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Gorky Gonzalez, a Lesson in Making the Traditional Modern

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

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

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

Gogo bowls

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

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

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Looking for No-Fool Decorating Ideas? Try Some Blue and White!

decorating with blue and white

April 1 is known as a day of pranks and tricks. Having worked with a host of designers and decorators, I have a few tricks of my own when it comes to making a space look its best. From a grouping of blue and white vases or black and white jars, to a well placed black and white stripe lamp, transforming a room is often as easy as choosing the right accessories or the perfect coat of paint. What room in your home could use a decorating transformation?

decorating with blue and white

 

Here are a few ideas to get you started with blue and white.

Living Room

This space should exude welcome and comfort, especially if you like to entertain. Add fresh flowers for an easy and seasonal transformation; the blooms will soften and enliven the entire room. Use an eye-catching blue and white vase or other bold color to pack some punch. For year-round color, group blue and white vases of various sizes on a sideboard or shelf. Tired of your sofa and chairs? Refresh them with chic pillows in graphic patterns of various sizes. The resulting texture and color will make the room feel entirely different.

Bathroom

Small rooms are perfect for playing with bold colors. Choose a boldly patterned wallpaper for the entire space for a startling design transformation, like the map below. If wallpaper isn’t your favorite, similar effects can be achieved with paint in a rich jewel tone or other saturated color.
Add some lux to shelving with black and white jars to hold all your essentials. Unusual soap dishes and toothbrush holders are other ways to quickly inject new personality into the space.

Kitchen

Black and white is a perennial favorite for kitchens because the color combination is clean and chic. Black coffee mugs, a black ceramic vase, or other black accessories invoke this palette without much effort. Painting or staining cabinets is another way to transform a kitchen’s look, though it involves a bit more time and planning. If you have exposed shelving, hide things like canned goods with (Martha Stewart approved) cabinet curtains, while leaving your beautiful pieces exposed.

Bedroom

A black and white stripe lamp injects a modern feel to a bedside table, while blue and white feels more serene. Either way, you’ll feel more relaxed with diffused light coming from multiple sources than a glaring overhead light source. If you’re looking for a more dramatic overhaul, consider hanging tapestry fabric along one wall; the result will add old-world charm, color, and warmth to the space. Or put some wallpaper on the ceiling for a totally different feel. Changing details like drawer pulls, curtains, or bedspreads also make a huge difference with little effort.

 

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7 Top Tips: Buying Ceramics Online for the Holidays

It’s almost Halloween and once that’s over, the holiday shopping season seems to officially begin. I’ll be opening the Emilia Ceramics pop-up shop soon (stay tuned to the blog and Facebook for more details) and am always amazed at how early people start to buy ceramics for their holiday gifting. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or another special celebration for family and friends, this is definitely the season of giving.

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Looking to buy ceramics & pottery as gifts this year? Here are my top tips to ensure the best experience possible.

  1. Avoid the possibility of duplicates. No one likes to give or get a repeat gift. One easy solution is to buy ceramics online that are handmade or one of a kind. Because no two pieces are exactly the same (unlike mass-produced ceramics), you guarantee originality.
  2. Check out sizes. Photos are great, but double check the dimensions when you buy ceramics online. That vase might be 6 inches or 18 inches tall, making for a very different type of gift! When in doubt, pull out a ruler and double check that the ceramics & pottery you’re buying are actually the size you think they are.
  3. Remember that good things come in small packages. Unsure about what to get someone? Stick to practical pieces that can be used often. Coffee mugs, salt and pepper shakers, spoon rests, and multipurpose wine bottle holders are all popular ceramics to buy as gifts for this reason. I have many customers that buy these ceramics for neighbors, coworkers, and relatives on their lists. With the wide range of colors and designs, you’re sure to find appealing ceramics for any personality.
  4. Investigate shipping before you buy. When you buy ceramics online, make sure to look at the shipping policy as you shop around. What’s the policy on breakage? Is there a cut off time date for guaranteed holiday delivery? If you buy ceramics early enough you should be able to save on shipping costs and avoid express fees.
  5. Know the gift policy. Many places will gift wrap and send your gifts directly when you buy ceramics online, which can be a big time saver come the shopping crunch of November. Find out too about how returns are handled (refund, store credit, or exchange?) before placing your order to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  6. Find out how durable the piece is. Fine china teacups looks gorgeous, but seem like they will chip if you breathe too hard on them. Thicker, more sturdy ceramics & pottery are better for everyday use, especially if children or pets are anywhere in the picture. When you buy ceramics, think about who will use them and let that help your decision-making process.
  7. Think about collections. If you are figuring out the ceramics to buy for a collector, find out the focus of their collection. Do they collect by type (plates, pitchers), motif (roosters, polka dots), or color (blue and white, yellow)? Knowing where to start will ensure you select the best ceramics & pottery possible.

I hope these tips for buying ceramics online have been helpful! Please share your favorites on our Facebook page.

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5 Tips to Help You Buy Ceramics

There are many reasons to buy ceramics. Perhaps you need some coffee mugs or a stunning vase as a special present. Or maybe it’s not about needing anything at all, but more about falling in love with a certain ceramic design or shape. With the wide variety of ceramics available though, how do you decide what to buy? Here are my tips of what to consider when you’re shopping for ceramics:

  1. How will it be used? Are you looking to buy ceramics for decoration or daily use? Some pieces are versatile when it comes to usage (like ceramic bowls) while others are just as beautiful, but slightly less functional (like ginger jars). When buying a gift, think about how the recipient will use a piece – a wine lover would find a wine bottle holder useful while platters can be used to serve food or hang on a wall to brighten a room.
  2. Handmade ceramics or mass-produced? Mass produced ceramics are ubiquitous and impersonal. Occasionally ceramics that are mass-produced end up becoming collectors’ items, but they still lack originality. As for me, I’ll pick handmade any day of the week. I love knowing that my ceramics come from human hands and it’s important to me to support talented artists themselves instead of big manufacturing plants. That way, you know your ceramic piece is totally unique – a one-of-a-kind work of art that can never be reproduced.
  3. How durable is the piece? My grandmother had teacups that she only used on special occasions – the china was so fine I was afraid that if I breathed too hard I’d chip them. Thicker, more sturdy ceramics are better for everyday use (hence my grandmother’s solid mugs that she used everyday). When you buy ceramics, think about who will use them and let that help your decision-making process. Thin, delicate pieces are better for decoration than function, especially if children or pets are anywhere in the picture.
  4. Are you adding to a collection? Some people buy ceramics as collectibles, which makes discovering a unique piece all the more fun. For instance, I have an ever-growing collection of ceramic mugs, all of which I use! My mix of Portuguese, Italian, Mexican, and French ceramic coffee mugs is a testament to years of experiences, making my morning coffee like a trip down memory lane. If you’re buying for someone else, find out first if there’s a particular focus to their collection; they may have a thing for pitchers or anything decorated with roosters or glazed in blue and white.
  5. Where does it come from? When it comes to craftsmanship and quality, the source is hugely important. I love being able to see the brushstrokes and feel the irregularities in the glaze that make handmade ceramics truly special; forming personal connections with artists simply deepens my appreciation for the pieces. Choosing ceramics from artists with a strong dedication to their craft makes it easy to buy with confidence, knowing your pieces will stand the test of time.

What do you look for when you buy ceramics? Leave a comment and let us know!

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How to Care for Your Hand Painted Ceramics: 5 Top Tips

Many of my customers worry about how to take care of their Majolica ceramics. It’s not complicated, I promise. Yes, your hand painted ceramics need a little TLC, but nothing too excessive.

Here are 5 top tips for keeping your hand made ceramics in top shape:

1. Don’t overheat. While the Majolica ceramics that I carry are all dishwasher and microwave safe, excess heat can lead to premature wear and potential breakage through weakening. If you must put them in the dishwasher or microwave, use low settings. But I recommend avoiding these heat sources as much as possible.

2. Avoid shocks. Have you ever accidentally put a hot glass dish into a sink with cold water? If it wasn’t Pyrex I’ll bet that it cracked or perhaps shattered spectacularly. Thankfully hand painted ceramics won’t explode if quickly moved from cold to hot, but again, they don’t like it and small cracks can occur. Never transfer a dish straight from the refrigerator to the microwave – make temperature changes as gradual as possible.

3. Crazing isn’t breakage. Over time Majolica ceramics may develop tiny lines or cracks in the glaze. This is a natural part of the aging process for these wonderful hand painted ceramics, not breakage. In fact, some people believe that it adds an antique charm to a piece’s look. If you want to minimize this effect, follow rule #2 assiduously. Run warm water over a plate or bowl before filling it with hot food or liquid, or use a metal spoon as a heat conductor when filling mugs.

4. Beware the drying rack. Hand made ceramics prefer hand washing – but you still need to be careful when it comes to drying. Breakage is easy when you pile plates and mugs or are clumsy with a dishtowel. Minimize stacking and placing pieces where they can be easily knocked over.

5. Use them! Sure the easiest way to keep your Majolica safe is to keep it hidden away… but where’s the fun in that? I believe that part of caring for these fabulous hand made ceramics is using them frequently.  After all, they were created with the intention of being used and loved. So have your morning coffee in that great mug, eat dinner off that beautiful plate, and keep that vase filled with flowers on the dining table. No sense in having Majolica or any other ceramics if you don’t enjoy them!

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How to Choose the Best Handmade Ceramics

When looking at handmade ceramics, sometimes we fall instantly in love with a piece. But is it worth pulling out our wallet and bringing it home? Deciding whether or not to buy handmade ceramic pottery is definitely a subjective task, but here are the five things I look for when purchasing a piece for myself:

1.Individuality and originality. Is there something about the piece that is truly unique? That I’ve never seen before? When actually handmade, no two pieces of ceramic pottery are exactly the same. Furthermore, I love handmade ceramics with a shape and/or design that captures something about the artist or strikes a personal cord. I never regret investing in an original piece of ceramics to which I feel a strong personal connection.

2. Quantity. However, one-of-a-kind can be frustrating if you’re looking to get a matching set of 6 mugs. When picking out mugs (or any other tableware), find out if the artist reuses patterns or makes deliberate sets; some do. Others prefer a less structured approach and only create one-of-a-kind items or those with limited availability. Personally, I think mixing various mug or plate designs is a great way to add depth to the table.

3. Usefulness. If a vase can’t hold water or be thoroughly washed, it’s not much of a vase. Sometimes pieces are overly designed, adding aesthetics but taking away from the practical side of hand-painted ceramics. It’s important to remember that the best handmade ceramics were crafted with the intention of being used. If you find a platter you love and will use in your daily life (or at least more than once a year), it’s a sensible investment.

4. Durability. Will the handmade ceramics you love stand the test of time? Well-made artistic ceramics are actually much more durable than the cheaper, factory-made alternative.  But it is art and you will want to give it special attention, especially if you consider it an heirloom worth keeping forever and passing along to your kids.  The natural aging process for Majolica involves “crazing” (the appearance of minuscule lines in the glaze). While this doesn’t affect durability, it can alter the look of a piece, giving it an antiqued look that most collectors appreciate.

5. Craftsmanship and quality. Hand-painted ceramics are works of art, individually made and painted. Because of the precision involved, you’ll sometimes notice glazing variations, a smudge or even a fingerprint. I always inspect a piece closely to locate these inconsistencies, but I don’t necessarily rule a piece out because of them.  If the ceramics are made by an experienced artist who knows their craft, I consider these “mistakes” to be signs of authenticity, adding personality and value to the purchase.