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Colorful Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

Catching up on some sales research this week, I found that colorful Gorky Gonzalez pottery is currently one of my best sellers. I’m not surprised. Gorky Gonzalez is the most well known of any of the artists I work with and his popularity extends across both Mexico and the U.S. Because other stores sell his colorful pottery, I strive to curate a unique collection of Gorky pottery for Emilia Ceramics. Nearly all the pieces I sell have been hand-picked during a visit to Gorky’s studio in Guanajuato, Mexico. When I do order from afar I am very specific with Gorky and his team about the designs and patterns I want. As a result, I am never disappointed with the colorful Gorky Gonzalez pottery I receive.

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Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

Gorky pottery comes in two styles. Some people like to mix and match them, while others are more drawn to one or the other. The more traditional style is first dipped in a creamy, off-white glaze. Once that has dried, artists paint various decorations around the edges of plates and bowls, and sometimes add a center design. Many of the figures painted on these pieces have been influenced by historic Majolica tradition, like the rooster, which is very similar to what you see on Italian ceramics. Mexican influences can also be seen, both in the vibrant colors and in motifs like the Catrina figure. I love this melding of ceramic traditions and international influences; It’s a very unique element of Gorky Gonzalez pottery.

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Gorky Pottery

Some of the traditional Gorky pottery is quite elaborate, while other pieces are subdued and offer a rustic simplicity. Many people like to mix and match their patterns so they can alternate daily between a plate with a fun fish motif and one with a carefree cowboy. Others like to set a stylish table with dinner, salad, and dessert plates that all match. Regardless, if you’re a fan of Gorky pottery, you’re most likely also a relaxed, creative person, who enjoys living an artistic and joyous lifestyle. I’ve never met a Gorky lover that I didn’t like!

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Gogo Pottery

Named after Gorky Gonzalez Jr. (who goes by the nickname Gogo), the more contemporary Gogo pottery is just as popular among my customers. While there are a lot of other plates, bowls, and mugs out there that are painted in solid colors, Gogo pottery is in a class of it’s own. These pieces have a soft, touchable element to them that is completely unique to Gorky Gonzalez pottery.

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Their originality starts with the clay, which is made from local soil in the nearby Sierra de Santa Rosa. This clay (which has been used for centuries by Indian ceramists in the area) lends Gogo pottery it’s soft, porous feel. Next, artists hand-dip or paint the pieces in mineral-based glazes. The glazes really set Gogo pottery apart: soft, butter yellow, rich terracotta, fresh cucumber green, and deep navy blue. The chalk white has more dimension than you’d imagine and the cherry red is vibrant and festive. The entire process results in cheerful mugs perfect for your morning coffee, eclectic bowls to show off a homemade soup, and relaxed dinner plates worthy of a great family meal.

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Do you prefer the traditional Gorky pottery or the contemporary Gogo pottery? Leave a comment below to tell us your favorites and how you use and enjoy your pieces.

Shop All Gorky Gonzalez Pottery Here >>

 

 

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Day of the Dead and Mexican Pottery

El Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is just around the corner (it’s November 1st and 2nd, corresponding with the Catholic All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days). While Day of the Dead traditions originated in the Central and South Aztec Regions of Mexico it is now celebrated in cultures around the world. Decorated Grave in San MiguelThe holiday is a time when people celebrate and pray for friends and family members who have passed away, aiming to help support their spiritual journey in the afterlife.

On the first day of the holiday, people visit their relatives’ graves, decorating them with flowers and candles. It’s a sort of picnic in the cemetery, with friends and family sharing stories about their loved ones buried there. It’s a celebration of the dead, as well as a celebration of the community those loved ones helped to create.

These graveside picnics usually feature food that was enjoyed by the loved ones being celebrated. Popular Day of the Dead cuisine includes tamales and pan de muerto, a special bread. Bakers hide a toy skeleton inside (usually plastic) and it’s good luck if you bite into it. Sweets are another important Day of the Dead tradition, with cookies, chocolate and sugar skulls. By biting into the skull shapes, people symbolically “take a bite of death” and rid themselves of the fear of death.

Right: A decorated grave in San Miguel de Allende
http://davidlansing.com/a-party-at-the-cemetery/

Another important aspect of the Day of the Dead are the intricate altars constructed and dedicated to deceased relatives. These are often decorated with yellow and orange marigolds and/or chrysanthemums (yellow is the Aztec color for autumn as it’s the season when nature begins to die). There are both home and public altars, where people leave offerings of their relatives’ favorite foods, photographs, and religious amulets. The altars show the cycle of life and death as part of the human experience. Day of the Dead celebrations also can include parades, music, or dancing; but the main idea is to celebrate life and death together.

Day of the Dead Altar in Oaxaca, Mexico
Above: A Colorful Day of the Dead Altar in Oaxaca, Mexico
http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/special/articles/oaxaca-mexico-day-of-the-dead.shtml

One of the most popular Day of the Dead personalities is Catrina, the skeleton figure of an upper class female in colorful dress. Catrina gained her iconic status soon after the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s and remains a popular subject in paintings and sculptures to this day. Her male counterpart is called Catrin. He often shows up playing in a Mariachi Band or alongside Catrina.

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Serving Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Serving Plate with Skeleton Couple’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Skeleton Serving Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

On my last buying trip to Mexico I picked out a handful of Gorky Gonzalez pottery with beautifully-painted Catrina and Catrin images. While some people who are unfamiliar with the joyous-element of Day of the Dead might think this holiday or its skeleton decorations are creepy, many of us find them to be fun, colorful, and full of authentic Mexican charm. The Day of the Dead plates by Gorky Gonzalez are not meant to be used and enjoyed solely during the holiday. Instead, they offer a relaxed, whimsical look at traditional Mexican culture that should be celebrated year-round. I love this eccentric Mexican pottery and I hope you do to!

What are your thoughts on this colorful holiday and the traditions that go along with it? Do you know of other Mexican ceramics that celebrates the Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Square Platter’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Catrina Plate’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Serving Plate with Catrina’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

Day of the Dead Plate by Gorky Gonzalez
Above: ‘Large Serving Plate with Skeleton Couple’ by Gorky Gonzalez
Shop Day of the Dead Ceramics >>

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Around-the-World-Inspired Blue and White Mexican Pottery

Blue and white pottery has a strong historical background that can be traced from all around the world. Dating back to the early 14th century, China mass-produced fine, translucent, blue and white porcelain which started in Jingdezhen (sometimes called the porcelain capital of China). New Chinese techniques, along with the export of cobalt (a precious commodity) from Persia, all played a part in the development of blue and white pottery.

blue and white potteryA beautiful antique Chinese blue & white porcelain with temple lions from Ming Dynasty

After receiving a gift of porcelain from the Emperor of China, Italian craftsmen were amazed at the white and blue glazes and tried to unlock their secret methods. Though they never figured out the techniques of the Chinese, they were able to invent their own to duplicate the effect, called Majolica. Seeking the finest clays for their new technique, Majolica potters set up small factories in Italy near the mineral rich river in the towns such as Deruta, Gubbio, and Faenza. In the 16th century luster glazes similar to those used in Valencia and Talavera, Spain were developed in Umbria.

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Savona blue and white faience Bowl. (c. 1700 Italy)

New distinctive styles were developed when Majolica crafters eventually settled in many other parts of the world. Delicate blue and white became Delftware in Holland. Dainty Dresden porcelains were developed in Germany. And, in the New World, after potters immigrated to Puebla, Mexico from Talavera de la Reina, Spain between in the mid 1500’s, it was called Talavera.

Blue and White Mexican Pottery

We are honored to work with Talavera Vázquez who continues the Majolica method of creating blue and white Mexican pottery. Located in the small town of Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico, Talavera Vázquez is a fourth generation family-run business. Felipe Vázquez Gutiérrez, who started the business 90 years ago, was known as a pioneer in the pottery world because he introduced new and unconventional artistic designs, while continuing to adhere to traditional techniques of high quality craftsmanship.

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The blue and white paloma design (paloma means dove in Spanish) on this small tibor is an exceptional combination of authentic Mexican charm and the contemporary artistry of Talavera Vazquez.

Blue and white pottery is chock full of historical significance, can be used in contemporary, classic or modern design and is a stunning color combination. We hope you’ll enjoy perusing our entire blue and white Mexican pottery collection. Start here!

You may also enjoy: 5 Tips for Decorating with Blue and White Pottery

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5 Tips for Decorating with Mexican Blue and White Pottery

mexican blue and white pottery

There is something utterly comforting about blue and white home decor. Is it because blue and white can oftentimes feel like a throwback to another era? Or is it the rustic charm it exudes? Perhaps it’s simply the calming color combination. No matter the reason, I adore the look and feel of blue and white pottery.

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Dress it up or down, enjoy it in hot weather or cold, these fabulous pieces could find a place in just about any style of decor.

Here are a few of my favorite tips to decorate with Mexican blue and white pottery.

 

Go Vertical

blue and white pottery

A vertical display of pottery is a stunning way to show off your favorite pieces. Pair your wall-hung blue and white platters with either a pair of hand painted lamps or blue and white vases to create an amazing visual effect.

Collected in a Nook

blue and white pottery

 

How gorgeous is this combination of pieces gathered together in a nook? Each pottery piece could stand alone of course, but why not go bold by bringing together several pieces in one place. Start with these pieces: Large Paloma Vase, Blue Striped Vase – Especial, Paloma Tall Simple Vase and Cristina Vase.

As a Fireplace Treatment

blue and white ginger jars

Ginger jars make a nice treatment for the fireplace when it’s not in use. In the summertime, this look can seemingly cool down a room. You may consider a pair of Cristina Tibores or an Extra Large Blue ZigZag Tibor.

Blue and White in the Bedroom

blue and white pottery

Talk about putting blue and white ceramics on a pedestal, this is a true statement wall in the bedroom of someone who clearly loves blue and white. Crisp white pedestals are easy to find at any home improvement store. You can place them strategically anywhere in the house (above the bed seems a little excessive and possibly dangerous), and top them with gorgeous blue and white pottery. Here are a few pieces to get you started: Paloma Round Vase, Small Paloma Tibor, and Small Blue Striped Tibor.

Anywhere!

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Honestly, blue and white pottery looks great anywhere. On it’s own or gathered with similar pieces; in the kitchen, bedroom or bathroom; on the wall or table. The charm of blue and white is its easy style and function.

You may also enjoy: Blue and White Mexican Pottery for All Seasons, Blue and White Ceramic Flower Pots, and Blue and White Gift Ideas.

We invite you to pin with us on our Blue and White Pinterest Board

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Blue and White Mexican Pottery for All Seasons


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Whether it’s hot or cold outside, blue and white Mexican pottery is always a great compliment to the season. What are your favorites?

Blue and white Mexican pottery platters for fall

As temperatures drop, platters become essential for entertaining. Football games and Thanksgiving beg for platters full of delicious, hot dishes. The handles on this blue and white Mexican serving dish make it ideal for transporting that turkey or roast to the table so that everyone can enjoy the bounty. Smaller platters handle breads, vegetables, and other sides to complete the feast.

Blue and white Mexican pottery mugs for winter

Brrrrr, it’s cold outside. Time for a mug of hot chocolate! And what could be better than Gorky’s signature oversized blue and white mug after playing in the snow? Even where the temperatures aren’t frightful, blue and white Mexican pottery mugs provide some cheer for this festive season.

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Blue and white Mexican pottery planters for spring

Finally, here comes the sun! Get ready to welcome warmer temperatures with some greenery inside and out. Start your seedlings in a small blue and white planter covered with plastic; you’ll be ready to plant as soon as the ground thaws. Green houseplants that stay inside year around look even more lush against these colors. Think of it as spring cleaning with less cleaning.

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Blue and white Mexican pottery vases for summer

Flowers hit their peak in the summer months, whether tulips early in the season or roses into the fall. Blue and white vases bring a cool, fresh note to your home. Instead of giant bouquets, try simple arrangements with just a few blooms in the slim blue and white Mexican vase.tulips_striped_vase

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Our Favorite Handmade Handpainted Majolica

From leaves and flowers to frogs and ornate curlicues, handmade handpainted majolica spans a range of styles. Partly the differences have to do with changing fashions and artistic movements. For example, English Victorian-era majolica is much more vegetal in shape than Italian Renaissance pieces, as these examples show:

Victorian majolica

Victorian majolica

I think having a snake as the spout of your teapot (bottom shelf in the middle) is a bit over the top, which is probably why I’ve never really gotten into collecting this style of majolica. Many pieces in this style were also mass-produced instead of handmade and handpainted; I definitely prefer ceramics where you can tell they’ve been made by human hands. That said, these majolica serving platters are pretty impressive. Each plate depicts the food it’s designed to serve, though with the lead used in glazes in this period, I wouldn’t eat off of them.

majolica serving platters

Of course, three-dimensional ceramics are live and well today. Just look at these French serving platters, each with a different relief around the border.

French serving platterfrench serving platterHowever, contemporary majolica artists often leave their pieces smooth to really show off the intricacies of designs painted in glaze, like these Mexican serving platters.

Mexican serving platter

 

Display is a crucial aspect of any majolica collection. This kitchen uses a mixture of vintage-looking majolica plates and platters for a great focal point over the stove that doesn’t conflict with the ceiling pattern.

majolica plate displayWhat are your favorite examples of handmade handpainted majolica serving plates and platters?

English tea service images courtesy Martha Stewart Living, March 2005, via Martha Moments.

Green kitchen image courtesy Mendelson Group via Laura Casey Interiors.

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Capelo’s Mexican Vases: High Impact Style

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

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

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

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

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Blue and White Mexican Pottery Promises Good Luck in 2014!

How would you like some good fortune in 2014? Good luck traditions range all over the world from breaking plates in Denmark to wearing polka dots in the Philippines. I recently learned that in medieval Europe people listened for a dove’s first call since they believed it indicated the luck to come in the new year. If the call came from above, good luck would come; if from below, bad luck was on its way.

I like to believe that all of the doves on the paloma blue and white Mexican pottery collection bring good luck. I love the mix of patterns and textures that surround the subtle shape of a flying dove on these ceramics; they are at once ornate and warmly rustic. The tall blue and white vase is striking filled with colorful blooms or left empty. The smaller round vase works well for small flowers or as a pen and pencil holder on a desk.

blue and white Mexican pottery vase For those with birthdays in January, the versatile oval paloma box makes a great gift, holding jewelry, toiletries, or keys. Another perennial favorite is the paloma oval serving dish.

paloma dish - blue and white Mexican pottery

If doves aren’t your good luck bird of choice, why not celebrate the New Year with roosters? Blue and white Mexican pottery pieces such as this rooster serving bowl possess a unique charm all their own. Another of my personal favorites is Gorky’s large blue and white rooster. He would be perfect as an accent in a kitchen or in the home of any rooster collector. All that personality has got to bring good luck, right?

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Here at Emilia Ceramics, 2014 is sure to bring more beautiful blue and white Mexican pottery pieces, as well as new French and Italian ceramics, and the return of some old favorites. I feel so fortunate to work with such talented artists, not to mention our dedicated and energetic customers (both new and returning). No matter what you do to bring yourself good luck this year, from toasts at midnight to eating grapes to wearing red underwear, here’s to it being fantastic!

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Holiday Hours, New Arrivals, and Ginger Jars

Emilia Ceramics holiday hours

Christmas is next week, and our Boulder Showroom has been busy with people trying to find the perfect gift for people on their lists. Luckily I have a few gifts of my own for Emilia Ceramics customers: two brand new artists for the collection and some new arrivals from old favorites. Here’s the run down of what’s going on:

Holiday Hours

We have extended hours in our Boulder Showroom for easy holiday shopping. Stop by and check out new arrivals not yet on the website, unique non-ceramic gifts (including these gorgeous handmade ornaments from Mexico — 100% of the profits go to supporting the community from which they come), and plenty of gift ideas from ginger jars to serving platters to salt and pepper sets. If you’re not in Boulder, call us at 303.442.0180 before Friday for express shipping options so that gifts will arrive in time for Christmas.

New Artists

Ceramica Valenciana’s modern Spanish ceramics are already a hit, and I’ve been working hard at getting even more of their mugs, pitchers, ginger jars, and serving ware on the website.

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We also have a new artist from Italy, Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, a third generation majolica studio in Deruta. Their unique jewelry boxes, table accessories, and serving platters are truly stunning with intricate patterns and an array of rich colors. Stay tuned as we add their elegant place settings to the website over the next few days! Again, there are even more pieces in our Boulder Showroom, so stop by and see these beautiful Italian ceramics in person before anyone else.

handmade Italian jewelry box

 Italian salt and pepper set

Ginger Jars

Talavera Vazquez fans are all-about this Mexican studio’s gorgeous ginger jars, but I’m in love with their smaller pieces this holiday season. The small round striped vases make a great gift, as do their candleholders.

Mexican candleholdersOf course, ginger jars large and small remain favorites for traditional and modern homes alike. Mexican ceramics are ideal for people who love to entertain with causal elegance, making the Vazquez and Gorky collections popular year round, not just for the holidays.

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The Pefect Gift: A Handmade Serving Platter


El Mar Serving Dish

I just had two very nice customers come into my little Boulder Showroom, looking for a gift idea for a special friend of theirs. We looked at and discussed all sorts of options… and through the process, I came to realize that I truly believe there is no better gift than a classic handmade, hand-painted serving platter. It can be hung on the wall for decoration or used to serve just about anything, depending on its size, depth, and shape. It is truly always more fun to serve a good meal from handcrafted serving platters, especially when they’re glazed beautifully and formed into a useful shape. Here are a few examples of my favorites. Some of these I’ve given as gifts before and I can attest to the fact that they’ve been much used and loved!

richard_platter_steakFrench Serving Platters
Richard Esteban has a knack for making serving platters that cry out to be used. This burnt-honey fish platter is one of my favorites and I gave it as a Christmas gift to my dad a few years ago. Since then, he has used it to serve salads and meat dishes, even a Thanksgiving turkey last year! Each of the fish platters by Richard Esteban has a unique size and an original decoration around the edge. I love the guarantee that each serving platter is an original — an equal cannot be found the world over. Talk about a one-of-a-kind gift!

I also love Richard’s petal platters. These have a bit more depth than the fish platters, making them perfect for serving dishes with sauce. Whether it’s a pork roast or a yummy pasta dish, the large petal platter is perfect for serving with style. The unique shape of the serving platter also makes it ideal for passing.
barn_red_petal_platterMexican Serving Platters
Gorky Gonzalez makes a few of my favorite serving platters… and they’re very affordable! Both the El Mar Platter and the Amor Platter have a great shape for serving all sorts of things, from cheese and crackers to veggies… and dessert! My brother loves making Caprese Salad on the Amor Platter I gave him last year. (Who said ceramics only make good gifts for women? I have a whole section of the website devoted to gifts for men!)

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I have also fallen in love with this blue and white serving platter by Talavera Vazquez. I love the vibrant blue and white design, which would look so amazing filled with an assortment of appetizers or on a buffet with delicious finger-foods. The holes on the back of this large plate also make it a tempting decoration for the kitchen wall. What a beautiful, unique, and meaningful gift idea?!
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IMG_4072Italian Serving Platters
Last, but most definitely not least, there are so many Italian serving platters that make great gifts. I think the question really comes down to color and shape when shopping for the perfect piece of handmade hand-painted Majolica. Traditionalists can usually be counted on to like Italian serving platters where blue and yellow play the lead role. For these folks, I’d suggest Tuscia’s Oval Serving Platter with Lemons or Square Platter with Pomegranates. Anyone who’s come to my house for cheese and crackers, knows these square serving plates are my go-to for appetizers. If you’re looking for an over-sized serving platter, you can’t go wrong with the large Blu Limoni Platter — it makes a big, fun, colorful Italian statement.

If a traditional cobalt blue isn’t what you’re looking for, I’d suggest the Limoni collection — these fresh, vibrant lemons, hand-painted on oval serving platters and square serving platters are sure to impress. Another fun favorite for serving is the Large Rooster Platter. This dish is colorful, unique, and looks great whether hanging on the wall to decorate the kitchen or on the counter serving a main course.

As you can see, I have a lot of holiday gift ideas — ones for young and old, traditional-types and more contemporary people, Italian-lovers, and those who prefer French Country. But I can guarantee that a handmade serving platter will always make a great gift. Everyone can use them… you can never have too many… and when each is an original, they can only bring a new and original happiness into your life! And isn’t that the point of a great gift? I think so.

Check out all of the Emilia Ceramics Serving Platters by Country:

 

 

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The Perfect Mexican Ceramics to Celebrate the Day of the Dead

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

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

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

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

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

skeleton bowlCandy skulls image courtesy of Glen Van Etten.

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Gorky Gonzalez, a Lesson in Making the Traditional Modern

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

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

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

Gogo bowls

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

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

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Pinterest Finds: Mexican Ceramics

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

We’ll start with Mexico City.

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

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

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

Gorky Gonzalez PlatesGorky Gonzalez Pottery

Mexico itself is a stunningly beautiful place.

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

Capelo Ceramics

Capelo Mexican ceramics

Then there are Talavera Vazquez’s ginger jars

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

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

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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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Channel Your Inner Zebra with Black and White Stripe Decor

fall tablescape ideas

There’s something about black and white that just exudes timeless chic. From stripes to chevrons and zig zags, black and white is definitely the palette for graphic accents that make an impact throughout your home. Instead of repainting a wall or investing in a huge carpet, adding black and white touches with ceramics is an easy way to instantly update any space.

Take black and white vases. These look fabulous displayed empty on a shelf or filled with flowers on a table. Whether a large black and white striped vase or small, choose an interesting shape for an unusual accent. Also think about the kinds of flowers you like. Large vases will dwarf small bouquets but be perfect for large sprays of branches, lilies, sunflowers, and other more sizable bouquets.

Of course, mixing white vases and black vases is another way to add visual interest to a room. A collection of different shapes and sizes instantly transforms a console, especially if some vases have flowers inside. This ivory urn by Poterie Ravel adds some mass to any arrangement and is the perfect base for a lovely spring flower arrangement. I also like pairing a stripe painted vase with a zigzag vase or another pattern. Who says things have to match perfectly? It’s so much more interesting when they don’t.

 

 

 

But why stop at black and white vases? Black and white throw pillows update sofas and chairs; if you want a bigger change think about some elegant black and white slipcovers for your larger furniture pieces. Curtains, throw rugs, or black and white photographs are all great ways to inject some zebra-inspired style into a room (of course, you don’t need to think about zebras when you think about black and white stripes). Talavera Vazquez’s black and white ceramic planters, bowls, and ginger jars are other ways to add a modern touch.

What do you love about black and white? Have a favorite flower that looks great in black and white striped vases? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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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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Vases for Your Valentine from Around the World

Stuck on what to give your Valentine this year? The saying goes “say it with flowers.” Roses might be cliché, but they are certainly a traditional standby. Tulips are another colorful winter flower, as are daisies, irises, stargazer lilies, and orchids. No matter the flowers you pick, you’ll need the right vase to show off those blooms to full advantage. I think giving a vase with a bouquet is a great way to make a lasting statement beyond when the flowers themselves droop and die.

Of course, choosing the proper vase is its own task. It’s important to choose a vase that suits the flowers – a large vase might be ideal for roses or lilies, but dwarf delicate sprays of orchids. A big round vase balances a massive varied bouquet, but overwhelms a simple arrangement. Style is another key consideration – will the delicate flourishes of Italian vases be more appealing or the graphic boldness of a Mexican vase more appropriate?

With vases available from all parts of the world, it’s important to think about the style of your recipient. Do they tend towards minimalism and clean lines? If so, a solid colored vase with sleek styling, like this big round vase, is a good choice.

For those with a more ornate sensibility, a fancy vase with intricate patterning makes sense. The hand painting on vases from Italy makes them perfect for display even without flowers. I love this large vase with Tuscan fruits and curving handle detailing.

Color palettes also change with location. Mexican vases often have bright colors that really pop. An exception to this norm are vases by Capelo, whose soft colors are dreamlike and extremely touchable. His one of a kind Hawaiian vase with floral motifs and sloping sides makes a statement without taking up much space.

The Mexican vases by Talavera Vazquez, on the other hand, use rich cobalt, deep black, vibrant green, or burnt orange for their striped, zig-zag, and patterned vases. French vases by Richard Esteban also use deep colors, though his vases tend to use solid-colored glazes instead of patterning.

 

Will you give flowers and a fancy vase this year for Valentine’s Day? Have another go-to gift? Leave a comment and let us know!

Rose image courtesy of “KIUKO”.

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Seeing Green: Bringing Pantone’s Color of the Year 2013 into Your Home

860 - SouthWestern Gem
Lush, vivid, sophisticated, and luxurious – that sums up emerald, Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2013, quite well. The color of unity, healing, and regeneration, interior design ideas with this year’s green range from energized prints to cool and calm solids. Looking to incorporate the richness of emerald into your home? Try out some of these ideas from wall planters to Mexican vases:

Illuminate

Get some light on the subject with a green table lamp, like this one-of-a-kind lamp by Richard Esteban. Large or small, lamps are a quick and practical way to give any room a design lift (and create atmospheric lighting).

green table lamp

For a romantic touch, add some green candles to the mantle, bedside table, or sideboard. If you love the look of ivory or cream tapers, choose a green candle holder that’s full of personality like this whimsical double candle holder.

green candle holder

Serve

Bring emerald to your guests with green trays, green plates, green glasses, and green pitchers. Ok, maybe all of those at once will feel too much like St. Patrick’s Day, but emerald green serving ware definitely adds a luxe tone to a meal or a party. One of my favorite green trays is this French country cheese platter. The border and handle detail makes your favorite cheeses or other appetizers look extra delicious.

large green cheese plate

Green pitchers add style to water, juice, or wine, and make your favorite drink easy to pour at the table.

green pitcher

Soften

Green also makes for great fabrics that invoke gardens, jungles, jewels, or just a sense of vibrancy. Update your living room with green chevron curtains or add patterned emerald throw pillows to your couch. A green blanket or patterned rug also packs some emerald punch and keeps things looking fresh.

Plant

Flowers and house plants are another quick way to add some natural emerald to your home. This green Mexican vase with an abstract pattern looks stunning filled with blooms or empty on a shelf.

green vase

For those that live on the patio, add some green wall planters with French chic. Wall planters are ideal for trailing plants or for those who want to make the most of small garden spaces. Why leave the emerald only inside?

green wall planter

How are you using emerald for 2013? Do you love green plates, furniture, or other home accessories? Leave a comment and let us know!

Jewel image courtesy of Patrick Hoesly.
Living room image courtesy of decorpad.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

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Behind the Scenes: Talavera Vazquez’s Blue and White Mexican Pottery

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.

Whenever I go to visit Talavera Vazquez I’m always sure I’ll get terribly lost — the streets in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico look so similar, I’m very relieved to arrive and see the smiling faces of Juan and Roberto Vazquez. They and their team of talented artists are the reason for the unique serving dishes, vases, tibores (ginger jars), planters and other lively Mexican ceramics produced by this family-run workshop.

While the blue and white Mexican pottery (like striped vases and zig zag ginger jars) might be some of my more popular Talavera Vazquez offerings, the workshop itself is an explosion of vibrant color. Juan Vazquez is the fourth generation of the Vazquez family to run this family business and his son Roberto is certainly poised to be the fifth when the time arrives. Not all members of the management team are related, but they still feel like a family. For example, Francisco, who is in charge of all the artwork and my liaison with the designers and artists, has worked with the Vazquez family for over 20 years.

The small team of artists at Talavera Vazquez takes care of all aspects of the ceramic process, from measuring the distance for the stripes on a wine bottle holder to loading the kiln with pieces for the final firing. The motto of this prolific studio is “Nuestros productos se fabrican y decoran a mano, la irregularidad que presentan acentúa su belleza,” (roughly translated as “Our products are made and decorated by hand, the irregularities present accent their beauty”). Every piece is formed by hand, then dipped into a “bath” of base glaze that turns creamy white after firing. When the base glaze has dried, the artists paint the vibrant geometric designs with crisp edges. Watching them work, I’m always amazed at the precision – there’s no way to erase a mistake or a drip of the brush. The results are unique serving dishes, pottery planters, and other Mexican ceramics that truly stand out.

Talavera Vazquez continues to flawlessly combine traditional techniques with modern design. I’m excited to have new zigzag tibores in yellow and gray, as well as more blue and white pottery planters. With all their wonderful Mexican ceramics, I’m never sure what new discoveries I’ll make on my next visit. But I’m always thrilled to be able to share them with you!

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Serve It Right with Blue and White Mexican Pottery

Whether it’s a white serving bowl or a white platter, everyone needs a few pieces of go-to serving ware that can adapt to any occasion from causal to formal. When it comes to pieces that are clean and crisp, you can’t do better than white pottery platters. They really show off your food without taking up too much attention, whether canapés during cocktail hour, scones at brunch, or a succulent side dish at dinner.

Of course, there are lots of stark white platters out there, like those mass-produced in China. To me, the feel of these pieces is impersonal and almost clinical. And who wants to serve their food on something that seems like it belongs in a hospital? White serving ware that uses natural glazes has a warmer tone, giving an authentic, at times rustic look, which is a much better compliment for your home-cooked meals. Pieces like the Gogo oval platter, long serving platter, or round white platter are just some examples of white platters that really showcase your cooking.

White all the time can get a bit monotone, however. That’s why the blue and white combo of Mexican pottery is a surefire winner. It’s a simple equation: blue and white Mexican pottery has the crisp neatness of white, along with the rich contrast of blue. There aren’t many blue foods out there, so most items will really pop on blue serving ware. The end result? Food that looks even tastier, no matter the meal or occasion. Blue and white Mexican pottery like Gorky’s oval serving dishes or Talavera Vazquez’s blue and white serving platter will enliven any table. They’re also sturdy enough to be used everyday for family dinners, not just special occasions.

Want to add some unique serving dishes to your collection of blue and white Mexican pottery? When it comes to blue and white platters, I love the unexpected shape of El Mar and Las Flores pottery platters.

Not quite rectangle, not quite oval, these unique serving dishes are a fantastic example of what makes blue and white Mexican pottery appealing to so many people. The border detail isn’t overpowering, but it makes the perfect frame for your desserts, appetizers, or cheeses.

Do you have favorite pieces of blue and white Mexican pottery? Let us know about your go-to serving ware pieces by leaving a comment below.

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Mas de Mexico!

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

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

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

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

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Historical Roots of Blue and White Mexican Pottery

Archeologists recently discovered a kiln more than 1,300 years old in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Used by the Zapotecs to make ceramics, it’s one of the best-preserved kilns found to date, says Mexico Today. Not surprisingly, a strong pottery tradition still exists right down the road from the discovery, and in fact, throughout this region of Mexico. From the all black pottery associated with Oaxacan artisans, to the multicolored and blue and white Talavera-style made in Puebla and Dolores-Hidalgo, Mexican pottery is definitely thriving. Modern day artists have put their own stamp on the craft, while adhering to some techniques the Zapotecs would have used over a thousand years ago.

This link between past and present in Mexico creates truly unique pieces, from serving dishes to pottery platters. Reading about this kiln made me think of Gorky Gonzalez pottery, which combines traditional Mexican techniques with Japanese, Spanish, and Italian influences. The resulting fusion is something unique, yet still invokes an ancient pottery past.

Of course, being tied to the past doesn’t need you mean to be stuck there. Nothing exemplifies this concept more than the Gogo line, created by and named for Gorky Gonzalez’s son. When it comes to blue and white Mexican pottery, Gogo serving pieces might not be what you expect. Sleek and modern, these contemporary pieces speak to a design aesthetic of today while staying true to techniques honed for hundreds of years.

But serving ware needs to have more than an interesting past. For me when it comes time to choose pottery platters or serving bowls, I’m concerned about how the piece will look and function with food on it. Blue and white consistently looks clean and sharp, making Mexican pottery in these colors great for showing off your favorite dishes.

Shape also matters when it comes to unique serving dishes. Round pottery platters are versatile; use them for main dishes, finger foods, or even as a charger to give your table a pop of color.

The length of this white platter is striking filled with fruits or snacks at a party. And an oval serving dish handles a roast or an array of cupcakes with equal ease. Having a variety of shapes is a simple solution that certainly packs a design punch.

By mixing blue and white Mexican pottery together, you’ll create a distinctive table or party spread perfect for so many occasions. Historic, stylish, and modern – now those are some unique serving dishes!

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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: Why Style Matters

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

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

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

The Gorky Gonzalez wedding collection

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

Gorky Gonzalez animals

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

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

Gorky Gonzalez original designs

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

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Blog Round Up: Ceramic Vases

There’s nothing like a bouquet of fresh flowers to instantly brighten a room. Of course, choosing the right vase can make or break a floral arrangement, from a dramatic centerpiece vase to small accents with bud vases. The best vases also hold their own when empty, adding a decorative punch to any room in the home.

Since everyone’s talking about the holidays, let’s not forget that vases make great gifts — people can always use another interesting shape or size in their collection. Colorful vases or plain, they are definitely a design staple. So to continue our blog round up series on great design in 2011, let’s look at who else loves vases in all their gorgeous forms.

Stripes. Black and white stripes are definitely a hallmark of 2011, coming off the runway and into the home. Design Muse called it “jailbird chic,” while The Swell Life suggested using black and white striped accents to decorate for Halloween (love it!). Of course, stripes don’t have to just be black and white – one of my favorite pieces is the blue striped vase by Talavera Vazquez. It’s definitely a centerpiece vase, holding its own whether empty or full of sunflowers, tulips, or roses.

Shape. Curved, linear, or squat, the variety of vase shapes is matched only by the variety of flowers to put in them. DesignLike featured both short and tall ceramic vases in their review of the best handmade pieces to use at home and give as gifts. Elle Decor loved the simplicity of the blue striped simple vase – it’s great for a small bouquet and doubles beautifully as a toothbrush or pen holder. If you’re into interestingly shaped vases, the round Paloma vase is a great addition to any vase collection. This blue ceramic vase lends itself well to flowers that spill out over the rim, like daisies or mixed wildflowers.

Decorative Prowess. Of course, vase centerpieces have long been a decorating staple. Use bold pieces like tall ceramic vases to create an attractive table for a dinner party or everyday sophistication. Atmosphere Interior Design talks about vases as a stylish kind of “chachka”, something worth displaying or collecting. The Morsel Designs loves blue as a dominating decorating color, featuring blue and white vases filled with blue hyacinths.

Speaking of blue and white, I couldn’t agree more with guest writer Mackenzie from Design Darling when she talked on Look Linger Love about the great combination of navy blue and hot pink — not to mention the fact that she featured the Emilia Ceramics blue zigzag vase and blue striped vase as the perfect additions to this decorating scheme.

I know that I’ll be giving some gorgeous vases this year as gifts, now just to decide which ones!

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A Closer Look at Mexican Ceramic Art

There’s such a rich history of Mexican ceramic art: Like how Talavera Vázquez started a revolution that continues today, how Mata Ortiz pottery was first developed by Juan Quezada, and how Gorky Gonzalez revitalized the Mexican tradition of majolica. There’s always something more to learn about and while Mexican ceramic art has been around for thousands of years, you can see striking similarities between what archeologists have found and the ceramics being produced in Mexico today. Let’s take a closer look at some additional examples…

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Oaxaca

Located in the south of Mexico, Oaxaca ceramics are distinct because of the black clay found in the region. The “barro negro” (black clay) pieces have a beautiful black finish that started out matte but have been polished to an almost metallic sheen, a technique created by potter Doña Rosa in the 1950s. The other striking ceramics of this region are the green-glazed pieces from Santa María Atzompa, another tradition that started after the Spanish conquest.

Jalisco

This tradition of Mexican ceramic art also goes back thousands of years, but modern production uses high temperature firing techniques to create both ceramic and stoneware pieces. The Jalisco “bruñido” style is characterized by a piece that is burnished (rather than glazed) to make it shine. These are often jugs or jars with slender necks. Traditional designs are quite detailed and multicolored, though the antique pieces are faded because of not being fired after painting. Modern stoneware ceramics are brightly colored with a variety of global influences, making Jalisco another rich contributor to Mexican ceramic art.

Majolica

While not a region in Mexico like the others, this technique is widespread in the artistic cities of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, and San Miguel de Allende. A versatile form decorated with rich glazes, and continually incorporating modern influences, I think this is the most timeless of all Mexican ceramic art. The thick glaze looks and feels super inviting, whether it’s a vase or a coffee mug!

No matter the origin, Mexican ceramic art is traditionally made by hand, often in family-run workshops. The wide range of cultures and mix of traditions present in Mexico truly sets its ceramics apart. I believe it is an art form that is always worth further exploration.

Oaxaca image and Jalisco image both courtesy of AlejandroLinaresGarcia.

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The Allure of Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

Packing boxes as I prepare to head to France for my buying trip this month, I’ve found myself handling a lot of Gorky Gonzalez pottery. I love the mix of fun and technical sophistication that’s a Gorky pottery trademark. Each piece combines elements from Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and Indigenous-Mexican cultures, giving it a unique depth and character. When it comes to Mexican artist ceramics, Gorky Gonzalez pottery has a richer and more compelling story than any I know.

In fact, I think what really draws people to Gorky pottery is its fusion of modern accents with traditional motifs. Dishware is an easy way to brighten every day, particularly if it’s something fun and playful like the La Mexicana motif. With vibrant leaves, bright fruits, and an inherent dynamism, these pieces are some of my favorites in the Gorky Gonzalez pottery collection.

From salad plates to mixing bowls, serving platters to tibores (or ginger jars), you can create an entire set in this motif alone.

But why stop there? The beauty of handmade pottery is layering pieces to reflect your own style, and Gorky’s patterns and colors are meant to be mixed, adding depth to the table and home. That’s one of the reasons ceramics make such good gifts – they add dimension and a note of pizazz where it’s least expected. Mixing a motif with solid colored pieces is easy to do with Gorky pottery, particularly with its wide array of platters, dishes, bowls, and mugs.

Take the Amor Platter, one of my most popular pieces. The not-quite-oval, not-quite-rectangular shape makes it versatile enough to serve appetizers or use as a centerpiece on the table. Its central depiction focuses on love, something that never goes out of style. Unsurprisingly, this piece is a popular gift for engagements, weddings, and anniversaries, adding an original and festive note to the theme of love. Like the idea? Check out the Amor octagonal serving dish and oval serving dish, other beautiful examples of the traditional couple design with a variety of functions. No matter if it’s a gift for yourself or someone else, you’re certain to enjoy these distinctive pieces of Gorky Gonzalez pottery for years to come.

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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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How to Find the Perfect Vase

Having grown up with a mom who was (and is) a serious gardener, I look forward to all the beautiful flowers blooming this time of year. Whether you pick a bouquet from your garden or buy one from your favorite florist, the perfect vase really makes a difference when it comes to displaying your flora. But how to choose what you really need with the huge variety of vases out there?

My advice is to look at 4 factors: shape, size, color, and decoration. Small flowers look overwhelmed in a huge vase and tall flowers topple over if they don’t have the support they need. Let’s look at some of my favorite flowers and see what fits them best.

Tulips – Bold with rich, vibrant colors, the stalks need the support of a tall vase so you don’t have the blossoms leaning too far over. The fluted rim found on many Mexican ceramic vases allows the bouquet to spread out just enough. I love the versatility of blue and white vases when it comes to complimenting these flowers, though they look great with any brightly colored blooms.

Sunflowers – The favorite of Van Gogh, these look fantastic fresh or dried, adding a splash of bright color to any room. Even though the stalks are rigid, a taller vase is vital for supporting the heavy heads (like the one pictured below, on the left). Solid pieces, like Mexican ceramic vases, are a perfect fit. Choose blue and white vases or black and white vases to contrast with and really show off the bright yellow.

Buds – I love a single bud waiting to unfurl, particularly a rose bud fresh from the garden. Instead of a large ceramic vase, little delicate bud vases (above, right) enhance their fragility. When no buds are around, these charming little vases make great holders for toothbrushes, pens or make-up brushes.

Small mixed bouquet – Create a stunning centerpiece with a bunch of gathered wildflowers or a bouquet that caught your fancy at the farmer’s market. For a small bunch of flowers, I love this round black and white vase, which won’t overwhelm your blooms. Like blue and white vases, a black and white vase enriches natural beauty with its simple color scheme.

And then there are vases that look good even without flowers. Use a large ceramic vase to add personality to a nook, windowsill, or as a year-round centerpiece… it will make a serious statement, whether full or empty.

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Mexican Ceramics: A Rich History Worth Further Exploration

How can you not love Mexican ceramics? The vibrancy and colors make it perfect for a party; I particularly love how Mexican painted ceramics add zest and exuberance to any occasion. But what gives Mexican ceramics their unique charm? Like all pottery, it comes partially from the local traditions of its place of origin and partially from the contemporary influences of today’s artists. Let’s take a look back to get a better idea of the history behind modern Mexican ceramics.

Mexican pottery has a long history, beginning with the Olmec culture (1500 B.C. –800 A.D). The mother of the Mesoamerican cultures, ceramics played a major role in the lives of the Mexican people during this time. Archaeological ruins of ancient Olmec cities give us examples of Mexican ceramic vessels, figures, and utensils that were used in their daily life. Even here we see some primitive firing techniques and painted designs.

Jumping forward in time, the Aztecs (1325 A.D. – 1521 A.D.) made all kinds of ceramics including jugs, cups, pots, and plates, mostly with orange and red clay. In the north, the Casas Grandes culture (100 A.D. – 1360 A.D.) created beautiful multi-colored ceramics with painted geometric motifs. Through all these time periods and in each distinct culture, ceramics incorporated the independent creativity of each artist into local traditions of design and firing techniques.

Pottery (as with all aspects of daily life) changed dramatically when the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 1500’s. The introduction of the potter’s wheel as well as Majolica glaze and firing techniques blended together to create something new in Mexican ceramics. Roman Catholic priests imported ceramics from Talavera de la Reina (in Spain) to their colonies in Mexico; then the local artists adopted the technique, adding their own flavor to it. Now Talavera pottery, particularly from Puebla, Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, is one of Mexico’s best-known exports.

It’s no wonder that modern Mexican ceramics are truly something special. The flair and methods are wide-ranging, but no matter what type appeals to you, it’ll be a unique blend of backgrounds that exists nowhere else in the world.