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Hand Painted Italian Mugs and Pottery Spoon Rests

I am often asked which pieces in the Emilia Ceramics collection are my favorites. The truth is I really don’t have favorites. They’re like my babies, I love them all! I have personally selected each piece in the collection and I know the artists who crafted them personally… how could I possibly play favorites?! That said, there are a few pieces that I favor, especially when it comes to picking out a thoughtful gift: (1) A set of hand painted Italian mugs — And (2) an Italian pottery spoon rest.

hand painted Italian mugs

A colorful, hand painted spoon rest or Italian coffee mug will add instant personality to any kitchen, regardless of its decor style. And it doesn’t matter how many other spoon rests or mugs the gift recipient already has… There’s always room for a new favorite! And believe me, one of these Italian pottery spoon rests or Italian hand painted mugs will definitely become their new favorite.

Classic Italian Style: Tuscan Fruit

The Tuscan Fruit design is the most classic Italian pattern in the Emilia Ceramics collection. Our Tuscan Fruit Collection includes vases, planters, spaghetti canisters, utensil holders, and serving platters, but some of my favorites are the small pieces, especially the spoon rests and hand painted Italian mugs. They make fantastic gifts for Italian pottery lovers because the colorful pattern is sure to match any other Italian pieces already in the kitchen. I especially love the look of the Tuscan Fruit Spoon Rest on a dark granite counter top!

italian_spoon_rest_tuscan_fruit

hand painted Italian mugs

Rustic Pop of Color: Cherry

My personal favorite Italian pottery spoon rest and hand painted Italian mugs are those in the Cherry design. I love the bright, refreshing pop of color on these pieces. They have a vibrancy that’s tempered by their rustic, old-fashioned look. Maybe it’s the combination of rich orange-red, steal blue, and lime green, simply painted over pure white… They’re classic, yet cool and very distinct. Anyone who favors blue and white in their kitchen will be thrilled to add a Cherry Spoon Rest or Cherry Mug. They instantly add a fun Italian pop of color to the kitchen.

italian_spoon_rest_cherries

hand painted Italian mugs

And for the Lemon Lovers…

Lemons are probably the most popular fruit in classic Italian designs. They show up in various styles on Italian pottery, ranging from bold and outspoken, like on these Blu Limoni Platters, to more subtle and realistic, like on these … I love the Lemon Spoon Rest by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia because of it’s rustic and understated sophistication. It looks perfect on a white or cream counter top, where the rich brick red glaze can really pop. The beautifully-painted lemon offers a fresh, kitchen-friendly look that makes this Italian pottery spoon rest an ideal addition to any home.

italian_lemon_spoon_rest

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Orange Home Decor Ideas

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 5.49.42 PMWell, it’s over a week overdo, but I’m still glowing from the San Francisco Giants’ World Series win. It was a strange experience living in Boulder, Colorado (where very few people seem to even know there’s a baseball team called the Giants) during the World Series instead of San Francisco, where I lived the last two times the Giants won (2012 and 1010). But even far away, I got very swept up by the whole experience and wore as much orange as I could.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 1.34.28 PMOrange is not for everyone, but there are definitely those of us who love the color. I have been a fan of orange ever since becoming a Princeton Tiger in college. But my affinity for the color orange also translates to home decor. Lucky for me, orange (in all of it’s varying hues) has had a major resurgence in popularity over the last few years, so orange home decor ideas are readily available. (On a side note, I’ve noticed that designers often use more stylish names for orange, like mango, mandarin, and coral.)

Why’s orange so great? I think because of it’s versatility. Dark reddish-orange has a classic, rustic feel, like the color of tomato soup or the Golden Gate Bridge. Citrus orange feels more retro. And then there’s bright orange, which is modern and fresh. Whichever orange you opt for, the color has a clean, bright, fresh, happy feel. In fact, Frank Sinatra himself said: “Orange is the happiest color.” If you need to see it to believe it, check out all the great orange home decor ideas on Houzz.

It’s no surprise that the Emilia Ceramics collection embraces orange. It’s a timeless color that looks amazing with blue and white (our favorite color combination), but also mixes well with green, grey, and black. The perfect orange this time of year is Gorky Gonzalez’s pumpkin colored plates, bowls, and mugs. These have a rich terra-cotta tone that reminds me of pumpkin pie. They look amazing mixed and matched with Gorky Gonzalez blue and white pottery as well as Richard Esteban’s charming French country plates. The pumpkin platters are a great backdrop for any food. I love serving cheese, grapes, and crackers on the Pumpkin Long Platter with Floral Relief.

new_pumpkin_dinner_plate
Keeping with the rustic, classic orange feel, there is nothing quite like Talavera Vazquez’s striped and chevron pieces in burnt orange. Set in a room with predominantly neutral colors, they make a stylish impact, in an understated, authentic way. The Striped Vase – Especial is one of my go-to gifts. It seems no matter the recipients style, this vase fits in… adding a surprising element of warmth to any room in the house. The chevron lamps are another of my favorites. They have so much personality.

decorate with ginger jars

The newest orange addition to the collection is the sophisticated dinner and salad plates by Gialletti Giulio with an orange stripe around the edge. The citrus orange on these platters feels fresh and flavorful. I honestly feel like I’d expect to taste an undertone of orange zest in any food eaten off these plates. Their simplicity is perfect.

dinner_plate_orange

Do you love orange too? Have any great orange home decor ideas or favorite orange fabrics, wall paints, etc. that you’d like to share? We’d love to see them — If you email me your favorite photos incorporating orange, I’ll pin them to our “Only Orange” board on Pinterest.

 

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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.

large blue and white mug

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.

blue_white_planters

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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Fellow Caffeine Fans, French Coffee Mugs Are Back!

I have a confession: I am addicted to warm beverages. Specifically my morning tea (often earl grey with cream and honey), though an early afternoon coffee is hard to resist. Of course, if I want to get any sleep, I have to carefully juggle the coffee/exercise/time equation. And then there’s getting the accessories right: which mug to use is of paramount importance, as is the tea or coffee pot if I’m brewing at home. Sound like anyone you know?

French coffee mugs

Thankfully with all the new French arrivals at Emilia Ceramics, I have plenty of beverage accessories to add to my collection. The polka dots on Richard Esteban’s French coffee bowls remain a favorite; I just love the easy way these pieces mix and match. Richard’s French coffee mugs are another must. There’s even a place to rest your thumb on the handle (good for not spilling as I walk my full cup back to my desk). The barn red is my personal favorite, but just like his French coffee bowls, there are plenty of color combinations to mix and match with abandon. These mugs also hit the sweet spot size-wise: big enough that you don’t have to constantly refill, but not so big that the contents are cold by the time you get to last sips. These are definitely a sure winner if you’re trying to buy ceramics for a caffeine lover.

red French coffee mug

Summer is also almost here, which means it’s time to start brewing iced tea and iced coffee. And that means it’s time for pitchers! Looking to expand your summer serving ware? Try pieces like the quirky Richard pitcher, complete with hat and mustache or one of his polka dot pitchers to match the bowls and mugs.

Richard pitcher

Other fun beverage accessories of the moment: cream and sugar sets (perfect for entertaining) and the modern Ceramica Valenciana coffee pot. Sure, it’s Spanish, not French, but it beautifully compliments the playful chic of Richard’s ceramics. So many coffee mugs, so little time.

coffee pot

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the kettle is boiling… time for another cup!

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4 Fun Bridal Shower Ideas that You’ll Actually Enjoy

When was the last time you heard someone talking about a fun bridal shower?

Go on.

We’re waiting.

Yep, that’s what I thought. Although a sweet wedding tradition that celebrates the bride before the big day, many bridal showers center around the not-so-fascinating event of watching an adult open presents.

Yawn. However, as this post by Kellee Khalil demonstrates, there are plenty of ways to make a bridal shower fun for all. Getting ready to plan a shower for a bride in your life? Want to drop a gentle hint about a celebration you might enjoy having in your honor? Here are a few ways to spice up a blah bridal shower:

1. Have a couple’s shower.

Instead of a ladies-only event (save that for the bachelorette party), have a mixed crew to celebrate the couple. This will allow people to mix before the wedding who might not know each other well, particularly if the atmosphere is laid back.

2. Go outside.


A patio party is a great way to keep things causal and have a non-cheesy theme for the shower itself. Ask people to choose gifts that are fun and useful for outside entertaining (hint: check out their wedding registry to see if there are already items that fit the bill). Grill, make s’mores on a bonfire, play lawn games, and generally relax. Looking for an outdoor gift that’s out of the box? A unique planter instantly beautifies any porch or patio and is a sure winner with anyone who likes plants.

3. Celebrate a day in the life.

Another creative theme centers on celebrating “a day in the life” of the couple. Send out invitations with different times and ask guests to pick a gift appropriate for that hour of the day. Suddenly opening presents has moved beyond dishtowels. There’ll be mugs and waffle makers (morning), salad plates and planters (afternoon), cheese plates and wine glasses (evening), and, of course, some fun lingerie and bedding for the night!

spanish mugs

4. Have a cuisine-inspired theme.

Countries and their cuisine are another great bridal shower inspiration. Throw a Mexican-inspired, hacienda-style party or a chic French shower, though maybe not quite so over the top as we saw in Bridesmaids! (Warning, the clip below contains lots of swearing)

Decorate with your favorite Mexican ceramics to serve taquitos and delicious guacamole, adding a Piñata for a entertaining party game. The super original and functional platters and bowls by Gorky Gonzalez or Capelo would be great gifts for a Mexican-themed party. One of my personal go-to shower gifts is Gorky’s Tequila Shot Set. Pair it with a bottle of Patron and you have a gift that will be enjoyed for a long time to come.

Mexican ceramic serving platter

No matter the size or theme, think of the bridal shower as a relaxed event where the focus is on fun, not completing the wedding registry or stressing out. There’s plenty of time for that in the months ahead.

Gift image courtesy emily katherine may.

Picnic image courtesy Urban Hafner.

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Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Beyond the Clichés


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

Instead of chocolates, try cheese.

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

barn_red_cheese_plate

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

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

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

Instead of a necklace, try a jewelry box.

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

unique vases

 

Instead of flowers, try a unique vase.

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

Instead of dinner out, try breakfast in.

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

 

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

Heart image courtesy Muffet.

Breakfast image courtesy Will Merydith.

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New Spanish Ceramics, Just in Time for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Italians and Their Coffee: Centuries of Love and Espresso

The legends surrounding coffee are vast. From goats eating coffee beans and jumping around in Ethiopia to the over 2,000 coffeehouses in 17th-century London, coffee’s past is as dynamic as it’s energizing effect.

A merchant from Venice introduced coffee to Europe in 1615 after having some courtesy of the Turks, says National Geographic. Coffee has been smuggled on ships across the Atlantic, was at the heart of colonization efforts (starting in Java, home of the first European-owned coffee plantation), and is even made into beauty treatments at exclusive spas. Not bad for a little bean full of a lot of caffeine!

hand painted Italian coffee mugThe Italians have honed their coffee over the years and drinking a coffee at even the most remote roadside café is a delicious experience. But beware: drinking coffee in Italy is quite different than we do here stateside. Here’s a run-down of what you should know about drinking coffee in Italy, inspired by this post by Anna Maria Baldini.

First off, caffè means espresso. American-style drip coffee is hard to find in Italy, though a caffè Americano (espresso with hot water added) comes close. Italian coffee mugs are more likely to be espresso cups, though you’ll find larger cups holding morning cappuccinos (espresso topped with hot, steamed milk). Don’t want that much milk? A caffè macchiato has just a dash of hot milk on top. Italians never order a cappuccino in the afternoon or evening, some say the amount of milk is bad for digestion. Stick to this treat early in the day unless you want some raised eyebrows from your server and surrounding café patrons.

Just as with most of Europe, in Italy the price of coffee changes depending on where you sit. The cheapest and fastest coffee is drunk right at the bar; sitting at a table means that you can watch the world pass by, but you’ll pay premium prices for the privilege. If you do order your drink at the bar, be prepared to order and pay first, then show your ticket to be served with your delicious drink. If you order sitting at a table, like these people at Caffè Florian in Venice (Italy’s oldest café), you’ll pay afterwards.

Caffe Florian in Venice, ItalyPeople rightly can’t get enough of Italian coffee, which is one of the reasons I think the hand painted Italian coffee mugs in the Emilia Ceramics collection are so popular. I know that every time I use one I feel like I’m back in Tuscany. Although my stovetop espresso maker isn’t quite the same as a full-fledged Italian machine, the combination of it and an Italian coffee mug still does the trick until I go back to Italy myself. What’s your favorite Italian coffee drink? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Italian coffee mugs

Italian espresso maker and grinder image courtesy Jonathan Rubio.

Caffè Florian image courtesy Son of Groucho.

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Blue Monday: A Photo Essay

Blue and white. This color combination invokes the sea, summers in Greece, island living, as well as refined taste and timeless elegance. Popular with decorators the world over, blue and white accents are an excellent way to get ready for hot summer days. Try blue and white bowls, blue and white vases full of flowers, or even refresh your morning coffee routine with a new blue coffee mug. Here are some favorite uses of this fabulous color combination to keep the vibe cool inside as the temperatures rise outside.

Blue and white bowls are perfect for serving or decorating.

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Blue and white accent pillows quickly transform a bedroom or living room.

 

Blue and white pitchers handle sangria or fresh orange juice with stylish ease.

blue pitcher

blue and white pitcherblue and white pitcher

Before the heat of the day sets in, blue and white cups make morning coffee and tea taste even better.

blue and white cup and saucer

Illuminate rooms with blue and white lamps.

blue and white lampblue and white chevron lamp

Blue plates make for appealing food presentation, no matter the meal.

blue plate

blue plate

Show off fresh flowers from your garden with blue and white vases. Or make them beautiful outdoors with blue and white planters.

Blue and White Striped Vase

blue and white vase

blue and white planter

What ways do you like to use blue and white? Check out our blue and white Pinterest board for more uses of this timeless color combination and get into a summer mood.

Blue and white umbrella image courtesy of eli-sabeth.tumblr.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

Blue and white vases on table image courtesy of chinoiseriechic.blogspot.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

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Enjoying Your Coffee Like the French with Coffee Bowls

French coffee bowl

french coffee bowlA few weeks ago I wrote about Italian mugs and now I can’t stop thinking about coffee (it doesn’t help that I’m a total coffee addict). While Italians invented espresso, there’s something incredibly French about sitting in a café, newspaper in hand and coffee at the ready. I think people love having this experience at home, which explains the popularity of my French drinkware collection. The cheerful French coffee bowls and coffee mugs by Richard Esteban capture the whimsy of Provence while remaining the perfect vessel for a serious cup of coffee.

French coffee bowls are mostly used in the home as part of the morning ritual. Every family member has a preferred bowl for their coffee, hot chocolate, tea, or even chocolate milk for the kids. Unlike mugs and cups, French coffee bowls are the perfect pairing with a traditional tartine (toast with butter and/or jam) or a croissant. Instead of struggling to get the perfect angle, you can easily dip your breakfast into your drink without worrying about if it will fit. The large surface area also lets your hot morning beverage cool to a drinkable temperature quickly, ensuring full caffeination before heading out for the day.

French coffee bowl

Another wonderful aspect of French coffee bowls is that they require both hands to drink, unlike a handled mug. This makes them perfect for a quiet way to wake up in the morning or calm down with a bowl of tea in the afternoon. The width of most French coffee bowls prevent seeing much around the sides, ensuring total enjoyment. It’s almost Zen. Try it.

French coffee bowl

However much I love French coffee bowls, I do recognize that they have their limitations. Espresso needs a compact espresso cup for maximum flavor and enjoyment. Sometimes you need a handle and the smaller profile of a French coffee mug, whether it’s reading in a favorite chair or working furiously at your desk. And for you cappuccino lovers, the rounded cup with saucer is a definite must for all that foam.

capuccino cups and saucers

What are your favorite ways of drinking coffee? Are you a fan of mugs and cups? Do you love French coffee bowls for other uses besides drinks?

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Four New Uses for Italian Coffee Mugs

The reasons for using Italian ceramic coffee mugs for your favorite hot drinks go far beyond aesthetics. The ceramic keeps things warm for longer, especially if you pre-heat the mug by running a little warm water in it first. Even better, ceramic doesn’t conduct heat like metal or glass, keeping your drink warm while still allowing you to hold your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate comfortably.

Italian coffee mug

Italian ceramic coffee mugsBut with so many great Italian coffee mugs out there, there’s no reason to limit their use to just drinks alone. Here are four ways to enjoy your mugs without coffee inside:

1. Go green. Italian coffee mugs can quickly transform into a fantastic mini planter. Add some rocks or gravel to the bottom for drainage, then soil and a small plant such as a succulent or fern. This can be a useful way to use a chipped or cracked Italian ceramic coffee mug that you love.

2. Get organized. Can’t ever find a pen? Use an Italian coffee mug to hold various writing utensils anywhere in the house, from study to family room.

 

Italian ceramic coffee mug

3. Serve creatively. Contemporary cups and saucers can also be a useful way to serve your next meal. Italian coffee mugs are great for starting off your next dinner with a small portion of soup. Mix and match different Italian ceramic coffee mugs to give the table some unexpected color. This works particularly well with cream or blended soups; everyone can just drink them, no spoon required.

Fiore Mug with soupItalian ceramic coffee mugs

4. Savor sweets. Sometimes you just need a little ice cream in your life, but not a whole bowl. Feel less guilty by serving yourself a scoop in an Italian coffee mug. By filling a smaller container, you’ll feel like you’re actually eating more since the mug looks full (it’s an old trick for those trying to eat less; the same works for eating off of smaller plates). For true decadence, make an affogato. One scoop of vanilla ice cream in an Italian coffee mug plus one shot of espresso equals a delicious treat that leaves you feeling like you’re in Italy.

What else do you put in Italian coffee mugs or contemporary cups and saucers? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Affogato image courtesy of Ewan-M.

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Making Handmade Mexican Pottery Truly Your Own

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

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

gorky pottery

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

dinner plate

red plate

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

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

gogo_mugs_plates_bowls

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

gogo_mugs_plates

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Contemporary Blue and White Ceramics with Mexican Flair

blue and white cups and saucersBlue and white is certainly one of the most classically chic color combinations. Think Wedgwood or the Hope Diamond. But classic doesn’t need to mean “stuffy.” Just take a look at blue and white ceramics by Mexican artists like Talavera Vazquez and Gorky Gonzalez. Blue and white mugs, planters, vases, bowls, pitchers, and lamps never looked so chic!

The Gogo collection by Gorky’s son is a great example of this contemporary treatment. These blue and white cups and saucers have modern sensibility without looking over-designed. The Gogo long platter and oval serving dish are other blue and white ceramics that bring some flair and fun to any meal or party.

Graphic executions of blue and white, like the chevron zig zags on Vazquez’s blue and white ginger jars, are another fusion of modern and tradition. Ginger jars are beautiful accents for the home, and these designs are definitely not stuck in the past.

blue and white ginger jar

blue and white vaseI particularly like the zig zag and stripes of blue and white ceramics for plants. Cheerful and eye-catching, it’s no wonder that these blue and white planters and vases are consistent bestsellers. I think they are a fabulous foil for greenery. For example, this blue and white striped vase is stunning whether filled with a bouquet or sitting empty on a shelf, while this smaller blue and white vase accents a counter or desktop beautifully.

More typical floral motifs get an updated feel by these Mexican artists as well. The playful borders on Gorky’s blue and white dinner plates mix and match with ease, complimenting serving trays and blue and white bowls. The blue and white salad bowl by Talavera Vazquez is the perfect backdrop for your greens (much like blue and white planters and vases, now that I think about it). Solid-colored pieces put the focus more on form, highlighting the modern shapes of these blue and white bowls and plates.blue and white ceramics

Mexican flair also comes with Vazquez’s blue and white lamp bases. Truly a fusion of design and function, these blue and white lamps add a modern decorative touch along with accent lighting. Use them as a reading lamp, flanking a bed, or simply another light source for your living room.blue and white lamp base

What are your favorite blue and white ceramics? What do you think about these contemporary twists on such a classic color combination? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Our Favorite Italian Ceramics, Patterns, and Pieces

Italian ceramics
I’m planning to go to Italy in the spring to look for new artists to add to the Emilia Ceramics collection. There are so many traditional patterns used to decorate Italian ceramics, from intricate Deruta patterns to the whimsical animals of Vietri dinnerware. Many of these motifs are nature-inspired, with fruits, flowers, and animals common for Italian majolica pottery.

Italian platters

Lemons, for example, are a widely used pattern. The bright yellow can be paired with deep cobalt blue backgrounds or creamy white, giving a very different look to the piece. Cheerful serving pieces are typical, like the blu limoni serving tray by the brothers at Ceramiche Bartoloni.

A totally different look, this oval serving platter is subtle, refined, and has a refreshing color pallet.

oval_due_limoni

Cherries are another of my favorite fruit motifs. Mixed with greenery, they enliven plates, mugs, and pitchers of various sizes. The deep red of the glaze is quite striking and gives an almost modern sensibility to this unusual pattern.

Of course, there’s no reason to stop at just one fruit. Mixed fruit patterns are another of my favorites for Italian ceramics. They add elegance to planters and platters alike with colorful peaches, pears, apples, quince, and grapes. I love using this mixed fruit platter as a centerpiece on a long table – it looks fabulous full of food or empty.

Tuscan Fruit Long Platter

new_rooster_bowl_2Roosters are another common motif I’m sure to find on my Italian travels. Invoking the countryside, Italian ceramic artists can’t seem to get enough of these feathered friends. Tuscia d’Arte’s playful blue rooster is almost comical, while Ceramiche Bartoloni’s roosters are more intricate and lifelike. The beautifully painted rooster salad bowl and rooster pitcher will add color and possibly some good luck to your kitchen.

There’s also istoriato ware, a style of Italian majolica that tells a story. Historically these were hand painted dinner plates that featured intricate central imagery of people (though not always) surrounded by a rich border. The style is still popular today, often for wall plates. Tuscia d’Arte’s harlequin plates are a variation on this tradition, as are the figures on Bartoloni’s ceramic canisters and jars.

What are your favorite Italian ceramics and Italian patterns? Have any suggestions for where I should visit when I’m in Italy looking for new ceramic artists? Love Deruta patterns or another Tuscan style dinnerware? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Much Loved (and Used) Favorites!

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One of the best things about the pop-up shop in Palo Alto is interacting with customers. Many people who walk into my shop just assume I’m an employee. Sure, I might know something about ceramics, but they don’t expect me to be quite as intimately connected with the goods as I am. I don’t blame them… I make the same assumption when I visit other stores. It’s fun to get to surprise customers by sharing that I actually know the artists who make the pieces, that I personally pick out each piece, and that I use many of the ceramics myself at home. The last piece of info is probably the most helpful to perspective customers. I can give them precise knowledge of food that looks great served on Tuscia’s square platters, promise them that all the mugs work well in the microwave, and assure them that the Vina Azul salad bowl is the best size and shape for tossing/serving salads. I love sharing personal stories of how my parents use an eclectic set of Gorky plates as their everyday dishes, how my sister serves spaghetti, ice cream, salad, chili, and IMG_0779anything else she can think of in Gorky’s pasta bowls, how my brother makes beautiful caprese salads on his Amor Platter, and how I always serve cheese and crackers on my favorite square platter with oranges. Here are some personal photos of Emilia Ceramics in use… Enjoy!

Right and Below: Dinner at my parents’ house with El Mar Platter, Oval Serving Dish, and various Gorky plates.

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Below: My brother’s famous caprese salad served on the Amor Platter

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Below: Delicious and beautiful Gazpacho at my friend’s house, served in Emilia Ceramics’ Italian mugs and blue and white bowls by Gorky Gonzalez.gazpacho

Below: One of my favorite of Richard Esteban’s pieces, this oval serving platter (which I gave my dad for Christmas last year) works great for serving meat dishes and salads. We even served the turkey on it for Thanksgiving this year (but I forgot to take a photo)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_0384

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An Italian Country Style Gift Guide

Snow in TuscanyThe rustic, touchable quality of Italian country décor makes it very much a natural fit for the kitchen. Wrought iron, ceramic serving dishes, stonework, and plenty of wood are all elements of this popular look. The warmth and friendliness associated with this Tuscan style is closely tied to the Italian tradition of hospitality, which is why so many people turn to Italian country décor in spaces where they spend time with guests, from kitchens to dining rooms.

Italians are experts at relaxed entertaining, piling large serving trays with delicious food and always ready to drink another glass of wine. Know someone who loves Italian country décor or just likes to entertain? Here’s my final gift guide of the holiday season to help you find the perfect Italian country accent for their home.

Here are some Italian Country Gift Ideas:

Large serving tray

richard esteban serving platter

Perfect for anyone who loves to have company, a large serving tray is ideal for any stage of a meal from starters to desserts. The striking size of these rectangular serving platters make them a favorite choice for a special gift. Another cheerful piece is the large square blu limoni platter – this is a large serving tray that combines modern bright colors with Italian country charm.

Italian pottery spoon rest

italian spoon rest

Italian country décor is in the details. A beautiful handpainted Italian pottery spoon rest adds functional color and pizzazz to any countertop.

Whether fruits or an abstract design, this unexpected gift idea is sure to get used for years to come.

Ceramic serving dishes

oval platter

Help make entertaining or a relaxed family dinner easy. Ceramic serving dishes like bowls and platters inject charm into any meal large or small. Plus they double as instant wall decoration when not in use.

Italian country mugs

italian country mug

Know someone who loves a cuppa in the morning? No matter the hot beverage of choice, Italian country mugs make it just taste better. Pair a single or set of mugs with mulling spices, special coffee beans, or select tea for a delicious and memorable gift this holiday. If giving more than one mug, mix and match designs for a fun injection of personality from roosters to lemons.

Tuscan utensil holder

italian country wine bottle or utensil holder

 

Another useful piece of Italian country décor, utensil holders are a fantastic way to add life to a countertop. A personal favorite is the blue rooster Tuscan utensil holder. No matter the design, pair a utensil holder with a set of wooden spoons or other useful kitchen tools for a practical gift idea that’s sure to please.

Tuscany image courtesy of Podere Casanova.

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Our Gift Guide for the Person With Everything

Christmas wreath and handmade ceramicsDo you have someone on your holiday gift list this year that’s nearly impossible to buy for? The person who has everything might be your boss, mother-in-law, or a close friend, but no matter who it is, the frustration can be intense when trying to think of some suitable gift ideas. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Blue Striped Vase by Talavera VazquezI’ve talked with people in the Palo Alto pop-up shop these last few weeks about the folks that difficult to shop for and come up with some ideas about holiday gifts that are sure to please. From stripe painted vases to Tuscan utensil holders, here’s my gift guide for the 2012 holiday season.

Stripe Painted Vase. Large or small, the graphic charm of a stripe painted vase is hard to resist and is a great decoration for either the home or office. The blue and white stripes of this stripe painted vase by Talavera Vazquez go with any décor. Fill your gift vases with some festive branches or a winter bouquet and skip the need to wrap.

Unique Serving Platter. Ideal for the party planner in your life, a beautiful serving platter not only enlivens a party or dinner, but also can double as wall decoration when not in use. The simplicity and freshness of Tuscan lemons are always a winner, or choose Talavera Vazquez’s blue and white Mexican tray. Pair with a cheese knife or other serving utensil for a complete gift set.

Tuscan Utensil Holder. Guaranteed to please any stylish cook, a Tuscan utensil holder is a practical and cheerful way to hold kitchen counter essentials. Whether a blue rooster or luscious fruits, Tuscan utensil holders remain a classic go-to gift. Here too you can add useful kitchen tools, like wooden spoons or silicone spatulas, and bring a smile to anyone who loves working in the kitchen.

blue rooster utensil holder

Playful Pitcher. Pitchers are incredibly versatile, which makes them a great gift idea. A pitcher can decorate a shelf, brighten a kitchen, hold flowers, or serve a favorite beverage. The playful polka dots of this handmade pitcher by Richard Esteban are festive while the classic rooster pitcher by Ceramiche Bartoloni exudes Italian charm.

Drink Accessories. If your boss is a beast before that first cup of coffee, a mug and beans from their favorite roaster is a great gift. I think cup and saucer sets are a bit dressier than your average mug, whether they’re espresso cups or the giant cup and saucer by Gorky Gonzalez ready to fuel an entire morning. For wine lovers, a wine bottle holder and delicious bottle of red, white, or rosé gives them something they’ll enjoy now and for years to come.

What are you go-to gift ideas for holiday gifts? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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Tired of Your Messy Mug Cabinet? How to Choose the Perfect Cup

It’s early in the morning and you’re not quite awake yet. You open the cabinet door to get a mug for your morning cup of coffee or tea only to be confronted with an array of choices, none of which you really want. It can feel like a Goldilocks moment: this one’s too big, that mug’s too small. Then you spot the mug that is just right. It’s the right size, shape, color, and thickness. Sound familiar?

I’m always surprised at the mugs, cups, and glasses people will hold onto even though they never get used. A friend of mine recently mentioned she’d gone on a cleaning/simplifying mission in her kitchen. She took about half of the mugs and cups in the cabinet (the ones that usually stayed in the back) out, boxed them, and put them on a high shelf in a storage closet. The result? She’s now able to display all her favorite Italian coffee mugs on a shelf, adding color to her kitchen and complimenting her other Italian ceramics on display. There’s also less clutter in her cabinet. She’s thinking about holding onto the extra mugs and cups for a while in case she needs them for entertaining, but told me she also might just donate these extras and get more of the Italian hand painted mugs that she likes (and uses) instead.

Given that mugs are a popular choice for gift giving and we are well into the holiday shopping season, I’ve been thinking about what makes the perfect mug. Here are four factors to consider when choosing the right coffee cup for coffee or mug for tea:

  1. Thickness: A thicker coffee cup will keep things (like your coffee) hot longer and be generally sturdier. Thin mugs and cups are more likely to crack (think about your Grandmother’s china cups).
  2. Size: Know something about your gift recipient’s coffee or tea drinking habits. Do they favor espresso or an extra large serving of coffee with plenty of cream? “Standard” mug size might be the perfect fit, or maybe a bigger mug is in order. Having a variety of sizes can also be useful when it comes to entertaining or accommodating different family members’ beverage preferences.
  3. Handle: This allows you to carry mugs and cups and not get burned. Look for solid handles that are big enough to slip a few fingers in, letting the drinker savor the warm beverage inside. Small, thin handles are likely to break off or slip out of hands.
  4. Design: Mugs are a place where it’s easy to mix and match stylishly. I love the array of designs in my personal collection of Italian coffee mugs – most of them have the same size and shape, so my only decision is which Italian hand painted mug I feel like using that morning. These Italian ceramics make great kitchen decorations with their mix of organic motifs. Others prefer solid colored mugs or cups, and then there are always the fun designs like these polka dot mugs.

Need some mug gift ideas for yourself and others? Check out these mugs and cups to get you started.

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Guest Blogger Bethany: Six Months Later with New Pottery

Martin and I got married this past May and it’s been quite the whirlwind before, during, and since. Our wedding was lovely, filled with laughter, family, and close friends. Getting to Iceland for the honeymoon was fraught with travel delays and missed flights but absolutely worth it in the end. And then we were back home, with a list of thank you notes to write and “normal” life to resume.

Of course, many of my favorite gifts came from our wedding registry at Emilia Ceramics. As I said in my earlier post, figuring out the mysteries of wedding registries was one of the more stressful aspects of getting married. Using the resulting French coffee bowls and other pieces of new pottery, however, is a breeze.

We threw a reception for our San Francisco friends in July and I was incredibly glad to have the platters and bowls for all the food. I think we incorporated almost every new piece of pottery we’d received for the meat, cheese, and desserts to accompany the champagne. The results looked just as good as they tasted and it was a great way to break in our new ceramics.

The best part though is having things we can use everyday. I see the polka dot bowls whenever I open the cabinet and they never fail to make me smile. These hold my yogurt in the morning, soup at lunch, and the occasional (ok, frequent) ice cream sundae as a reward for diligent studying. Even though I’m more of a tea drinker, I still like to use the French coffee bowls when I sit down to write. As a graduate student in English literature and part time writer and editor, having the perfect vessel for my beverage of choice makes all the difference. My favorite bowl has a few drips of glaze inside and they all have subtle variations in the glaze; I love it that each French coffee bowl is truly unique.

Even when we’re not entertaining, we also use the blue and white salad bowl made by Talavera Vazquez to hold fruit on the table. Other serving platters have made appearances at dinner parties and I’m looking forward to the holidays to have even more occasions to use them.

I dropped by the Emilia Ceramics pop-up shop in Palo Alto the other day (when Emily asked if I’d be willing to write a follow-up post) and I fell in love all over again with the polka dot mugs, espresso cups, and other pieces of new pottery on offer there. Even if we’re done with the wedding registry, I already have some ideas what will be on my Christmas list this year!

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What Makes Italian Coffee Mugs So Special?

Are you a coffee addict? Or perhaps a tea fanatic? No matter how you like your caffeine fix, having the right mug makes all the difference. Handle design, thickness, and size are factors that make the difference between an Italian coffee mug you use everyday and one that just sits on the shelf.

Why does origin matter for contemporary cups and saucers? Well, think about your favorite beverages. Coffee grown in Latin America usually has lighter, citrus flavors while African beans are full of berry notes and earthy depth. Tea harvesting methods and varieties also vary from India to China, with different tastes depending on if the leaf is part of the first picking or last of the season. Because handmade ceramics use local clay, you’ll also find some differences in mugs from places like Mexico, Italy, and France in terms of color and firing methods used. The biggest obvious difference is in the traditional patterns that decorate French, Mexican, and Italian coffee mugs though. From lemons and fruits to roosters and flowers to playful polka dot mugs, there are as many designs as there are ways to make a cup of coffee!

The case for using ceramic mugs dates back hundreds of years. Ceramic keeps beverages hot for longer than most other materials, making it the ideal material for Italian coffee mugs right from the start of the coffeehouse vogue that started in the 17th century. Even today ceramic cones are used in serious coffee shops (and by home aficionados) all over the U.S. as a way to make a consistently delicious cup. Using a scale to get the correct proportion of grounds to water might be a little over the top, but I’ll admit that the results are delicious.

Both mugs and contemporary cups and saucers have their own advantages. A mug lends itself to moving around the house or office while a cup and saucer is better suited for staying put (and holding your spoon and a cookie or other small snack). I love the massive size of the Gran Taza mug in the afternoon (fewer need to go back for refills), but always start my morning with an Italian coffee mug for my first cup. For a few minutes I feel like I’m back in an Italian café in the heart of Tuscany.

What are your favorite ways to drink coffee and tea? Are you a fan of Italian ceramic coffee mugs, French espresso cups, or other contemporary cups and saucers? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Behind the Scenes: Gorky Gonzalez’s Mexican Ceramics

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

A visit to Gorky Gonzalez’s workshop in Guanajuato, Mexico is truly a feast for the senses. There’s color and creative genius everywhere you look, piled in ceramics both finished and in process. Considering the number of awards and international acclaim Gorky’s pottery has received, it’s no surprise that his development as a ceramic artist has international flavor as well.

An antique piece of Majolica pottery that Gorky found in the early 1960s inspired him to rescue this basically forgotten craft. After studying in Japan (where he met his wife Toshiko), he returned with a variety of techniques that have truly revitalized Mexican ceramics. The results blend past and present, creating Mexican ceramics that are unique and timeless.

Today Gorky Gonzalez and Toshiko’s son Gorky Jr. (known as Gogo) handles the daily responsibilities of the business, continuing the family tradition. On my most recent visit to Mexico this past June I was delighted to find all three members of the Gonzalez family hard at work with their dedicated team of artists. I visited with about six artists who were working on the wheel or painting these vibrant Mexican ceramics by hand. Whether dinner plates or mugs, each piece is treated with care through the multistep process that Majolica requires including multiple firings in the kiln.

With a workshop as large and bustling as this one it can seem like it might get old painting the same Mexican ceramics every day. However, there are always plenty of new pieces and designs being created as well as the continuation of old favorites. I talked with one artist who’s been painting Gorky pottery for nine years and still loves it. Each piece has a design guide that the artists follow, but they are encouraged to put their own individual stamp on it so in the end, no two pieces are ever exactly alike.

On this trip I was lucky enough to find some truly unique pieces to add to my Gorky pottery collection: dinner plates with the Catrina design (perfect for Dia de los Muertos), new creamers with owls and roosters, and even some fun new dip bowls. As Gorky pottery designs expand to include more traditional patterns as well as the modern Gogo collection, I’m always excited to share these amazing Mexican ceramics with you.

 

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7 Top Tips: Buying Ceramics Online for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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Behind the Scenes: Richard Esteban’s French Ceramics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Arrival: Owl and Rooster Cream and Sugar Sets

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

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

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

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

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Entertaining with Originality

Last weekend I went to Portland to visit some good friends who were actually among the first of the couples to register with Emilia Ceramics about 4 years ago. They have a beautiful house full of all sorts of unique touches, including an extensive collection of Emilia Ceramics. Upon entering the house, you’re immediately greeted by 3 such statement pieces: A colorful zigzag ginger jar by Talavera Vazquez, a one-of-a-kind vase by Capelo (stay tuned, I’m about to receive the Capelo pieces I hand-picked while visiting Mexico in June), and a sophisticated planter by Tuscia. Of course I felt right at home in the midst of all this beautiful ceramics… but the best part was seeing how my friends have made these pieces their own by incorporating them into their charming home.

The night I arrived, my friends prepared a beautiful dinner for us, including chips and salsa (served in the las flores serving dish and dip bowl) and a delicious gazpacho, which we ate in blue and white mugs, by Ceramiche Bartoloni.

The relaxed blue and white pattern on these Italian mugs was the perfect compliment for the bright orange soup. The main course was slow-roasted pork tacos, which were absolutely delicious. In fact, they were so good all the guests wanted the recipe. Turns out, it’s from an amazing blog I’ve just now discovered, The Amateur Gourmet. You have got to try these tacos… and I can personally attest to the fact that they look and taste their best when served on Emilia Ceramics!

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Lemons + Ceramiche Bartoloni = Cheerful Italian Ceramics

The history behind Italian ceramics plays a big part in their allure. Patterns and techniques that have been handed down for generations make for handmade ceramics that really stand out, whether they were made last year or 100 years ago. But writing about Italian country décor recently has got me thinking about lemons in particular, a fruit that’s a hallmark of Italian ceramics.

The Limoni pattern by Ceramiche Bartoloni is a wonderful example of this Italian ceramic motif in action. There are two versions – one on a white background, the other on a deep blue – and both are cheerful and bright, no matter the size or shape of the piece. I’ve watched the Bartoloni brothers paint these Italian ceramics themselves, Patrizio with his flamboyant swirls and curves, Stefano a bit more focused on intricate detailing. The finished product has the power to brighten any room.

So how can you get some of the lemon Italian ceramics in your life? The mugs are a great way to start the day, managing to be decorative even when they’re drying in the dish rack. Another favorite is the Limoni pitcher. It looks fabulous with a bouquet of fresh flowers or holds 1 liter of water, juice, or wine. Rounding out the table décor for your kitchen or dining room are the salt and pepper shakers complete with a small tray for easy passing.

The Bartolonis don’t stop there, however. Kitchen counters and stovetops benefit from an Italian ceramic spoon rest, keeping everything clean when you make your signature spaghetti sauce. The Limoni wine bottle holders are also versatile Italian ceramics; use them as a utensil holder, a vase, or keep tonight’s wine chilled on the table.

Soap dishes add cheer to any sink, and serving trays and bowls complete the collection. These Italian ceramics are equally at home on the wall as decoration or on the table, serving a delicious meal.

Popular as gifts or just as a way to bring some sunshine into your home, these lemon patterned Italian ceramics are the perfect mix of beauty and utility. How do you use these or other Italian ceramics from Emilia Ceramics in your home décor? Send us a photo and you can get 15% off your next order!

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5 Ways to Create an Instant Café Experience with French Coffee Mugs

Did Bastille Day make you long for France? It did for me! I keep thinking about my favorite French experiences and near the top of that list is whiling away the morning or afternoon at a sweet Provençal café. From croissants to French coffee bowls, here are my top tips for creating your own French café experience, no matter where you are or what time of day it is.

  1. Pick the cup to suit your drink. Whether you love strong espresso or equal parts coffee and cream, the right vessel makes all the difference. Tiny espresso cups allow the ideal amount of crema to cover the shot for the best taste possible. Like American style coffee? Then treat yourself to a polka dot mug for your brew. And for you hot chocolate and tea lovers, there’s nothing better than French coffee bowls for capacity.
  2. Try using a saucer. At a café in France, every beverage is served on a saucer that holds a tiny spoon, perhaps a lump of sugar, and a small sweet. French coffee mugs with saucers do the same at home, giving you an easy way to transport your cup to your favorite chair or seat on the patio. The saucer also provides protection for your table and won’t go missing the same way a coaster always seems to.
  3. Eat fresh. In France people usually pick up croissants or pain au chocolat from the local boulangerie or pâtisserie when they are only a few hours old. This makes for flakier pastry that tastes even better with a coffee at the local café or breakfast table. While you might not have a bakery right down the street, pair the contents of your French coffee bowl with the freshest breakfast possible, from fruit that’s in season to treats you picked up from the bakery the night before (shhhh, we won’t tell anyone).
  4. Pick up a newspaper. When traveling in Provence, I always see people reading their favorite newspapers at cafés, particularly in the mornings. It’s an easy way to slow down and truly savor what’s in your French coffee mug, whether it’s your first or fifth cup of the day.
  5. Don’t neglect the details. From interesting sugar cubes to those tiny spoons, the right details make your French coffee mug feel even more authentic. Recreate a French breakfast with Nutella or jam spread on toast or a croissant; then dip it into your French coffee bowl and enjoy the delicious results. Whether it’s a playful polka dot mug, gently steamed milk, or a cheerful cream and sugar set on the table, these little details will make any cup of espresso, coffee, or tea seem like someone else made it for you.

Interested in more coffee rituals? Check out our Pinterest board for coffee and tea lovers and let us know what you think.

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The Best Ceramics to Buy for Your Collection

I’ve been thinking more about the variety of people who collect ceramics since my last post on Design Miami/Basel 2012. While acclaimed new artists or valuable antique pieces might be ceramics to buy for an established collection, what ceramics should you buy if you’re just starting out?

The first question to ask yourself is simply what do you like? Do you have a favorite color, animal, shape, or country? Many people who buy ceramics online are looking specifically for pieces with Italian roosters, while others have collections that are just blue and white, yellow, or another favored color combination. Maybe you want your collection to reflect your French country décor or make your home feel like a Mexican hacienda. If you’re struggling to find a guiding principal for what ceramics to buy, it’s more important to focus on what you actually like instead of something that’s been designated “valuable” by the dealers.

I don’t think there are any secrets or hard and fast rules about ceramic collecting, but here are my top tips for getting a good start when it comes to buying ceramics, no matter what you like:

Start small.

A great ceramics collection doesn’t happen overnight, even though you can buy ceramics online. Pick a few pieces that appeal to you and that you’ll use. Coffee mugs are ceramics many buy to start off a collection – with all the personalization it’s easy to find a few that you like (and find the space to keep them).

Reward your rituals.

Mugs are also popular ceramics because people tend to use them every day. Think about your daily rituals and what ceramics to buy that you can easily incorporate into these rituals. Morning toast is more special on a handmade ceramic plate; cereal tastes better in unique small bowls. When you buy ceramics that you actually use, your collection will grow organically and you’ll be able to enjoy it everyday.

Have pieces to share.

There’s nothing better than having friends or family sharing a meal together. When thinking of ceramics to buy, a few great serving dishes are simply a must. Large serving platters handle entrees or lots of little appetizers.

Serving bowls are ideal for salads or pasta dishes. And then there are cheese platters and footed platters (perfect for displaying fruits on the table).

Think about display.

Don’t keep your ceramics collection hidden deep in closed cupboards! Hanging ceramic platters on the wall when not in use or keeping mugs on a rack or exposed shelf allows the ceramics you buy to become a daily part of your décor. Large collections can take over a china cabinet, kitchen wall, or sideboard, adding some personality to any space in your home.

Do you collect ceramics? What ceramics do you buy? Leave a comment to let us know!

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Spoon Rest Lovers Unite!

It never would have occurred to me that there might be people who don’t like spoon rests. Just look at an Italian pottery spoon rest and you’ll understand my assumption. These ceramic pieces are a quick and easy way to add functional chic to the kitchen, whether it’s on the stove or countertop. What’s there not to love?

It seems that spoon rest lovers are in the majority, at least according to this unscientific survey by theKitchn. Apparently when talking about “useless” kitchen utensils they mentioned spoon rests and were surprised by the fervent response in support of this essential kitchen tool. While spoon rests can be made out of anything from Italian pottery to a bowl to a flattened wine bottle, I agree that they are an-often overlooked yet highly useful addition to any kitchen. The ideal spoon rest really depends on the cook using it — some enjoy a small, delicate Italian spoon rest, while others need a wider and more hefty Mexican spoon rest. For cooks who want a place to rest multiple spoons, ladles, and spatulas all at once, I recommend a flat ceramic plate. Whichever you choose, using a spoon rest is a simple and practical solution that will inject subtle style into your kitchen.

Curious, I decided to see if others shared my spoon rest love. Some folks on Chowhound listed them as one of the pieces that stays on countertops along with appliances like coffee makers, toasters, and cutting boards. No matter how novice or expert a chef, I think that everyone can use a place to put down a spoon/whisk/spatula where it won’t make more of a mess.

I’ve noticed that people often buy Italian pottery spoon rests as gifts. These pieces, along with Italian hand painted mugs, are good for birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, and that holy grail of gift giving: weddings. Practical, functional, and stylish as well as portable, what is there not to love? The variety of designs also means that you can easily find the Italian pottery spoon rest that fits any personality: cherries, lemons, and abstract designs are just a few options that match the décor of any size kitchen space from tiny apartment to professional grade.

Italian hand painted mugs are another good gift choice for many of the same reasons – everyone can always use another mug for their morning coffee or other hot beverage of choice. Perhaps more versatile than pottery spoon rests, Italian hand painted mugs can also function as pen holders, desk organizers, and even a home for toothbrushes. And if you’re looking for the gift for the kitchen that has everything, why not give a matching set like the hand painted cherry pottery spoon rest and mugs? They’ll feel like they’ve stepped into Italy (and think of you) every time they look at the stove.

Spoon image courtesy of mynameisharsha.

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No Foolin’ When It Comes to Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

How does Gorky Gonzalez pottery link up with April Fool’s Day? For one, I think this collection of plates, bowls, mugs, salt and pepper shakers, and so much more is the perfect example of fool-proof design. It doesn’t matter how gullible you might be when it comes to pranks, you can trust in Gorky pieces for a consistently stylish and eclectic table setting.

What makes Gorky Gonzalez pottery fool-proof is that everything literally goes with everything, whether through matching patterns, colors, or motifs. Instead of having to pick just one design, you can indulge in all your favorites for a truly unique collection. Plates are the perfect example with rooster plates, caballero plates, fish plates, palm tree plates, and a range of border motifs from la fiesta to las flores or la mexicana. This mix of motifs extends throughout Gorky Gonzalez pottery with platters and bowls that work together for a bright and fresh place setting for any table.

If you want something a little less decorated, the sleek and modern Gogo collection features solid colors for plates, mugs, bowls, and espresso cups. Contemporary Gogo pieces make it easy to work within a defined color palette (perhaps blue and white or yellow and green), and then add to it with a variety of patterned and solid colored pieces, creating your own Gorky Gonzalez pottery collection.

But what’s a table with just some plates and bowls? Fun salt and pepper shakers add a note of whimsy, like these bunnies (great for the upcoming Easter holiday). Butter dishes, candle holders, cream and sugar sets, and little dishes for dips and condiments complete your look, whether enjoyed by just the family or a group of guests.

Gorky pottery remains one of my favorites in part because it’s just so much fun, and what dining experience isn’t enhanced with fun?

You could say that I’m a fool for Gorky Gonzalez pottery and you’d be right. Thankfully I’m not alone. It’s hard not to be taken by the great design, craftsmanship, and personality of this collection. Whether it’s a small rooster plate for salad or a large serving dish, there’s nothing foolish about adding some Gorky Gonzalez pottery to your table.

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Making Beverages Special: From French Coffee Bowls to Espresso Cups

french coffee bowls

What’s your hot beverage of choice? Coffee with cream and sugar? A potent espresso? Antioxidant-rich green tea? Hot chocolate with whipped cream? There are as many variations on these warming drinks as there are people who drink them. Talk with a barista and you’ll find out about even more factors that make a drink great: foam density, temperature, even the size of the espresso cups all contribute to the resulting taste.

There are a few coffeshops in San Francisco who will only serve small espresso drinks (like a macchiato or a simple shot) in ceramic cups, never to go. When I asked a barista why this was, she told me that the oils that give espresso its full flavor get absorbed by the paper of “to go” cups, making the drink taste flatter. Another factor is temperature –  a cooled espresso is a pale imitation of its warm delicious glory.

How should you serve your favorite handcrafted beverages? Here are some tips to get the most flavor out of your favorite cup, no matter what it may be:

Warm your mug first. No matter what you’re drinking, run some hot water in your French coffee bowl or polka dot mug and pour it out first. Bringing the ceramic to a closer temperature with the beverage means that your drink will stay warmer longer. You often see baristas doing this with espresso cups right before pulling the shot.

Use loose leaf tea. The flavor difference is incredible between tea bags and loose leaf because of how they’re created. Tea bags use the leavings and broken bits, while loose leaf varieties maintain more of the leaf and thus flavor. If you hate the mess of loose leaf, use filter bags or a tea ball to create your own tea bag.

Assam Melody

Get fresh beans. Roasting date makes all the difference as after about two weeks coffee starts to go stale. Grinding your own beans can be inconvenient, but getting fresh beans ground at your favorite coffeeshop is infinitely superior to buying pre-ground coffee.

Add some decadent finishing touches. A French coffee bowl is a great way to enjoy hot chocolate, but it’s even better if you add some fresh whipped cream or a drizzle of dark chocolate just before serving. Coffee purists might not like mixing their brew with flavors, but fresh cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, or other favorite flavors can jazz up your routine.

Serve in style. Stylish French coffee mugs, like these polka dot mugs by Richard Esteban, make any drink more enjoyable. Whether espresso cups, French coffee bowls, or a giant mug like the Gran Taza, having the right cup makes all the difference.

Tea leaves image courtesy of A Girl with Tea.

Coffee beans image courtesy of kadluba.

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The Versatility of Blue and White Serving Trays and Platters

Blue and white ceramics remain a popular choice for home decor. From serving plates to mugs, dinner platters to vases, the color combination is crisp and cool. With such easy elegance, it’s understandable that people often chose blue and white ceramics for entertaining. Whether it’s serving your family dinner or serving fancy hors d’oeuvres at a party, blue and white serving plates and food trays can dress up or down to fit the occasion. Here are some of my favorite blue and white ceramic serving platters and ways to use them. What ideas fit your lifestyle?

Football fiesta

Okay, so the Superbowl has passed, but my favorite sport’s season is in its heyday — yes, March Madness is right around the corner! A bowl of chips and salsa, some wings, maybe these delicious looking mini pigs in a blanket, and drinks – you’re ready to go. Causal and sturdy pieces are best for displaying all your finger food options, like this blue and white ceramic serving platter. The festive motif fits perfectly with any party (and won’t break easily if it gets knocked off the table in all the excitement).

Ladies’ tea party

Maybe you have a book club or just a group of girlfriends that like to get together regularly. I love grown-up tea parties with a giant teapot and delicious snacks to go along with it. This blue and white ceramic serving plate looks divine with a stack of scones ready for butter and jam, cucumber sandwiches, or petit fours. Make sure your guests have plenty to drink with sizable blue and white mugs instead of tiny teacups.

 

Elegant hors d’oeuvres

Wine and cheese parties are a perennial favorite, either to celebrate a special occasion or just to try some new vintages. This gorgeous new teal blue platter by Richard Esteban cries out for a tasty array of fromage from mild chèvre to Camembert. And when it comes to canapés or other finger foods, Richard’s large blue serving tray is a sure winner with its unique petal shape and vibrant hue.

 

Do you have other ideas about ways to use your favorite blue and white ceramics? We’d love to hear them, so please share with a comment below!

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Why Buy Ceramics for Valentine’s Day?

My Love Comes Bearing GiftsI’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day recently (as those of you who get the newsletter already know). If you have a special someone to celebrate it with, it’s time to come up with a plan. It’s probably one of the worst times to try and go out to eat (reservations fill up fast and set menus don’t usually showcase a restaurant’s best dishes). Roses are cliché, the same goes for chocolates. But what about buying ceramics online for your sweetheart?

Think about it. Ceramics are durable (just like your love). They’re timeless (just like your love). They look good for years and can be used as a daily reminder of your love, whether simple coffee mugs or an elaborately-decorated vase. Of course, when you buy ceramics online, you’ll have many options – here are some ideas to help you decide what’s right for your Valentine’s Day gift:

Seeing Red: Valentine’s day is full of red and pink. If your sweetie loves those colors, bonus! Red ceramic platters, mugs, and bowls are just some ceramics to buy that fit personal tastes and the holiday. I think red’s cheerful year-round, but if it’s not a favorite, think about classic blue and white, warm yellows, or even rich greens. A gift that reflects personal taste is always best, no matter the occasion. From clean, graphic ceramics to rich Tuscan and French country pieces, there’s something for everyone.

Shipping: When you buy ceramics online, check out the shipping policy before shopping around. Is there an express option to get your gift delivered before February 14? What’s the policy on breakage? With a week to go, most places should be able to deliver your gift with a day to spare.

Special Touches: Traditional gifts are sweet, don’t get me wrong. But why not add something a little extra? A vase with a note saying “For all the flower bouquets to come” sets up a year-long romantic gesture that’s sure to be appreciated. For wine lovers, this black and white striped wine bottle holder would work well with a bottle of Lucky Night wine by Swanson Vineyards. Love someone who loves coffee or tea? Find the perfect ceramic mug for their daily cup along with some of their preferred brew. The Gran Taza ensures they have enough for the morning at home or the office.

      

When Size Matters: Good things come in both big and small packages. When choosing ceramics to buy, think about your sweetheart’s space and preferences. A statement vase might be beautiful, but take up too much space on a small shelf. If space isn’t an issue, try a bold planter for the window or patio. Even better, complete this gift with a flowering plant, so your Valentine can enjoy flowers long after February 14th.

Pink package image courtesy of Vincent van der Pas.

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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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Countdown to Holiday Parties with Mexican Ceramics

Can you believe it’s already December? After the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, now we hit the fun part of this time of year: holiday entertaining. Cocktail parties, sit-down dinners, and cookie swaps vie for the round of work and family parties, leaving us ready to put our feet up come January.

Here, we’ve put together some original ideas to help you entertain with style. Plus, we have suggestions for memorable host gifts to bring to events outside your home. Here’s a countdown of Mexican ceramics with flair – they’re perfect for holiday entertaining, whether an intimate dinner or blow out bash.

5. Platters. Start off a party right with delicious appetizers arranged on ceramic serving platters. Having food stations spread throughout your home keeps the party from clumping around a central food table and makes food easier to replenish when items get low. Use a rectangular serving tray to keep two-part foods (like spreads and dips) together visually and physically. Large serving platters are great for a spread of meats and cheeses next to fresh bread. Try a rectangular serving tray for vegetable crudities or to showcase sweet treats at meal’s end.

4. Mugs. Warm drinks need the proper equipment, so have festive Mexican ceramic mugs on hand. They’re both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Whether it’s a gran taza filled with hot chocolate as you prepare the night’s meal or mugs filled with spiked coffee after dinner, a mix of mugs means your guests won’t get confused as to whose drink is whose. Mugs also make a great host gift since everyone can find a use for them, no matter their hot drink of choice.

3. Serving dishes. If you’ve been slaving over a gorgeous roast, show it off with the proper ceramic serving dish. An oval serving dish is perfect for meats and the handles make it easy to get it to the table. Ceramic serving platters and dishes are also perfect for centerpieces; this Vazquez serving dish looks fabulous on the table, whether filled with fruit or left empty.

2. Ceramic salad bowls. You need something cool and crisp to compliment a hearty meal, so fill ceramic salad bowls with a mix of greens that goes with everything. A substantial salad bowl can double as the perfect place for chips before dinner or cookies afterwards.

I love this ceramic salad bowl with barely visible handles that make it easy to pass. Because it’s so versatile, this is another Mexican ceramic piece that’s great for gift giving.

1. Trivets. Protect your surfaces in style with colorful Mexican ceramic trivets. These spice up an empty table even before the meal begins; you can mix and match the variety of colors for holiday cheer. Small and portable, these trivets have quickly become a favorite small gift for anyone who loves Mexican ceramics, entertaining, or cooking.

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We’re into Blue! Are You?

What’s the most popular color in the world? A recent post on Apartment Therapy describes a survey conducted by Dulux paints to learn what colors people love and hate. The big winner? You guessed it: Blue, followed by red and green.

But what’s better than just blue? Blue and white of course! This color combination continues to be one of my favorites, perfect for an entire room or just accent pieces. We know that it’s a classic pairing, in part because there’s so much versatility. For example, just look at these gorgeous pieces of blue and white Italian pottery.

  • Lamps. Now your blue and white Italian pottery can literally illuminate your room. This Blue Leaf Lamp works wonderfully with both traditional and contemporary décor. The playful movement and subtle accents of green and yellow are great compliments to the predominantly blue and white glaze. A smaller version of this lamp works for a bedside table or creates soft lighting in a hallway. Looking for a more subtle blue and white Italian pottery lamp? With delicate tracery, the Rouen Blu Lamp is both elegant and understated.

  • Vases. For me, the best vases are ones that look beautiful both empty and with flowers. I love the Blue Leaf Vase for a great example of blue and white Italian pottery that always looks fantastic. The handles invoke classical amphora, but the style is definitely perfect for a contemporary home with textured layered glaze and shading.
  • Mugs. What could be a more practical and stylish example of blue and white Italian pottery? Whether it’s your first or eighth cup of coffee (or tea), it’ll be extra delicious coming out of a handcrafted mug like this one by Ceramiche Bartoloni. Mix and match blue and white mugs with other color combinations for diversity or choose a matched set, whatever fits your style.
  • Bowls. I can’t resist the charm of a rustic bowl like this one by Patrice Voelkel. The functional shape is perfect for salads, mixing, or even as a fruit bowl. Or opt for one of Gorky Gonzalez’s inspired blue and white bowls — great for bringing elegance and sophisticated charm to any table setting.

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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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5 Tips to Help You Buy Ceramics

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

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

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

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Italian Coffee and Our Favorite Italian Coffee Mugs

I know that the Clover coffee machine is old news, but it fascinates me that people are so enamored of coffee that there’s a machine on the market that costs thousands of dollars and claims to brew the perfect cup. Personally, I like making my morning coffee at home and savoring it in an Italian ceramic coffee mug. I feel momentarily transported to Italy, if just for a few lovely minutes before my day truly begins. One of my favorite parts of traveling in Italy is getting to experience the relaxed, community-oriented culture found in local cafés. Coffee definitely has a way of bringing people together and in Italy, coffee helps me feel right at home.

Why is it that we think of Italy and coffee together though… I mean, coffee isn’t even grown there! Part of it is history. Venice was home to the first coffeehouses in Western Europe. The first one was recorded in 1645. Coffeehouses quickly became a place to do business and talk with like-minded people (hence their attraction to students and thinkers the world-over). The modern espresso machine was created in Milan in 1945, and the subsequent craze over this bitter yet delicious concentrated brew continues today with cafes and aficionados world-over.

And when did Italian ceramic coffee mugs come into the picture? Right at the beginning in fact. Italian coffee mugs were traditionally made of ceramic because it kept the coffee hot for longer. Cool coffee didn’t have the same appeal, so Italians ensured their coffee mugs helped draw out the delectable experience just a little longer. Clever, no?

Of course, espresso is another story. It is best drunk quickly, while it’s still hot. Many Italians grab a quick shot on their way to work, just drinking it at the bar, explains Life in Italy. However, you’ll still see people lingering in a café in the late afternoon, enjoying company of friends or simply soaking up the atmosphere. You can visit some of the original coffeehouses in Venice or frequent the local café no matter where in Italy you might be. Even the train stations have incredible brews and they often serve them from the cutest little Italian coffee mugs and espresso cups.

Not going to Italy anytime soon? Then create your own café feel with Italian ceramic coffee mugs at home. And don’t believe purists who tell you espresso is the only way to drink it – coffee has been brewed in a variety of fashions since it was first discovered (probably in Ethiopia, though sources don’t always agree). So whether you filter, French press, or use a stove top espresso maker, take a few moments to really savor your next cup. May I suggest these ideas For Coffee & Tea Lovers, including my favorite Italian coffee mugs.

Coffee bean image courtesy of Jeff Kubina.

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How Tuscan Food & Decor Can Whet Anyone’s Appetite

Local flavors are key to any cuisine, but if you’re lucky enough to have eaten in Tuscany, you know that it’s full of delicious traditions that are hard to explain if you haven’t tasted them yourself. One of the things I love best about this region of Italy is that simplicity fuses with elegance, both in flavor and presentation of even the most basic dish. It’s no wonder that Tuscan décor inspires so many kitchen designs – who wouldn’t want to emulate the flavor and decor of a region with food that tastes this good?

Aurora Baccheschi Berti discovered the beauty of Tuscan cooking and decorating while vacationing in Tuscany in the 1970s, never realizing she’d ultimately move there, she explains in The Telegraph. She and her husband fell in love with and bought the castle of Vicarello, moving there in the early 1990s and embarking on ten years of restoration work to make it into a true home. I love the way she describes finding “a whole new approach to cooking, where the honest flavours of locally produced ingredients lend even the simplest of traditional dishes an unexpected elegance.”

Obiously emulating true Tuscan décor would be so much easier if we were  surrounded by the land, people, and colors themselves. This is a place where art is living, in a very real sense. Plates, bowls and platters are beautiful but also practical, a philosophy I have always shared.

Just reading the description of the food in this article makes me want to be in Berti’s kitchen. She tells how a local friend and mother figure inspired and taught her to make tortelli: “Using 20 eggs, she would make one immense sheet of pasta – large enough to cover my huge kitchen table. She never measured or weighed a single ingredient.” Perhaps needless to say, her cookbook My Tuscan Kitchen sounds like it’s packed with delicious recipes.

So how to bring some of this Tuscan delight into your own kitchen? The rich blues, greens, and golds that dominate the Tuscan landscape add to any décor. A signature of Tuscan ceramics is their playful motifs: fruits, flowers, animals, and whimsical, comedic characters like those on the traditional harlequin plates. Decorators can give you more professional advice perhaps, but I say it should have a homey vibe, one where you can tell that surfaces and objects are used and loved. Kitchens are where not only food is made but people gather – serving homemade food from a beautifully-painted platter, enjoying coffee from a colorful mug, even using a simple spoon rest as you cook can bring out the Tuscan flavor in your food, your hospitality, and your home, no matter its dominant décor.