalez Pottery & California: A Perfect Match

Why is Gorky Gonzalez pottery so popular in California? Is it the rustic design? The playful motifs on Gorky’s traditional pieces? Or maybe the sleek contemporary feel of the Gogo line? I think it’s all of these things and more. Gorky Gonzalez makes pottery that perfectly fits a relaxed California vibe, a refreshing idea regardless of whether you live in the state! Let’s look at some reasons why:

Rustic. From beach culture to farmlands, California has plenty that’s a little rough around the edges and a lot of California design reflects that. Gorky Gonzalez pottery is all handmade and hand-painted, lending individuality to each piece. The animal and human subjects on plates, bowls, and platters fit easily into a more relaxed design feel, making them fantastic gifts that work equally well at a dining or picnic table.

Playful. Check out the salt and pepper shakers; they’re a perfect example of why Gorky Gonzalez pottery is so ideal for California. In our Palo Alto pop-up shop, the bunnies, frogs, chickens, and roosters are flying off the shelves.

From swimming fish to a man on his horse, Gorky Gonzalez pottery has real personality. These pieces are an easy way to make everything from breakfast to dessert more fun.

Southwestern. The desert is definitely part of California. The cacti, soft colors, and unique shapes make some pieces of Gorky Gonzalez pottery feel right at home in a California home with southwestern flair.

The La Mexicana motif with bright fruits and leaves fits this style perfectly (and with all the pieces available from mixing bowls to serving platters, it’s easy to create an entire matching set).

Contemporary. Gorky Gonzalez uses techniques deeply rooted in tradition, but he isn’t stuck in the past. His son Gogo has created a line with the same quality craftsmanship but a more modern and contemporary feel. The bright solid colors mix well with more patterned pieces, whether bowls, plates, or platters. The Gogo espresso cups are another fun and unexpected shape that’s sure to get compliments. These pieces of Gorky Gonzalez pottery easily fit into a range of aesthetics, both in and out of California.

Eclectic. That all said, there’s something completely one-of-a-kind about Gorky Gonzalez pottery. The fusion of modern and traditional motifs, an inherent dynamism, and effortless charm make it perfect for an entire kitchen set or just a few pieces. Gorky pottery gives you the freedom to layer your favorite patterns and colors for a style all your own.

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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.