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The Nostalgia of Blue and White

Remember when you were a kid visiting relatives and how wonderfully different their homes were from yours? Or when guests would come over and suddenly there would be an entirely different set of dishes to serve dinner? My favorite was my grandmother’s etched glassware, which I actually now have and use whenever I have guests over. It always transports me back to her house and the iced tea she made in the sun each day.

blue and white tea partySimilarly, there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about running into plates and bowls that remind you of your childhood. Whether it’s the fact that your parents still have and use the same dishes or coming across a blue and white bowl at a friend’s house, restaurant, or antique shop, the memories can be incredibly vivid. My parents had (and still use) small, delicately painted blue and white bowls — blue and white bowlthey served me soup when I was sick and  held ice cream when I was healthy. I think this is one of the reasons I was immediately drawn to Richard Esteban’s French coffee bowls. They have a similar feel and shape to the bowls of my childhood.

I think this is why people love blue and white ceramics so much. Blue and white is a classic color combination for fine porcelain, but those delicate plates, bowls, and cups aren’t really suited for the contingencies of everyday life. Sturdier ceramics that evoke the same associations are an ideal compromise. Although not every ceramic piece brings up a memory, the link between objects and experiences is definitely a strong one. I came across this intriguing blog post discussing the link between objects and memories if you’re interested in reading more about the phenomenon.

mug_sideIf you think about it, people do the same thing by collecting souvenirs when they travel. The word comes from the French “to remember” since having a thing makes the memory easier to access. Whenever I want to be reminded of my travels, I reach for an Italian mug or a French coffee bowl: suddenly I’m back in European rolling hills enjoying a drink at a little local café.

Of course, the easiest way to keep a link with the dishware from your past is to use it. This is why so many people pass down their porcelain table settings and fine serving pieces as well as other important objects. Having the creamer that sat on your great-aunt’s dining table or the crystal glasses used by your grandparents is a wonderful way to keep the people from your past as part of your present.
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What objects make you remember your childhood? Are there certain blue and white bowls, plates, cups, or other ceramics that connect you to your past? Souvenirs you try and use frequently? Leave a comment and let us know!

Tea party image courtesy of kevin dooley.

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Chevrons and Zig Zags: Designs with Staying Power

Lilies on Chevron
Bold, graphic, and classy, the zig zag pattern and chevron craze is definitely not just a 2011 phenomenon. From shower curtains to rugs, and pillows to chevron ceramics, (like lamps and flower vases), there are many ways to incorporate this great print into your life and home in a way that doesn’t feel trendy. Here are some of my favorites:

Chevrons in your hands: The many iPhone cases out there are truly staggering, but these great zig zag, stripe, and other patterned cases featured on Look Linger Love are a class above. You can even get them personalized! How’s that for stylish and unique?

Zig Zags on the wall: I saw this clever chevron wall treatment featured on Made By Girl as Jen transitions to apartment living. Even if it’s a rental, why not invest in a statement with great wallpaper (there are so many removable options on the market now) or a stunning accent wall? Green Your Decor has a fabulous list of other places to make chevrons vertical: curtains, shower curtains, and even paintings are flexible ways to enliven a space large or small.

Chevrons good enough to eat: That’s right, edible zig zags are here. This pattern looks stunning on a modern wedding cake by My Sweet and Saucy. The grey on white is subtle, the overall effect clean.

Illuminating zig zags: Why let the walls have all the fun? A zig zag ceramic table lamp, like this black and white lamp by Talavera Vazquez, is a fun and practical piece. Whether by the bed or in the living room, you’ll literally enlighten your current décor. If chevrons are too much, try a striped ceramic table lamp or a patterned blue and white lamp.

DIY chevrons: My newest blog discovery, The House of the Smiths has a lot of great DIY tutorials, and I love this one about making a chevron rug perfect for spring. Who knew zig zags could be “beachy”?! Like to knit? This Missoni-inspired chevron pattern by Zakka Life is fun for a scarf or blanket. With a stencil or tape, you can make almost anything chevron.

Zig zag patterned home décor: Whether a large blue zig zag ginger jar or chevron blue vase, I love combining the boldness of zig zags with the subtlety of blue and white. Chevron pillows, chairs, and rugs represent great textile versions of this combination, like these examples by Platinum Blonde Life. Chevron tall vases, zig zag wine bottle holders, ceramic canisters, and even planters are all ways big and small to join the fun.

What’s your favorite way to use chevron or zig zag patterns? Leave a comment and let us know.

Yellow chevron image courtesy of maureen lunn.

iPhone case image courtesy of Look Linger Love.

Chevron cake image courtesy of My Sweet and Saucy.

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Blue and White Rooster Plates: Beyond Function and Decoration

When it comes to decorative plates, the sky is the limit in terms of designs. Animals, fruits, flowers, and abstract designs, as well as ornate or simple patterns – I’ve seen them all and appreciate the creativity and skill that goes into each one. Some of the most successful that I’ve seen combine multiple themes, say blue and white along with roosters. On a plate. That can hang on your wall. Or be used to serve and enjoy meals. Talk about multitasking!

When it comes to decorating in a specific theme, committed collectors show just how much of a certain theme exists out there. I was amazed that the fine folks at Cock-a-Doodle Café in downtown Oakland could find all those different rooster pieces. It’s obviously a labor of love. Recently, thanks to the Internet, I found an incredible Henriot Quimper blue and white rooster plate that’s actually more like a basket. The design is playful, simple, and almost childlike but becomes more sophisticated with the ornate branch detailing and scalloped edging. It’s a quirky piece from the 1960s, but it got me wondering – what other kinds of blue and white rooster plates are out there? Is this a niche that I’ve overlooked in all my rooster love?

The joys of Etsy are myriad and their rooster selection is quite eclectic. Decorative plates abound from incredibly detailed to free-form designs that vaguely look like fowl. There are full color plates, red rooster plates, blue and white rooster plates, plates that are actually shaped like roosters (or rooster heads), and even a clever rooster plate meant to hold deviled eggs. That’s what I call a specialized piece!

The personality behind some of these truly unique rooster plates reminds me of the ceramics by Gorky Gonzalez. The blue and white rooster is proud in its octagonal serving dish; it seems almost a shame to cover him with salad or another delicious main dish. My customers also love the companion blue and white rooster bowl as wall decoration, adding rustic charm to the kitchen.

But for those who like ceramic wall plates with more color, look no further than the playful little rooster plate by Ceramiche Bartoloni. These rainbow-tailed roosters are bright and cheerful, adding an authentic Italian charm to the table or wall.  The colorful Gorky rooster bowl also looks great displayed upright in a shelf or while serving a fun Mexican-inspired meal.

No matter your preference, when it comes to the decorative plate, here’s to finding the pieces that fit exactly what you’re looking for, whether that means roosters or some other animal-themed ceramic wall plate. What plate, bowl or mug theme are you currently on the hunt for? Comment below with your favorite design themes.

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Ginger Jar Lamps: Illuminating Design and Functionality

Ginger jars are a decorating staple I’m seeing in more and more chic interiors. Great lines and a definite presence along with the wide variety of designs and bold colors makes ginger jars (known as tibores in Mexico) perfect for a console table, shelf, or even flanking entryways and staircases. The Pajaro Tibor, an extra large ginger jar by Talavera Vazquez is particularly striking on a patio — adding instant and festive flair.

But sometimes you need pieces that are both functional and beautiful, like ginger jar table lamps. Bold and bright, ceramic ginger jar lamps literally light up a room. It’s no surprise that people are talking about how much they love them. To The Tens mentioned ceramic ginger jar lamps in a recent post as a great accent or gift (for a hostess or yourself) and I couldn’t agree more. Fun and functional, ginger jar table lamps help make a room feel cozy with accent lighting that creates depth and warmth perfect for a living room or bedroom.

The current trend is a pair of ginger jar lamps flanking a bed. I got an email from Carol, a customer in Kentucky, who got a pair of the burnt orange zigzag lamps. “They are just beautiful. I e-mailed a picture to Krisia, my architect. She said, ‘They make me happy, do they make you happy?’ … We are all about fun, and we’re having it, for sure.”

There’s nothing better than hearing from people who love their ceramics enough to write and tell me about it! I love the idea of helping people make their homes truly their own.

Want some more reasons to add a ginger jar lamp (or two) to your home? Try the Las Flores lamp for festive yet relaxed sophistication. This ceramic ginger jar lamp with its blue and white is popular for living rooms: its charm is hard to beat, particularly on a stylish side table.

Size matters too, so if regular ginger jar table lamps are too big for your space, try a small blue and white ginger jar lamp instead. Same design power, smaller footprint in your decor. Don’t forget to top off ginger jar lamps with a stylish shade that compliments your style as well as the lamp itself. With so many different colors and designs, here’s to seeing more and more ginger jar lamps in 2012.

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Blog Round Up: Planters


Green thumbs unite! Ceramic planters are a favorite with so many gardeners and it’s easy to see why. Planters made from earthenware (aka ceramic planters) keep soil moist longer — perfect for those of us who forget to water. And they provide a sturdy base for our favorite plants, from ferns to flowers to vegetables. At Emilia Ceramics, we love ceramic planters for their decorative flair as well. But we’re not the only ones… Let’s check out why people love ceramic planters in 2011, for our last blog round up of the year.

Fresh American loves planters with style, indoor and out. Whether a zig zag planter or a huge cube for small shrubs and trees, it’s important to match your planter to its contents. Check to make sure there’s enough space for adequate roots when choosing a ceramic planter. It’s best to find a ceramic planter with a hole for drainage, but you can always add a layer of rocks or gravel to keep your roots from getting too wet. Other planter ideas range from DIY to statement pieces for your patio, porch, or even living room and kitchen.

Of course, you don’t have to use a zig zag planter for just plants. The Jet Set Gypsy thinks the oval striped planter pictured above would look great filled with limes for margarita making and I tend to agree. Ceramic planters are perfect places for fruits, mail, or even stylish office supply storage on a desk.

Of course, fun patterns are one of the reasons to love handmade ceramic planters. This Designers Palette loves chevron ginger jars, but I can see a similar design statement with a wonderfully graphic planter. Want something a little more warm or organic? This rustic Italian ceramic planter, like many others by Ceramiche Bartoloni, is gorgeous for either starting out seedlings or housing daffodils and other favorite flowers.

Let’s not forget wall planters either. For trailing vines or a decorative display of seasonal flowers, hanging ceramic planters are another colorful way to create a garden inside and out. Blue and white, polka dot, or multicolored planters make any wall space instantly more green in the summer and add interest during dreary winters.

It’s been an especially popular year for zig zag planters; In fact, at Emilia Ceramics we’ve recently sold out — who knew zig zag planters would be such popular gifts this holiday season?! More are on the way, but with stripes, prints, polka dots, fruits, and other motifs for ceramic planters, it’s easy to find one that matches your style as we transition from 2011 to 2012.

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Blog Round Up: Ginger Jars

Why do so many people love ginger jars? Also called a ceramic urn or tibor (in Spanish), these timeless vessels have definitely been making a splash in the decorating world lately. I love the versatility of ginger jars with a lid when it comes to decorating possibilities: take off the lid and it’s a vase for a stunning bouquet; put the lid back on and it looks perfect on a shelf, end table, or in a favorite nook.

But I’m not the only one who loves ginger jars. Perusing recent posts on design blogs, I’m amazed how many people are talking about ginger jars — from antique Chinese ginger jars to modern tibores by Talavera Vazquez. Here’s a quick roundup of great ginger jar finds; it’s fantastic how they can really work with so many different kinds of home décor. What’s your favorite?

Color. Curated by Color and Love Design are into blue and white. Cooper Grey loves the striking qualities of black and white. Both these combinations feel clean and fresh, no matter the setting from living room to bathroom, entryway to kitchen (or even on the patio). Blue and white can be nautical or sophisticated, black and white minimalist or causal, and ginger jars blend into both of these arresting color schemes easily.

Shape. Is there a difference between temple jars or ginger jars? Houzz explains the subtle difference in these shapes as well as their various uses. What we often call ginger jars have been used to keep the ashes of loved ones, ginger, salt, and other spices. Seaside Style talks about her mother’s collection that started her own obsession with traditional ginger jars. She’s mixed a Chinese ginger jar with seashore-inspired accents as well as more modern piece with antique furniture. I’d also agree with Dressing Rooms about the “timeless elegance” of ginger jars both old and new.

Graphics. Stripes, zig-zags, chevrons, and other organic inspired designs makes for ginger jars that feel modern yet not too edgy or minimalist. Shop Sweet Things loves the variety of patterns available in modern ginger jars. California Home and Design adores chevrons and mentions pottery ginger jars as an easy way to incorporate this pattern into your home without being overwhelming. And Jen Ramos of Made By Girl keeps one on her office bookshelf as a stylish graphic counterpoint to her collection of bookends, vases, and other great art work. So many uses for ginger jars, so little time!

Look for more blog roundups as we finish up 2011, definitely a year of great design.

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New Tabletop Trend: Decorative Ceramic Plates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gifts We Love for Wine-Loving Friends

Know any oenophiles? An oenophile is a lover of wine, oenophilia the love of wine, and oenology the study of wine and wine making. Others prefer the term wine connoisseur, aficionado, or the more general, wine lover.

So what do you get an oenophile? It sounds like an easy question – wine. But what kind? From where? If you’re like me and don’t know a lot about wine yourself, picking out wine for an expert can be daunting.

However, help is on the way. Here are a few great wine gift ideas to fit any budget and occasion. I hope they help you fill your oenophile gift needs!

  • A tasting trip: When you want to celebrate something truly special, like an engagement or important wedding anniversary, why not treat your wine aficionado to a tasting in a region they love? A trip to taste Bordeaux in France or Malbec in Argentina would definitely be memorable. If that’s a stretch, investigate regional possibilities; there are more and more wineries throughout the US that produce delicious bottles (not just Napa Valley either). You can make this gift extra lux with overnight stays, dinners, and guided tours along with tasting opportunities.
  • A home tasting package: Brix26 has saved me on more than one occasion with a great selection of California wines. I love their wine gifts: you can buy 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles and they’ll ship their latest discoveries direct to your wine loving friend. It’s a great way to try new bottles that have been recommended by an expert.
  • Useful wine accessories: Here you have a range of choices. A ceramic wine bottle holder is stylish and practical, keeping whites cool on the table with ease. I also like how ceramic wine bottle holders complete a table’s look when it comes time for a dinner party. Also consider decorative wine corks, an aerator (it helps wine breathe quickly), or charms/tags for wine glasses.

black striped wine holder  paloma wine holder

Of course the easiest way to learn more about wine for yourself is to taste. Why not organize a home tasting with some friends? Everyone can bring a different bottle (perhaps based on a theme or region) and talk about what they have in their glass. Ceramic wine bottle holders easily mask labels for blind tasting possibilities, letting you discover what you truly enjoy… and have fun while you do it.

Wine bottles image (top) courtesy of Procsilas Moscas.

Wine gift image courtesy of Brix26.

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Quick Design Tips: Bold Stripes, Prints, and Chevron Patterns

From chevrons to zebra prints and paisley to checks, bold patterns are definitely making a splash these days in home design. It is not surprising that these fun patterns have become the most popular among the Emilia Ceramics collection — they are everywhere! Curious about incorporating bold patterns and shapes into your home? Here are three suggestions of ways to add a bit more punch to your current design aesthetic.

Chevrons

Their are many different ways to bring the graphic zigzag quality of a chevron pattern into your home design. In fact, here’s a great list of ideas I just found. Subtle touches such as tile or wood flooring give a bit more visual depth to any space, but aren’t overwhelming. But if you’re looking to fully embrace the audacious possibilities of chevron patterns, there’s nothing like a bold zigzag ginger jar or vase to liven up your dining room, kitchen or workspace. Blogger Jen Ramos bought the black and white zigzag tibor a while back and keeps it displayed on a bookshelf next to her desk.  I think it creates the perfect contrast with her books, magazines and other unique artwork. Another look I love is this one in my friend’s living room (photo on right). She has combined the striking burnt orange zigzag ginger jar with a matching striped vase to create an eye-pleasing focal point amidst rich solid colors.

Stripes

Horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, there are endless possibilities when it comes to decorating with stripes. Thick and thin stripes add visual interest to a wall (paint them using chalk lines and tape for crisp edges), either in contrasting colors or in subtle tones of the same hue. Stripes also make for a classy accent; look for pillows and rugs with wide bands or discreet pin striping.

With my new arrivals from Talavera Vazquez unpacked, I’m more into stripes than ever… striped vases of all sizes, striped coffee mugs, striped wine bottle holders, striped planters, and striped ginger jars… I can’t get enough of these stripes! The best part about these pieces is that they go with everything but have enough personality not to fade into the background and be overlooked.

Prints

Leopard print, polka dots, fleur de lis… there are more patterns and motifs out there than I have space to name. For an extreme example, check out this room that combines a blue zebra print rug, palm tree wallpaper, and floral patterned drapes. It is at once overwhelming and arresting. When playing with patterns, staying in the same color is key to preventing a cluttered or messy effect. Blue and white is a subtle color combination, enabling a mixture of patterns, textures, and styles to coexist with ease. For example, adding one of our large blue and white ginger jars to an already blue-themed entryway or living room makes a strong, yet stylish statement.

Layering prints is a great way to make a personal statement, but don’t forget to add some solids to the mix to give visual anchors to a room. So go ahead and take the plunge… you might be pleasantly surprised by a little decoration daring!

Chevron image courtesy of Steve & Jemma Copley.

Print image courtesy of Douglas LeMoine.

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Be Fashion-Forward with Black and White Home Decor

I know it came out in March, but I just heard about the documentary Bill Cunningham New York — it looks super interesting for anyone who loves fashion. The valiant New York Times fashion photographer combs the streets taking photos of what people are actually wearing right now. “I’ve said many times that we all get dressed for Bill,” says Anna Wintour, editor in chief of American Vogue, and just by looking at the body of his work, this isn’t an outrageous claim at all. The New York Times review of the film likens him to a war photographer, running to get the shot and capture a little slice of humanity.

Cunningham’s “On the Street” photo presentations are fantastic — just check out this one about black and white stripes taking over summer streets. The graphic nature of this summer’s popular black and white, he says, is “marvelous to photograph.” And with the resulting montage of black and white umbrellas, maxi dresses, long skirts, and accessories, it’s easy to see why.

Crisp, clean, and always eye-catching, black and white is a classic in both fashion and home decorating. So how can you incorporate this trendy-yet-timeless look into your personal style?When it comes to decorating, I love black and white vases and ginger jars. Bold graphic prints that pop, like these black and white vases by Talavera Vazquez, make a perfect addition to any room. I recommend displaying black and white vases in a room with strong reds or blues around it. They also make a striking gift, perhaps complete with a bouquet.

As Cunningham says, black and white stripes have been building for the past few years, and now have reached a crescendo. So why keep all the style inside? Black and white planters compliment the vibrant colors and textures of plants with a touch of elegance. If black and white stripes or zigzags are a little too eye-catching for your patio or porch, try the softness of a traditional floral design like this black and white planter.

Of course, sleek lines and crisp edges are hallmarks of black and white. That’s one of the things I love about the shapes of my black and white collection with its vases, lamps, planters, and platters. And unlike clothing with bold black and white horizontal stripes, you don’t have to worry about how your ceramics will look on your hips; they’re always flattering!

Movie poster image courtesy of Alejandro De La Cruz.

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5 Sites for Summer Design Inspiration

With the recent warmth in San Francisco, I’ve actually been making use of my outdoor space (which is quite a novelty). Perhaps Mark Twain never actually said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” but anyone who’s spent the summer here knows that the sentiment still rings true… most of the time.

All this sunshine makes me think of new design ideas and ways I could update the look of my home, both indoors and out. Perhaps it’s time to do some redecorating? Here are some clever and inspiring home designs I’ve come across in my quest for a fresh outlook:

  • Material Girls. A design blog for interior décor, I love the bold colors in this recent post about unique design details that make a space truly out of the ordinary. The striped multicolored floor is incredible, as is the hallway with yellow and white striped walls meeting green chevrons on the floor.
  • Design Mom. In a recent posting, the author ruminates on the modern accessibility of interior design advice. It’s true that with modern communication you can get expert help from anywhere in the world and sometimes having an outsider’s opinion is all you need to get a fresh perspective. Other posts include useful advice and inspiration on places where interior design and motherhood intersect, which is a challenge for many stylish moms I know.
  • Making it Lovely. Slowly transforming a house is a time-consuming process, yet this blog has inspiring tips, photos, and suggestions for every room as the author does it herself. Because I’m a sucker for ceramics and have a little collection myself (cough, cough) I enjoyed her post about how to best arrange a ceramics collection.
  • Apartment Therapy. An old roommate of mine showed me the book years ago and I’ve been addicted ever since. Perfect for summer decorating are these farm inspired ceramic pieces. White minimalism goes with almost every design, so why not add a whimsical egg holder or milk jug cup measure set to your kitchen?
  • Freshome. This site always has the wildest photos and design ideas, ranging from things I could see in my own apartment to totally crazy how-could-you-do-that (yet inspiring) designs. This cheese-inspired staircase is just one example. The round cut outs and child-friendly treads are beautifully thought out, making the stairs more than just a home necessity.

I’m curious about other design sites you are addicted to: any further reading suggestions?

Design collage image courtesy of Bill S. Living room image courtesy of Posh Living, LLC. Office image courtesy of Jeremy Levine.

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The Case for Handmade Ceramic Pottery

There’s nothing quite like holding well-crafted ceramics in your hand, whether a mug, bowl, plate, or large decorative vase. Yet some believe handmade crafts like painted ceramics are endangered, as stated on the Mexican Pottery and Crafts blog.

As with other artistic professions, a ceramic artisan is not focused on speedy production – there are machines now for that – but instead on creating quality work that follows long-standing tradition. The artists I work with at Emilia Ceramics have all chosen to follow a path that doesn’t bring easy money or involve mass production. For them it is a labor of love, aimed at giving satisfaction to both artist and customer alike. Each piece of painted ceramics is the result of hours of work, from beginning to end. So the question is, as our society becomes more and more streamlined, is there still a place for this kind of intensive labor?

I believe that there is value in the tradition and culture behind handmade ceramic pottery, which mass-produced pieces just don’t have. I love seeing a fingerprint or other slight “imperfection” on a piece — it is evidence that the bowl or plate was crafted by human hands. It is definitely true that you “can feel when there was a person with enthusiasm behind an object and not simply a machine.” That connection is completely different from the feelings engendered when you buy a piece off the shelf at a big box store.

The idea of being part of a long-standing tradition is also critical, as a culture’s values are often passed on through its artwork. I think about artists like Gorky Gonzalez, Richard Esteban, and even Juan Quezada of Mata Ortiz fame. These men chose to pursue and truly revitalize ceramic traditions that had either disappeared or were on the verge of disappearing. They are great examples of the genius that results from combining traditional craftsmanship with a new and creative modern aesthetic. These artists respect the past, but aren’t slaves to its forms or designs.

Just look at painted ceramics like a graceful vase, a simple bowl, or even something as basic as a mug. These gorgeous, practical examples of handmade ceramic pottery appeal to all the senses, invoking rich traditions and celebrating life’s simple pleasures. And for that reason alone, I think we’ll be able to keep the tradition of handmade artistry alive, even in an increasingly technological world.

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Mata Ortiz Pots: What’s the Story behind this Phenomenon?

When a friend said I’d like Marta Ortiz pottery, I assumed it was an artist’s name. Google, however, proved my assumptions (and spelling) wrong. Mata Ortiz (not Marta Ortiz) pottery is a unique art form from a small village of that name in Mexico. Here a revival of an ancient art form has transformed a community and truly enriched contemporary art.

This pottery sensation began when Juan Quezada found pieces of ancient Casas Grandes pottery in the nearby ruins of Paquimé. The form and designs intrigued him so much he began experimenting to see if he could discover how to make this exceptional pottery. Using local clay and trying different techniques with ash, firing, and formation, these pots are made without a potter’s wheel. Instead, they are hand built using a traditional coiling method that is then burnished, sanded down, and painted with natural pigments. Every step relies on what is readily available, from the hair used for the brushes to the cow manure and wood that provide fuel for the firing. It took Juan at least 16 years to get each step right, and he still experiments to this day with techniques and forms.

So how did Mata Ortiz pots find international acclaim? In the mid 1970s anthropologist Spencer MacCallum found some pots in a store in Deming, New Mexico. Their design and quality struck him, but the owner didn’t know who had made them. So Spencer set out to find the potter and ended up meeting Juan Quezada and his family in Mata Ortiz. A partnership was struck and slowly but surely a market built up for these truly one of a kind creations, revitalizing the village as more and more residents became potters in this impressive tradition.

Today there are tons of dealers and galleries for Mata Ortiz pots, both in and out of Mexico. Because the pieces are one-of-a-kind, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what you are going to get though when buying from a dealer online.

For my own collection, I tend to be more drawn to ceramic artwork that is functional.  As much as I love the organic, swooping forms of Mata Ortiz pottery, as well as the history and elaborate process behind it, it’s not very practical for daily usage.

It is the convergence of local tradition, innovation, and functionality that continues to draw me to the work by Talavera Vázquez. This 4th generation, family-run studio in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico, experiments with forms and traditional designs to make contemporary, beautiful pieces that are truly sophisticated. A lamp or vase adds authentic Mexican flavor to any room, but does it in a functional way. I also love their small pieces like candle holders, tissue boxes, and spoon rests that offer handmade Mexican artistry that is actually useful… making it an easy way to incorporate unique ceramics into your everyday life.

Mata Ortiz pot images courtesy of Ant Ware.

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Inspired Mexican Tile and Houseware

I’ll admit to occasionally surfing the web looking for inspiring pieces, like Mexican plates or Italian mugs. This week, hankering for some different Mexican painted ceramics, I stumbled upon Tierra Y Fuego. A company that stocks Mexican tile and housewares, I simply must share some of their products with you.

What first struck me were the sinks – one of my favorite examples of authentic Mexican painted ceramics. They offer a huge variety of styles and types: Round, oval, or rectangle, these pieces use Talavera designs in vibrant, bold colors. Why not make hand washing even more exciting with something handcrafted and unique? They add instant personality the bathroom.

Even cooler were the over the counter basin sinks that have hand painting inside and out, truly a visual delight. The hand forged iron stands compliment the rustic component of these Mexican painted ceramics, perfect for a second bathroom or decorative purposes. I dream of having a bathroom someday that incorporates one of these.

Perhaps for the wilder lovers of Mexican painted ceramics are the toilets. That’s right, as in commodes. I had never considered this use of Talavera – they even come with matching sinks for the full package! Definitely statement pieces for any home.

Talavera tile is hugely popular and Tierra Y Fuego certainly showcase a range of these Mexican painted ceramics, all made by hand. They have animals, traditional designs, and even almost Italian flower and flourish patterns. Of course, there’s a wide array of solid color to compliment any of their collection. With a variety of sizes and discounts on bulk orders, you can add color and personality to anywhere in a home from kitchen to bathroom or even a stairway. There’s even ceramic trim and molding – genius!

There are also a variety of Mexican plates in the Talavera style and other smaller items including floor tiles. Be sure to check out the step-by-step process these terra cotta pieces take (with pictures). Looking at their customer reviews, they seem to ship quickly and pack well, always something I look for in a ceramic company. Now, how to figure out how to justify one of those sinks…

All images courtesy of Tierra Y Fuego.

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The Wedding (and Engagement and Shower) Gift

Another May weekend, another bridal shower. This time of year it seems every weekend involves a shower, bachelorette party, or wedding celebration. Which means (for those of us not getting married), it’s the season of gift giving.

I’m not complaining — I love parties and I actually love giving gifts too. And I know someday it will be my turn and I’ll be able to register for all the juicers and waffle makers I’ve lusted over for years. But what I enjoy about giving gifts is the thought and creativity involved and more often these days, I feel uninspired when I look at a couple’s wedding registry. A metal cookie sheet or plastic cutting board does nothing to get my creative juices flowing. But that’s because I want my gift to be memorable. I want the couple to think of me when they use and enjoy it. Is that selfish? Maybe. But I’m the one giving the gift after all.

So what options do those of us creative (and yes, maybe selfish) gift givers have? For one thing, you can take an otherwise basic (read: boring) gift and make it personal.  The couple wants a fancy omelet pan? Compliment that with a fun breakfast cookbook and write a personal inscription inside the front cover.

Of course, since I started my company and now have hand-painted Italian, French, and Mexican ceramics at my disposal, most of my gifts are ceramic gifts. If the recipient isn’t registered with Emilia Ceramics, I spend some time looking at their registry lists at other stores. Once I have an idea of their color palette, I can assess what they might be missing or which of my pieces would accent the ones’ they’ve requested. Often I end up with one of the pieces shown below: A classic Italian pitcher for serving drinks or displaying flowers, an oval dish with matching dip bowls for appetizers, or a cake plate that makes a stunning statement even without a cake on top.

For cooks, I often give a spaghetti canister, utensil holder, or spoon rest. And wine lovers get a wine bottle holder with a special bottle from my favorite wine store, Brix26.

In my mind, these ceramic gifts accomplish all things a wedding (or shower, or engagement) present should. They are: (1) Special – which is fitting as a gift for friends that you presumably consider to be special too. (2) Creative/Original – there’s zero chance the couple will receive two identical gifts and be forced to return or re-gift your thoughtful present. (3) Memorable – when cooking spaghetti or serving appetizers from your gift there’s a good chance they will think of you and remember your thoughtfulness. (4) Meaningful – there’s an even better chance they will keep your gift forever as a reminder of their wedding and their happiness as a newly married couple. Which, all selfishness aside, is really the most important thing.

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The Best Mexican Pottery: A Checklist for What to Buy

Contemporary, unexpected, modern, colorful – this is what I think of when it comes to buying Mexican pottery. Surprised? The garish stereotypical wares made to sell as souvenirs don’t stir my inner collector. But when it comes to Mexican imports there’s a huge array of exceptional, interesting pieces that I find myself drooling over when visiting artists in their workshops. So what do you need to start buying Mexican pottery yourself?

In terms of design, there are so many more choices than just the rustic or raw, unfinished look. Just look at the range within Talavera ceramics! Two-toned zigzags and stripes create a sleek, modern feel; bold colors and playful motifs add a bit of charm. Feeling more simplistic or just not into patterns? Solid color pieces accent any collection, from plates to planters.

Sometimes my customers are overwhelmed by the vibrant quality of Mexican import pottery. Remember: a little can go a long way. So why not start with a special platter or a few mugs to see how pieces can lift both your mood and the ambiance of your home?

Besides looking at how to choose the best handmade ceramics, be careful when buying pieces you intend to use for food. Verify that they have met FDA standards and are lead free. Even if a ceramic piece is dishwasher or microwave safe, try to use lower heat settings to prolong their life. They’re not just dishes, they’re also artwork.

Ready to start exploring what Mexican pottery you should buy? Here’s a non-exhaustive checklist to get you inspired:

Tibor: The Mexican word for ginger jar or urn shape (above right) is a classic Mexican import. Great for indoor and outdoor decoration, the tibor combines modern design with authentic Mexican charm and comes in various sizes. We liked them so much that we made them into lamps (above left), giving the tibor a more practical touch.

Vases: Don’t stop with the tibor, other vase shapes, from a large statement piece to a small touch of color, add instant artistic appeal to your home.

Candle holders & Tablewares: Both practical and decorative, these add flare to any table setting. Salt and pepper shakers never looked so good, especially by the soft glow of candlelight.
Dishes: For platters and plates, the various shapes and types of Mexican pottery make them ideal for serving and enjoying everything from tapas to main courses.

Drinkware: When you discover a handmade Mexican mug or cup and saucer that is beautifully crafted and lovingly painted, your coffee or tea really does taste better.

Bowls: Again, the range here goes from little bowls perfect for a tasty dessert to a huge salad bowl fit for a fiesta. I like to fill my soup bowls with pazole, but what’s your favorite?

Planters: Inside or out, give your plants a stylish home that keeps them moist and protected. Whether that means a pot on the patio or a single flower in the kitchen, you’ll smile every time you look at your plants.

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You Are What You Register For…

You are original and your wedding is obviously Emilia Ceramics Gift Registryunique, so why have a registry that’s just typical?  When you register with Emilia Ceramics you offer friends and family the option of giving gifts that are as special and memorable as your wedding celebration itself.

Our beautiful vases, pitchers, lamps, and serving platters are all signature pieces that compliment more basic items you may be registering for at other locations.  Or opt for a completely unique look, with our charming place settings, cups and saucers, or kitchen canisters for keeping coffee, sugar, and flour. Round out your registry with some less expensive, but more fun gifts like tequila shot sets, salt & pepper shakers, a wine bottle holder and a spoon rest.

Just remember, your registry should reflect your unique personality and the importance of the occasion.  So ask for gifts that are original — your guests will thank you!

See what other couples have registered for by clicking here.

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Overwhelmed by gift giving?

Jessica VasesSometimes it feels like gift giving is never-ending… A friend gets engaged and suddenly you’re on the hook for an engagement present, shower gifts, and of course the wedding gift itself.  Then there are the seemingly constant birthdays and housewarming gifts to think about.

But finding a good gift doesn’t need to be stressful or overwhelming.  And giving a memorable gift doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg.  At Emilia Ceramics we have great gift ideas for under $100.  And when you shop online, we’ll gift-wrap for free and include a personal note with your present.

It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Check out our New Arrivals from Italy & Mexico.

Thanks,
Emily Brown
www.EmiliaCeramics.com