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Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Beyond the Clichés


Roses are red (and tired), chocolates are cliché. What Valentine’s Day gift ideas do you have for this year? If you’re stumped (or want to give some gentle hints), try one of these swaps for your sweetheart this year.

Instead of chocolates, try cheese.

Does she love brie? Maybe he adores Roquefort. For fans of cheese, a cheese plate paired with a specialized server or two will get plenty of use during your dinner parties or intimate evenings in. And unlike a box of chocolates, a good cheese plate and cheese knives will last for years instead of days.

barn_red_cheese_plate

Instead of a bottle of wine, try cups to toast your love.

Ok, if you both like wine, why not add some new ways to drink your favorite vintage this Valentine’s Day? Stemless wine glasses are always a good move (and won’t break in your dishwasher). I’m also loving these rustic chic vino cups and wine pitcher by Ceramica Valenciana.

Whatever kind of wine vessels you choose, take my advice and avoid black glass. They look great, but it’s impossible to tell what’s inside, which becomes a problem when you need to tell the red from the white.

Instead of a necklace, try a jewelry box.

Maybe she has an entire collection of jewelry from all the time you’ve spent together. A jewelry box that matches her personal style prepares for many more beautiful pieces to come. Think about specialized storage for the pieces she collects. Earrings do well hanging on a tree while rings and bracelets are right at home in a smaller box.

unique vases

 

Instead of flowers, try a unique vase.

Flowers fade, but a vase is a great way to make a lasting statement. Try giving your bouquet in a vase suited to the style of your recipient (and the flowers inside). Whether covered in ornate patterns or a single shade, made of ceramic, glass, or another material, these gift ideas have endless possibilities.

Instead of dinner out, try breakfast in.

Valentine’s Day is on a Friday this year, so instead of going out that evening, have a special breakfast the next morning. Serve your sweetheart coffee or tea out of new mugs just for the occasion. A red and white espresso cup is festive; blue and white mugs are also sure to please. Other gift ideas from kitchen accessories to table cloths can also feature in your morning repast. Add some mimosas and you’re ready to go!

 

Still stumped for gift ideas? Try one of our new gift cards. They always fit and that way your love can truly get their heart’s desire (at least ceramic-wise).

Heart image courtesy Muffet.

Breakfast image courtesy Will Merydith.

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New Hand Painted Italian Ceramics from Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio

deruta_signjewelry_boxes

When thinking about hand painted Italian ceramics words like durable, intricate, original, and historic come to mind. From the locally sourced clay to fabulous, colorful glazes, Italian ceramics certainly stand out. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to find Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, a studio run by the brothers Antonio and Carlo, in Deruta, Italy. Another historic center for majolica, the highly ornate designs and lush colors of Deruta ceramics are justly famous. After I met the amazing team of artists at this third generation family workshop in the summer of 2013, I knew I had to share them as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection. Unpacking the boxes has been amazing.

For centuries hand painted Italian ceramics were used by wealthy families for their meals and home decor. Deruta became known for the intricate decorative work on their ceramics, setting their plates particularly apart from the rest. Gialletti Giulio’s exquisite plate collection continues this tradition, with intricate borders in an amazing array of colors. I love how the patterned borders create a strong statement when stacked together.

Italian hand painted ceramic platesItalian hand painted plates The decorative patterns really shine on their one of a kind jewelry boxes too. The flower-inspired motifs remind me of mandalas. You can also see every brushstroke, which makes these pieces even more special. These jewelry boxes are definitely a great gift idea for anyone who loves Italy and needs a small piece they can see every day on a dresser or tabletop.

Italian jewelry box

Other great daily reminders of Italy also include a variety of home accessories like salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar sets, and soap dispensers.

Italian salt and pepper setServing platters are another versatile, high-impact piece whether used as a centerpiece or holding your main course for dinner. Watching the artists work at Gialletti Giulio was much like visiting my other Italian artists; these are truly people who are meticulous and have a passion for their craft. I can’t wait to see what I unpack next so I can share even more of their amazing hand painted Italian ceramics with you all.

Italian serving platter

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4 Quick Gift Ideas Using Soap Dishes

Soap gift ideas
As we get closer and closer to December 25, the shopping stress starts to skyrocket for those of us who haven’t finished all our holiday gifts. The list seems to grow longer and inspiring gift ideas fewer. That’s why I wanted to share the beauty of Italian soap dishes when it comes to last-minute holiday gifts (or really any time year-round). These practical pieces have a startlingly wide range of uses; which are the best soap dish gift ideas for your list this year?

italian soap dish

  1. Pair an Italian soap dish with a bar of soap. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Whether you love fine milled soaps, natural bars from your local farmer’s market, or want to make bars yourself, gift soap should be distinctive. You can match the shape of the soap to that of your Italian soap dish (round soap with a round dish, square soap with a square soap dish) or mix things up with contrasting shapes. Just make sure your soap fits inside the dish so it won’t make a mess when in use.
  2. Give a delicious soap dish. Pair soap dishes with unusual cooking accouterments. One gift idea is some pink Himalayan salt, though other spices like these pictured are also great options.  spices I think the best soap dish for this gift is the square Italian soap dish; the rich blue and indented sides hold any seasoning on the counter in style. This gift idea is ideal for the adventurous cook on your list, especially with all the fansastic seasonings available.
  3. Make a soap dish home for accessories. Small trays or soap dishes make a useful addition to a beside table or dresser top to hold watches, rings, or other jewelry. Add a favorite accessory from brooch to bracelet and present it in a handmade soap dish for anyone who loves a little glitz.
  4. Fill soap dishes like gift baskets. Two piece soap dishes quickly become a repository for other small gifts. The Sayulita soap dish is best for this gift idea. Fill it with candy, bottles of scented lotion, bath pampering essentials, or other little treasures.

Have other gift ideas that use soap dishes creatively? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Soap image courtesy of Chris_Parfitt.

Spice image courtesy of geishaboy500.

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New Italian Soap Dish from Ceramiche Bartoloni

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

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

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

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

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Italian Soap Dish Love

What’s something you use multiple times everyday but gets little attention? Give up? Your soap dish! Sure you won’t find a lot of people talking about the glory of Italian soap dishes, but today I wanted to focus on this overlooked essential. Wherever you have a sink, you probably have some soap – why not make it more visually interesting?

I’ll admit that I’d not thought much about Italian soap dishes before I visited Ceramiche Bartoloni. But their beautiful pieces definitely made me pay attention. The circles, squares, and rectangles stand out – these aren’t mundane soap dishes at all, they’re works of art! Since then, I’ve discovered that their uses go beyond the bathroom counter. One alternative use for these Italian soap dishes is to hold jewelry on a bedside table or dresser. Definitely makes it easier to find your watch and rings in the morning.

I’ve also used an Italian soap dish for serving small condiments, like lemon slices to go with drinks or chopped herbs for garnish. The cheerful lemon designs hand-painted on these Ceramiche Bartoloni pieces really brighten any space, from dining room to buffet table.

Of course, traditionally one uses an Italian soap dish for just that – soap. Everyone has their favorites, from plain unscented bars to handcrafted wonders of texture and perfume. One of my aunts always has a bar of Yardley English lavender soap in her guest bathroom; whenever I smell it I think of her. Shaped soaps can also be fun, though they’re never as pretty when they’ve been used a few times.

Whatever your soap bar preference, it’s important that your dish be roomy enough for the entire bar. Sloping inward sides prevent water from getting everywhere (keeping counters dry). An Italian soap dish can be the perfect accent in a cheerful bathroom or a place to keep sponges and hand soap (less harsh than dish soap) in the kitchen.

Another idea? Pair an Italian soap dish with elegant soap for a practical and stylish gift that’s unexpected. With all these possibilities for using Italian soap dishes, it’s a wonder we don’t talk about them more.

Do you have another way you use soap dishes? Or a favorite soap to give as a gift? Post a comment below and let us know.

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6 Unique Uses for Your Gorgeous Ceramic Bowls

How do you make delicious food even more appealing? Serve it in something gorgeous. Unique dishware, like a handmade blue and white bowl or serving platter, adds flair to any table. Whether it’s a family dinner, cocktail party or casual barbecue… any get-together is made more festive when decorative details are included – how do you think Martha Stewart built her empire?

When it comes to serving and eating from ceramics, I am especially drawn to unique bowls. Maybe it’s the round shape, so lovingly thrown by hand on a potter’s wheel. Or maybe its the various uses for bowls, which differ from one culture to the next. Mexican ceramic bowls, French coffee bowls, Italian pasta bowls, really bowls of all shapes, sizes, and origins cry out to be brought home and enjoyed. And because I believe it is important to really use these beautiful vessels, here are some creative ways to get the most of your ceramic bowl collection.

  • Drinks. French coffee bowls are an obvious choice for a large café crème or a chocolat chaud. Nothing beats dipping a fresh croissant into your favorite warm beverage of choice. Then again, I know kids who love having their chocolate milk served in a bowl – it always seems bigger that way.

  • Fruit. I love the complimentary beauty of citrus fruit displayed in blue and white bowls. Whether its a rustic blue bowl from the south of France or a blue and white floral pattern from Mexico, ceramic bowls are perfect for highlighting the natural beauty of oranges, lemons, and limes.
  • Jewelry. Use mini bowls to keep rings, earrings, or even necklaces. One of my customers told me she uses Mexican ceramic bowls like these by Gorky for her cocktail ring collection.
  • Snacks. If healthy food is readily accessible, you’re more likely to eat it. So why not load up Italian bowls with fresh fruits or nuts for an afternoon pick-me-up? A series of small Mexican ceramic bowls can also be great for serving dips for crunchy vegetables or a trio of salsas for your taco dinner.

  • Salad. A large green or fruit salad really comes to life when you serve it out of a big and beautiful Italian bowl. Traditional pasta dishes are also an obvious way to get the most of a large ceramic bowl. 
  • Dessert. While some may actually use their French coffee bowls for coffee, I am much more apt to use them for ice cream sundaes. Whether Greek yogurt with honey, nuts, and fresh figs, or piping hot cobbler à la mode, an assortment of ceramic bowls compliment a delicious finish to any meal.

Coffee bowl image courtesy of St0rmz.