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Valentine’s Gifts to Suit Your Loved One’s Passion

The holiday of love is almost upon us and you might be expecting the usual flowers, chocolates or jewelry again this year. Or, perhaps you and your significant other decided to forego material gifts this year in favor of quality time with one another. If that isn’t the case, and you’re hoping to receive something unique this Valentine’s Day, consider finding a way to slip a link to this post to your loved one. Here at Emilia Ceramics, we’d like to see your love celebrated with the gift of a ceramic treasure from one of our talented artists.

Below, we showcase a few such ideas, characterized by a specific passion your partner might recognize in you.

For the Wine Enthusiast

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Vino Cups by Ceramica Valenciana (Valencia, Spain)

The wine loving woman in your life appreciates nice things and just another bottle of good wine isn’t special enough for this occasion. Luckily, we have many gift options for the vino-inclined. A classic is this Black Striped Wine Bottle Holder by Talavera Vazquez. If she’s drawn to old-world design, she might appreciate the Antique Vino Pitcher… Or for a more irreverent oenophile, these Vino Cups by Ceramica Valenciana are pure fun. If she has everything a wine drinker already needs and then some, a fun add on to a quality bottle of her favorite wine would be any of our wine stoppers, like this Fiore Wine Cork by Ceramiche D’Arte Tuscia in Montelupo Florentino, Italy.

For more ideas, check out all our Wine Accessories or our special gift-giving section for Wine Enthusiasts.

For the Creative Chef

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White Footed Serving Dish by Ceramica Valenciana (Valencia, Spain)

When gifting your loved one who loves to spend time in the kitchen, you can’t go wrong with serving ware or table accessories. A few of my favorites for anyone who loves to be creative when cooking: the Cherry
Spoon Rest
, by Ceramiche D’Arte Tuscia; the Burnt Honey Etched Trivet by artist, Richard Esteban from Aigues-Vives, France; and this timeless White Footed Serving Dish by Ceramica Valenciana.

To see more, shop Serving Dishes >>

For the Dessert Lover

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Gogo Square Plates by Gorky Gonzalez (Guanajuato, Mexico)

If your partner has a certain affinity for the “sweeter” things in life, give her a gift that will help her bake or serve her favorite dessert. Small appetizer dishes are perfect for dishing up chocolate truffles or petit fours. Especially for a more delicate or intricate dessert, small plates that offer a blank canvas are best, such as the Gogo Square Plates in five fun colors. For a light-hearted dessert lover, the Wildflower Bouquet Cookie Plate is a great idea, as are any of the small pieces created by French artist, Sylvie Duriez. As a compliment to any of these, think about coffee drinking accouterment, such as this San Miguel Mini Creamer and the San Miguel Sugar Bowl.

For more dessert-friendly gift ideas, check out our Footed Platters and Bowls, (great for displaying cakes, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes) or our collection of Appetizer and Mini Plates.

Beyond just gift ideas, my advice is to always think outside the box when shopping for that special someone. Try to picture yourself, as them, doing something they love to spend time doing and get creative from that perspective. And remember, provided your gift is picked out with the intent of wanting to make your loved one happy, you really can’t go wrong!

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Holiday Season Essentials: Great Serving Platters for Entertaining and More

With the holidays and entertaining season just around the corner, now is the time to make sure you’re ready! Here’s a quick rundown of how to get party-ready, from colorful dishware and great serving platters for entertaining, to setting up your bar and making sure you create the right ambiance. Follow this guide now, before the craziness of the holiday season really sets in!

1. Assess Your Dishware

Since one of the key elements of entertaining is presentation, it’s a good idea to pull out your plates, bowls, serving platters, glasses, and utensils in advance and inspect for missing pieces or chips. Get a jump start by considering how many people you will be likely to have over, what you will serve, and what the theme will be. Do you have all the pieces you will need? Versatility, function, and design are all key to making sure your presentation will be both eye-pleasing and get the job done.

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Above Photo: Between Naps on the Porch

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Above Photo: Decoist

2. Pay Special Attention to Serving Platters

It’s no surprise that serving dishes are some of the most important pieces in entertaining. But did you know that they have played a vital role in the home since the 16th century Roman Empire. In fact, the oldest known serving tray is thought to have been made out of natural materials in the 7th century BC. It was an object of function (versus fashion) and was used to more efficiently carry basins and tea pots. This changed in the 1600’s when the serving tray was usually made out of silver and known as a “salver.” Those lucky enough to have silver serving trays were considered to be among the elite of the population.

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Above: Sterling Silver Salvers produced in the 1730’s, from Wikipedia

Keeping the rich history of serving dishes in mind, take a look at your current collection of serving platters and serving bowls. Do you need to incorporate any new shapes or sizes for the entertaining season to come? Make sure to think about appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Think of adding new pieces that will bring design, versatility, and sophistication. And remember, color is key!

Square Italian Platter
Above: I love the surprising shape of square and rectangular serving platters.
Purchase here: Square Platter with Lemons >>

Cherry Red Long Platter
Above: Long serving platters are perfect for appetizers!
Purchase here: Cherry Red Long Platter >>

Black Serving Platter with Polka Dots
Above: Nothing says party like polka-dots! This serving dish is both functional and fun. It’s great for serving appetizers and small entrees, and looks fabulous with all food.
Purchase here: Black Serving Platter with Polka Dots >>

Charger Plate with Red Stripe
Above: Large round serving platters are classic and perfect for passing an entree dish.
Purchase here: Charger Plate with Red Stripe >>

Lime Green Cheese Plate
Above: Combining an authentic French look with a festive green glaze, this cheese plate makes a striking statement.
Purchase here: Small Cheese Plate – Lime Green >>

3.  Update your Bar

If you’re having people over during the entertaining season, chances are drinks are involved. You’ll want to have a fun, stylish place to keep your booze collection and bar tools. Whether it’s a fancy dinner or casual gathering, having a bar setup is a must. Try a bar cart tucked into your bar area or set a tray on top of a credenza or table. And for those who aren’t into booze, try a coffee or tea bar as well.

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Photo: Tasting Table

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Photo: Simplified Bee

Another way to make your bar more welcoming is to add a touch of handmade ceramics. Think about incorporating a striped or zigzag wine bottle holder (to keep white wine chilled on the table) or a Spanish vino pitcher. When you’re throwing a party, originality is key. For an unexpected twist, try serving wine in vino cups instead of traditional wine glasses. They’re less apt to be tipped over and their handmade quality will have a lasting impression on your guests.

black zigzag utensil holderVino Wine Pitcher

Vino Wine Cups

4.  Create Mood Lighting

This may seem like an obvious consideration but a wonderful evening of entertaining will be strongly enhanced by having lighting that will flow nicely with your theme – You don’t want anything too bright or too dark. Try dimmer switches or low watt lightbulbs to create a lovely effect. And make sure to incorporate the correct music and home decor as well – Candles and a floral vase will give the room a nice ambiance and a mellow soundtrack will be sure to not get in the way during dinner or drinks.

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Photo: Home Edit

How will you update your home for the entertaining season this year?

 

 

 

 

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Gift Ideas for the Modern Dad

Gorky Gonzalez taco platter

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Dads these days are Jacks of more trades than ever… from carrying their babies around in Bjorn’s and being master chefs, to tending the garden and knowing all about wine varietals. They are balanced, fun and not constricted by stereotypes. In honor of these multidimensional modern dads, I wanted to share some awesome modern dad gift ideas.

Foodie Dad

Foodie dad likes his kitchen gadgets – whether he’s tenderly preparing meat for the grill, exploring a dish for the slow cooker, or putting together veggies for the sous vide, he will love anything you give him for the kitchen! Here are a few suggestions:

Barn Red Platter

store-by-country-france-richard-esteban-fish-platter-barn-re-450px-450pxThe smooth surface and intricately decorated border make it a subtle, yet extraordinary backdrop for serving appetizers or a main dish. 

Deep Round Black Casserole black casserole dish
A super-functional dish, which can be used to bake a casserole or serve anything from salad to pasta.

Explore all platters here >>

Gardening Dad

Gardening dad spends his summer outdoors tending to all things growing and green. He takes pride in a beautiful landscape and isn’t too manly to plant a few flowers… or herbs for cooking! He appreciates functionality as much as aesthetics. He may enjoy these gift ideas:

Blue and White Square Planter

square blue and white planter

This blue and white planter will add style and authentic Mexican flavor to dad’s patio. Plus, a hole for draining makes this piece fun and functional.

Black and White Striped Oval Planter

black and white striped oval planter

This fun and festive planter is a great addition to even the most contemporary home. Dad will love to fill it with flower pots on the back porch, and once the season is over you can fill it with colorful citrus or even use it as a place to store your mail.

See all planters here >>

Wine-Loving Dad

Does the man in your life spout out terms like buttery, oaky, or full bodied? Does he talk about brilliance, tannins and texture? These wine-loving guys probably spent their college years geeking out on stereo equipment, and now they love to geek out on California varietals. Forget the bottle and give your oenofile an authentic pitcher to serve wine the Europeans way. Another great gift for the wine-loving dad is on of these hand-crafted wine bottle holders:

black zigzag wine bottle holder
blue striped wine bottle holder
black striped wine bottle holder

Wine bottle holders are a fabulous gift for the modern dad because they can also double as utensil holders! Take a look at our entire wine bottle/utensil holder collection here.

I hope these Emilia Ceramics gift ideas for the modern dad can help you find the perfect accessory to compliment his passions. Need more ideas? See all our Fathers Day Gift Ideas here >>

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5 Tips for Adding Blue and White Ceramics to Your Home

Blue and white looks sharp no matter where it’s found. A classic color combination in home décor, blue and white kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms have a timeless appeal. I’ve always been a fan of blue and white (and have the Pinterest board to prove it), and I am not alone. Blue and white ceramics rank consistently as top sellers for a variety of homes and uses. So what are some great ways to incorporate blue and white ceramics into your home décor?

Here are five tips for instant blue and white style.

blue and white ceramics

Use unexpected containers

Instead of a change jar, why not make coins look like part of your design with a blue and white ceramic bowl? Arranged on an end table, bowls or serving platters also hold everything from candles to a miniature rock garden. I even have a friend who considers this platter her “remote control keeper.”

Mix style with functionality

I think when it comes to blue and white ceramics the more uses, the better. A large blue and white pitcher is the perfect example. Use it to hold ice water, wine, or fresh squeezed mimosas for a weekend brunch. It can be a dramatic centerpiece (empty or full) on a dinner table, or hold a bouquet of fresh flowers on a kitchen sill or countertop. A mix of rustic and modern, pitchers like this are perfect in almost every home.

Go for the walls

Hang blue and white plates, shallow bowls, and serving platters when not in use in your kitchen or dining room. I’ve even seen wallpaper patterned with blue and white ceramics for a two-dimensional take on this idea.

Make snacks attractive

Food just tastes better when it’s presented well, so create appetizing snack options on your kitchen or dining table with carefully chosen ceramics. Blue and white platters hold mini snack bags of trail mix, nuts, or other healthy options for on-the-go bites while a large blue and white bowl brimming with fresh fruit makes it hard to resist.

Mix patterns

Keeping in the same color palette lets you explore fun textures and patterns. In the bedroom, mix a striped carpet with a printed duvet or chair, adding a feeling of depth and luxury to the room. A blue and white ceramic lamp or two, cozy throws, and eclectic pillows further the pattern play.

What’s your favorite use of blue and white decor? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Shop Blue and White Ceramics here.

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Labor Day Party Ideas: Time for White Platters

The fashion rule that you can’t wear white after Labor Day is meant to be broken. Yet this holiday is frequently a mark of summer’s end and fall’s beginning. School’s back in session and the grill will shortly go back into storage. So make Labor Day a time to relax with friends and family with these easy outdoor party ideas.

backyard grill

Classic BBQ

Grill hamburgers, hot dogs, or choice steaks. Serve with plenty of sides: potato salad, coleslaw, fruits of the season, and chips and dip. Arrange toppings (sliced cheese, onions, tomatoes, bacon strips, pickle slices, lettuce) for your meats on a large white serving platter for maximum appeal and easy access. Sick of hamburgers? Make this party low-key by marinating chicken the night before for high flavor and limited prep day-of. Whatever you serve, an easy menu will help make the fun last into the evening.

picnic spread

Potluck Picnic

Collaborative parties mean all you need as the host is serving dishes and a place for them to rest. Divvy up foods so that designated people bring apps, entrées, sides, desserts, and drinks. Or throw caution to the wind and end up with an accidental dessert picnic. Large plates at the start and cutlery in cans or jars at the end makes for an easy buffet line indoors or out. Set up drinks at another station for better traffic flow with groups over 10 people. A few white platters can help corral similar food items together visually.

white platter

Skewer Party

A mix of the traditional bbq and potluck, everyone brings their favorite skewer ingredients. Chop meat into square chunks and veggies thick so they don’t fall off. Put a bunch of wooden skewers into water to soak the night before and you’re ready to go. Have different colored platters for constructed skewers and cooked ones to avoid cross contamination. Here white platters filled with grilled delights look great with sides and salads in bowls. This party idea is great for families with small children; they’ll enjoy constructing skewers as well as pulling off the cooked results. Check out these combinations in a simple-to-follow graphic, including marinades, for inspiration.

skewers on the grill

Grill image courtesy Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc.

Picnic spread image courtesy Josh Liba via Compfight cc.

Skewer image courtesy joshbousel via Compfight cc.

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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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Our Favorite Handmade Handpainted Majolica

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

Victorian majolica

Victorian majolica

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

majolica serving platters

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

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

Mexican serving platter

 

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

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

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

Green kitchen image courtesy Mendelson Group via Laura Casey Interiors.

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3 Reasons Why These Wine Cups Will Improve Your Summer

I have outdoor dining on the brain – blame it on the sunshine and rising temperatures. But decorative dinner plates are just the beginning; drinks are another vital part of any summer meal. Tired of plastic cups that fly away and glasses that shatter due to a guest miscalculating the distance between guest and deck railing? Enter Ceramica Valenciana‘s smart Spanish ceramic drinkware. Here are three reasons why these are the wine cups that will change your outdoor entertaining.

spanish ceramics from ceramica valenciana

1. The laws of physics. A lower center of gravity means these cups are less likely to tip, especially when compared to a traditional wine glass with stem.

spanish ceramic wine cups

2. Durable style. Because of the majolica firing process used to make these Spanish ceramics, if they tip over or drop a short distance, they probably won’t break (like glass would). Plus, their clean lines and simple designs are picnic-perfect chic.

3. Temperature control. Best of all, the solid ceramic helps keep your beverage cool on the hottest day, whether it’s a glass of sparkling water or homemade sangria.

spanish ceramics

Outdoor entertaining just got a lot easier. Looking to add more Spanish flair to your summer? Besides the cleverly labeled vino and aqua cups (helpful for telling your wine and water apart), I love Ceramica Valenciana’s serving dishes, pitchers, and platters. Causal and clean, these Spanish ceramics definitely stand out from the rest. Now that’s something worth raising a glass to!

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The Best Decorative Dinner Plates for Summer Dining: 3 Tips

Summertime means incredible fresh fruits and vegetables, grilling adventures, and leisurely outdoor dining with friends and family. Even if you’re not planning to eat every meal outside this summer, it’s the perfect time to embrace playful motifs that celebrate the season. Bring on the bright colors and interesting textures!

decorative dinner plate
Looking for the best decorative dinner plates for your summer meals? Here are three rules to follow when updating your table this season:

1. Matching is so yesterday. It’s really true: plates and bowls don’t need to match. Mix up your classic dishware sets with square plates, oblong bowls, and other unusual shapes. Highlight that incredible dessert by serving it on distinct plates from the rest of the meal. The eclectic vibe will make your meals feel more relaxed and personal.

 rectangle serving platter

2. Color rules. Have at least two colors in your dishware sets; the variety makes even the most ordinary weekday meal feel more fun. If working from a base of white plates and bowls, mix in colorful serving or salad plates. Bold reds, cool blues, bright greens, brilliant yellows – there are no wrong answers. Patterns are also an excellent way to incorporate texture and more color without getting too crazy.

decorative dinner plate - orange stripeyellow dinner plate

3. Avoid plastic plates and cutlery. Nothing ruins that gorgeous masterpiece from the grill quicker than trying to cut it with a flimsy knife. The same goes for having your plate fly away in the wind. Unless you’re carrying your dishware multiple miles on a camping trip, take the time to use decorative dinner plates and solid silverware. The guests at your next barbeque will thank you.

dishware set

Need some ideas for what to serve on your decorative dinner plates and tableware sets that is suitable for summer? Check out Emilia Ceramic’s Pinterest boards for delicious recipes and ways to entertain as the days get longer.

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Decor Decadence: Polka Dot Dishes & Other Home Decor Inspired by @Couturecolorado

Polka dots add whimsy and charm, but they also have a sophisticated side. COUTUREcolorado’s recent post on polka dot interiors had everything from big polka dots to polka dot wallpaper to polka dot cushions and sheets. What’s there not to love?

Polka dot interiors

Subtle tonal variations, particularly with shades of gray, make for polka dots that intrigue instead of overwhelm in the home. There’s also the question of spacing: spaced-out dots whisper more than shout.

polka dot wall

Mixed with other patterns, polka dots are a definite favorite for home design aficionados for all rooms of the home. Gold polka dot pillows add causal elegance.

gold dot pillow

Polka dot wall art creates visual interest. Or just add polka dots to your existing walls with decals (no mess, no fuss?).

gold polka dot wall

And polka dot desk accessories? Major win.

polka dot notebook

Of course, some of my favorites remain polka dot dishes. How else could you bring the dot joy to your table? Polka dot bowls dress up party snacks or your daily breakfast cereal.

polka dot bowls

Personally, I’m in love with the mix of dots on Richard Esteban’s handmade plates. Layering dots with stripes and solid pieces feels lush and sophisticated; these are definitely ideal for mix and match fans.

polka dot dish And another of my favorite French artists, Sylvie Duriez, loves to incorporate colorful polka dots into her subtle work on plates and pitchers.

girls_waiting_plate
pink_polkadot_pitcher_3

How are you using polka dots in your home? Check out our polka dots on Pinterest for even more inspiration and share your favorites.

Polka dot collage image courtesy COUTUREcolorado. Other images via Pinterest.

black polka dot pitcher

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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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Delicious Winter Whites: Gourmet Salads & Chic White Platters

IMG_4246
There’s snow on the ground and suddenly I’m feeling drawn to the pure simplicity of white plates and platters.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no rule that white must be bland. Take this collection of fresh, modern winter white salad recipes by Ignacio Mattos over at Bon Appétit. Seared scallops with avocado and daikon – divine. Grapefruit and white beets – crisply elegant. Barley and cauliflower with burrata – inspired. These combinations are way beyond mashed potatoes or a side of rice.

white platter

We’re often told that color is the surefire indicator for flavor and nutrition, yet these winter white salads prove that white is anything but boring. The photos of these recipes really stand out (go check them out!) because of the food styling on simple, white plates. I could see these salads showcased on round or oval white platters, the hints of color peeking out from underneath fresh citrus and subtle root vegetables.

The best part about both these recipes and white platters? Their simplicity. Just a few ingredients let real depth shine through — the crisp flavors of endive mixed with toasted walnuts — especially when set against a striking shaped backdrop, like a square white plate or rectangular platter.

white_rectangular_2

Have you ever made a white salad or an entire monochromatic meal? Leave a comment with your favorite pairings and what you think of this white on white theme for your seasonal salad.

white platter with peacock

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New French Ceramics Have Arrived!

IMG_4197
IMG_4198Last week, the much anticipated French shipment was delivered to my door in Boulder! It wasn’t quite as easy as that sounds… I received about 30 large boxes that were really heavy and literally coming apart at the seams. These boxes had seen a lot. They were packed up in Provence, trucked to a loading center in Paris, then back to a French boat, where they set sail for the USA. In New York, they were put on a truck and taken to Los Angeles, where they finally got re-loaded onto a truck bound for Boulder, CO. Whew!!

Needless to say, I was thrilled that they arrived at all and pleasantly surprised to find that not one little polka-dot bowl was harmed during that extensive journey!

Since the arrival, I’ve been up to my eyebrows in polka dot ceramics. Polka dot bowls, mugs, pitchers, plates; you name it, I’ve seen it with dots. But now that the dust has settled, I’m excited to share with you a sneak peek of our new French ceramics.

Richard Esteban Pottery

This is by far the largest order I’ve ever placed with Richard. I ordered a large refreshment of our favorites, including the polka-dot bowls — which come in cereal (large), ice cream (medium), and dip bowl (small) sizes — as well as the super popular polka-dot mugs and pitchers.

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I also went a little crazy with Richard’s fun yellow plate settings. To our previous offering of polka-dot plates, songbird plates, and striped plates, we now have charming French fish, dogs, little houses, race cars, and my personal favorites, the ‘Vive L’Amour’ and ‘Vive Le Bon Vin’ rallying cries.

On top of that order, I added many pieces that I fell in love with while visiting Richard in June. Stay tuned for these new and fun additions to the collection, as I haven’t gotten them on the website quite yet!

vive_amourI love that Richard Esteban and his small team of helpers hand-crafted each of these pieces. They threw them on the wheel, loaded them carefully into the kiln (twice), and they painted them completely by hand. While unpacking these beautiful ceramic works of art I kept thinking about how much work went into them. I am so grateful to all the hard-working and super skilled Emilia Ceramics artists, who put their love and talent (not to mention a little blood and sweat, I’m sure) into this craft, all so we can better enjoy our morning coffee, ice cream snacks, and family dinners.

Get Excited…

The work I picked out on my last visit to Sylvie Duriez is just as beautiful as I remember it. I’m excited to start getting these one-of-a-kind pitchers, bowls, and plates up on the website, so keep an eye out for new additions to the Sylvie Collection.

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Holiday Hours, New Arrivals, and Ginger Jars

Emilia Ceramics holiday hours

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

Holiday Hours

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

New Artists

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

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

handmade Italian jewelry box

 Italian salt and pepper set

Ginger Jars

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

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

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The Pefect Gift: A Handmade Serving Platter


El Mar Serving Dish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Blue and White Gift Ideas

blue and white living room
This gorgeous New York apartment recently featured in House Crush got me thinking about the decorating power of blue and white. Rebecca de Ravenel’s home demonstrates how wonderfully you can add texture and depth to any space with this dynamic duo, mixing patterns and styles to create a unique living space that’s chic and stunning.

Searching for some gift inspiration this holiday season? Here are some winning ideas for anyone who loves blue and white décor (hint: although the colors of the recently ended Hanukkah, this combination fits any celebration. Trust me.):

blue and white plateBlue and white kitchen accessoriesblue and white lamp are perfect for the stylish cook on your list. Think utensil holders, spoon rests, or mixing bowls. Pair these blue and white dishes with wooden spoons or other useful gadget.

For the modern statement maker, a blue and white lamp is sure to update an office or living room. Or try a ginger jar with a graphic blue and white design. But blue and white also has a softer side. Think blue and white throws, pillows, and other home accessories made of fabric.

Who can resist their favorite beverage? Give a blue and white mug to the coffee or tea aficionado, or a blue and white wine bottle holder to the oenophile in your life. A blue and white pitcher is also versatile, serving beverages or acting as a rustic vase for wildflowers.

 

 

blue and white cup and saucer
Blue and white dishes are another crowd pleaser. A few blue and white bowls for your favorite ice-cream loving college student, a stunning blue and white platter for your aunt who likes to entertain, or blue and white plates for a favorite couple are just the beginning. The timeless quality of blue and white dishes make them ideal for traditional or contemporary tastes no matter the recipient’s age.

blue and white platter

When it doubt, say it with flowers. A blue and white vase full of delicate winter blooms makes for a beautiful host present or the perfect way to gift that hard-to-shop-for person on your list. They’ll have beautiful flowers for the holidays and a vase to use for the rest of the year. Our two favorites: The sophisticated Italian Blue Leaf Vase and the more playful, Mexican Large Paloma Vase. Both look great with or without flowers and make a striking, memorable holiday gift.

Have any other blue and white gift ideas? Share your favorites with us and check out our blue and white Pinterest board for even more inspiration.

Blue and white living room image courtesy Vogue.

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Our Grand Opening Party!

IMG_3943Last Wednesday, we celebrated the official opening of the Boulder Showroom (above). We were so excited by the turnout — lots of new friends (and some old ones) stopped by to see the new Emilia Ceramics headquarters, enjoy some yummy Spanish wine (in honor of the arrival of our Ceramica Valenciana shipment… stay tuned for details) and lots of cheese!

left_window_display_2In preparation for the event, I made my new space holiday-ready, with garlands and lights around the windows, a little Christmas tree in my favorite Mexican planter, and some festive flowers. I received lots of compliments on all I’ve done to make both the outside and inside of the shop feel like a small piece of Provence. The nice sentiments were much appreciated… after the last few months of making 2232 Pearl Street into Emilia Ceramics’ new home, I was feeling pretty proud!

As for refreshments, I decided to keep it simple. I had 3 different types of cheeses (blue, brie, and manchego), grapes, dates, and marcona almonds (are you sensing the Spanish theme?). Oh and cookies of course! For drinks, my guests could choose between Rioja, a Spanish white (which went especially well with the blue cheese), Sauvignon Blanc, sparkling water, fresh water, and Anchorsteam beer (a nod to my San Francisco roots).

food_table

That’s where the fun part began… choosing ceramics to use for serving! I decided on two of my favorite serving platters: Richard Esteban’s Large Cheese Plate in Barn Red and  Ceramiche Bartoloni’s Foglia e Frutta Footed Platter with Angel. I absolutely LOVE Richard’s ceramic cheese platters, regardless of color or size. Each has a rustic individuality that is both subtle (won’t over-shadow the food you’re serving) and super sophisticated. With my color palette of black, white, and red, the barn red cheese plate looked perfect.

barn_red_cheese_platecheese
I chose the Bartoloni’s footed platter because I love creating multiple dimensions. How boring is a buffet table where everything is flat? I like mixing and matching heights so the food looks as good as it tastes.

wine_beer

Finally, I used one of Tuscia’s beautiful planters — the Blue Leaf Planter — as an ice chest to keep white wine and beer chilled. You’d think the Italian artists had made it for this exact purpose!

All in all, the party was a ton of fun! And judging by how exhausted I was afterward, I consider it a huge success!

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5 Party Planning Tips from Our Boulder Showroom Grand Opening

Emilia Ceramics Boulder Showroom Grand Opening
Who can resist throwing a party? With our Emilia Ceramics Boulder Showroom Grand Opening mere days away, I’m in total party-planner mode. Please join us this Wednesday if you’ll be in Boulder. Can’t make it? Here are five party tips to make your next celebration just as fun as our handmade ceramic bash.

  1. Have plenty of drinks but not too many options. Whether wine, beer, or cocktails, make sure you have more liquid than you think you might need. There’s nothing worse than a party that runs dry! Aim for about 1.5 drinks per guest per hour; one bottle of wine is about 5 drinks. Keep the choices simple with only 2 to 3 options, otherwise you’ll most likely end up with a surplus of one beverage over the others. Always have at least one non-alcoholic option besides water for those who don’t drink or are driving. A delicious tall pitcher of lemonade is always a favorite. If you’ll have 25 guests, 2 gallons should be plenty for the event.wine glass
  2. Scatter the snacks around. Platters full of snacks in different areas will encourage guests to circulate instead of clustering around a single food source. Multiple platters with repeated snacks (chips and salsa, hors d’oeuvres, or bite-sized desserts) are always a good move. If you’re a fan of a cheese platter remember the four parts for success: the cheese, the vehicle (crackers or bread), something sweet (fruit), and something crunchy (nuts). Mix several cheeses on one board or have multiple cheese plates showcasing a single favorite.cheese plate
  3. Embrace labels. So many people have food sensitivities these days, so it pays to clearly label everything. Small signs are classic, or use a roll of craft paper under your platters with contents clearly signaled. Otherwise you’ll find yourself repeating the same information throughout the event.
  4. Fill up a few black & white striped vases. Fresh flowers make even the most ordinary day feel special. Bold, colorful blooms particularly stand out when arranged in an appropriately sized black white striped vase. I love mixing different shapes of flowers and vases; this large black and white striped vase is stunning with sunflowers and this little round vase perfect for just a couple small flowers.black white striped vase
  5. Set the music and forget it. Background music sets the tone, so think about what suits the mood of your event. Keep the volume at a level where people can comfortably converse. No one wants to scream in front of a stack of speakers. Pandora (with no commercials!) is a favorite of mine; I have a great party station based on Pink Martini’s smooth grooves. If you’re crafting your own playlist, aim for about 4-5 hours worth of music. The people that are still around from the beginning will be having such a good time they won’t realize the music is starting to repeat.

What are your party planning secrets? Share your best advice with a comment below or just tell us in person tomorrow at our fête.

Wine glass image courtesy Dave Dugdale.

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Fall French Meals for French Platters

The cooling days of fall mean it’s time to start eating hearty, warm foods. For me, nothing beats country French cooking when it comes to delicious and warming dishes. While many traditional dishes might seem complex at first glance, many of them actually just require time to simmer or stew. Then, volià, complex flavors for dinner with actually little effort on your part.

French cheese platterHere are four of my favorite French dishes for fall, made even better of course when served on French platters!

Crêpes

Is there anything more typically French than a delicious crêpe? Fill them with cheese, spinach, ham, sauce Mornay (béchamel), sautéed vegetables… the combinations are endless. Julia Child’s recipe for crêpes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking remains a classic. Serve folded crêpes on a large French platter either filled or empty with accompanying sides. Need some help making the perfect crêpe? Check out Julia in the two videos below for mastering the batter, flip, and presentation.

Crêpes with jam and whipped cream also make for a quick and delicious dessert.

Cassoulet

French cassoulet

Hearty and filling, cassoulet is a traditional dish of Provence. Beans, sausages, duck or goose confit, and bread crumbs are the base components. Add lots of time to simmer and soon your kitchen is filled with the most amazing fragrance. There are tons of recipes out there, but don’t be frustrated if you don’t have confit laying around your kitchen. You can still create a delicious dish, like these examples from Saveur and the New York Times. Use a covered casserole dish instead of a French platter so your dinner can come directly from oven to table.French casserole dishes

French Onion Soup

Another classic, the trick is to thoroughly brown the onions for the richest flavor possible. Serve your French onion soup in either individual ramekins or a larger casserole dish covered in melted gruyere or comté. A hand-crafted white bowl filled with even more French bread is the perfect pairing for sopping up all that broth.

Pear Clafouti

A delicious dessert with an usual name, clafouti is an easy-to-make dessert that packs a visual punch and tastes just as good. Pears with ginger and dried cranberries are perfect for a fall clafouti instead of the traditional cherries. Try this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and serve either in a pie plate or pre-cut on a gorgeous French platter.

French platter

What dishes do you serve in fall? Are you a fan of rustic white platters or French platters in rich colors? Have any favorite sources for French recipes? Let us know with a comment below!

yellow French platterCassoulet image courtesy of stu_spivack.

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French Ceramics: Patrice Voelkel vs Richard Esteban Pottery

The ceramics of Provence are just as varied as the people who make them. Take Patrice Voelkel and Richard Esteban. Both make incredible French pottery with rustic charm, yet they have very different aesthetics which results in extremely different ceramics. For all the fans of French pottery out there, here’s a quick overview of how these two talented artists measure up and what sets them apart from the rest.

richard esteban potteryPatrice Voelkel

Clay types: Patrice Voelkel uses local black clay for the majority of his pieces, resulting in ceramics that have a bit more heft. The dark clay body also makes for colors that are more deep and rich than bright. Richard Esteban pottery uses the rich red clay of Provence, which causes his glazes to pop, particularly the yellows.

blue mix and pour bowlyellow French vase

Color palette: Speaking of color, these French artists both rely on a consistent set of colors. Richard favors a wider range, with ceramics in rich reds, yellows, greens, and blues. He loves polka dots and textured patterns. Patrice, on the other hand, loves indigo and all its many variations. Every time I visit his studio Patrice is wearing blue, leading me to think that he just loves the color. His chalk white dishes and deep cranberry pieces are notable exceptions. All of his glazes have a remarkable liquid quality to them.

pitchers by Richard EstebanProduction volume: Perhaps the biggest difference between Patrice and Richard’s pottery is the number of pieces they produce. Most of Patrice’s ceramics are one of a kind, making them unique works of art. Every time I visit I’m always surprised by something new, though he does make multiples of some favorites like his indigo pitcher and mix and pour bowl. The majority of Richard’s ceramics are replicated, which means that I have plenty of polka dot bowls and platters for all his fans. He also has some one of a kind pieces, notably his green fish canister and most of his lamps.

indigo pitchergreen fish canister

Studio size and creative team: Both work in gorgeous surroundings; I don’t think it gets much more picturesque than the French countryside. Patrice works with his wife Sylviane at Poterie Herbes Folles, accompanied by their faithful dog named Tina Turner. Richard opened Poterie d’Aigues-Vives after working with a few different traditional studios. His studio is also part of his home, though he has the talented Arnaud and Katia as part of his team. I’m constantly amazed at how many gorgeous ceramics both these studios produce, particularly since every step is done by hand.

Patrice and Sylviana Voelkel potteryWhat do you love about French ceramics? Are there pieces you’d like to see more of? Do you have a preference for Patrice Voelkel or Richard Esteban pottery? Let us know with a comment below.

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The Award for Best Dressed Kitchen Goes to… Polka Dot Dishes

Vanity Fair recently announced its International Best Dressed list, honoring Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton among others famed for their sartorial prowess. With the blogs and news sources following her fashions, Kate is probably one of the most well-documented women today. But looking over the blog What Kate Wore, one thing really stands out: this is a woman who loves polka dots.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry visit Warner Bros. Studios

Take the dress she wore after the birth of her son Prince George. Simple and understated, the blue dress with little white dots and simple lines was perfectly in keeping with her modern sense of style. Check out more photos here. Other recent polka dot favorites include a chic white dress with black dots (paired with black jacket) and a black and white wrap dress. As Refinery 29’s recent slideshow demonstrates, the polka dot is still making a splash on clothing and accessories for us non-royals as well. What dots are in your wardrobe?

polka dot bowl

Of course, fashion and home décor play off each other. That’s why it’s no surprise to see so many home accessories following the polka dot trend. Polka dot wallpaper, polka dot dishes (including mugs and bowls), big polka dots on the wall or small polka dots on the floor: everything can get dotty these days. I talked about polka dots earlier this year and style forecasts say they are here to stay beyond 2013. I think Kate would like the playful polka dot bowls and other polka dot dishes by Richard Esteban. Full of French charm, they enliven any kitchen when displayed on open shelving. The stunning black polka dot platter is another winner, chic and sophisticated in its whimsy. Given how fast these polka dot dishes sell out, I’ve been constantly increasing my orders with Richard… and barely staying ahead of demand! If there was an award for International Best Dressed Kitchen, I definitely think these polka dot dishes would be on the radar of any nominee.

polka dot platter

What kind of polka dots do you love? Check out our Pinterest board on polka dots for some more favorites and let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

polka dot bowls

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Capelo Pottery, a Unique Take on Mexican Ceramics

Capelo's studio and countryside

Capelo’s dedication to Mexico ceramics makes him stand out from other traditional artists. Not only is Capelo himself a talented, multi-faceted artist (he also is an architect, oil painter, and mixed-media sculptor), his dedication to keeping things natural makes his ceramics practically luminescent. His studio is one of the smaller ones in the Emilia Ceramics collection but the ceramics definitely make a big statement. Capelo potterySo just how does Capelo and his small team of artists create the unique Mexico ceramics that have made them famous?

One major factor I think is the land itself. Capelo’s home is high on a hill outside Guanajuato, Mexico, which gives him an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. His almost daily horseback rides and constant contact with such beauty comes through in his work with the colors and shadings of his ceramics. True artists, Capelo and his team take their environment and make it portable through their pottery.

Capelo’s ingenuity is also reflected in the unique shapes he creates. Pitchers with unexpected cutaway tops, fluted bowls, delicately pulled handles, and a willingness to play with scale truly set these Mexico ceramics apart. I couldn’t resist Capelo’s massive serving dishes on my last buying trip—I fell in love with the rounded square serving dish and all its possible uses. The same goes for the fluted serving bowls and smaller plates with kaleidoscope-like designs.

Capelo pitcher

square serving dishCapelo plates

Although Capelo pottery experiments with shapes, there are two things that never change: the use of local clay and natural glazes. Capelo says that his glazes are different because they don’t contain additives like many modern glazes do, using only natural ingredients. Of course, this doesn’t limit his use of color. His Mexico ceramics are rich with deep blue, dreamy green, burnt orange-red, and soft yellow. The resulting majolica is a softer, more subtle Mexican ceramics, almost glowing from within. Add to all this the fact that all of Capelo’s ceramics are one of a kind pieces and you have a recipe for an artist who definitely stands out from the rest.

Capelo fluted footed bowl

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French Finale: Colorful Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

outsideFrom Sylvie’s workshop in Pertuis it is about a 45 minute drive south to Aubagne, where Poterie Ravel is located. Once again I was helped in my navigation by friendly little Poterie Ravel signs located at almost every turn throughout the city.

As you may remember from my previous visits, Poterie Ravel is most well-known for its large terracotta pots, which it sells to premier hotels and shopping centers around France. When you arrive at Poterie Ravel, you are greeted by lots of these sophisticated pots, displayed perfectly amidst colorful patio furniture. The old stone building covered with ivy is where this family run business has been making ceramics since 1837.

Of course they also make smaller items – like the pitchers, platters, bowls, and vases we sell at Emilia Ceramics. It is inside the old stone building that you encounter room after room of inviting and perfectly displayed ceramics in bright, festive, stylish colors. There is a warm hum from the kilns (running almost all the time) and lots of friendly workers greeting you and wanting to help. Similarly to Richard Esteban’s showroom, this is a place I could call home! On this particular visit, I spent about an hour wandering from room to room, enjoying the displays and taking lots of pictures. Finally, I picked out a number of my favorite pitchers and planting pots in bright yellow and teal green (apparently, the colors of the season).

yellow_tealbowlspitchersdude

I was helped by this super friendly young man (above) – I can’t remember his name, sadly. He spoke some English and seemed impressed that I was from California and that I knew to come to Poterie Ravel. He said he had only been working there for a few weeks (during his school break) and that I was the first American he had met. He said it like I was a movie star, which of course made my day!

With Poterie Ravel checked off my list, I’ve completed my French shopping list… so it’s time to head to Italy! Next stop Montelupo Fiorentino, where I’ll visit Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia and Ceramiche Bartoloni. I’m really looking forward to both… not to mention all the pasta, cappuccinos, and gelato I’ll be enjoying!

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Mexican and Italian Roosters: Different Takes on an Old Tradition

For most of us, roosters conjure up ideas of an idyllic American farm in the country, with a red barn and welcoming atmosphere. But these proud birds carry a rich significance around the world, and one that goes beyond their status as an international alarm clock. Roosters are popular in legends, often symbolizing heroism and courage (such as the French coq gaulois, a symbol of France since Roman times). Unsurprisingly, then, roosters have made their way onto objects ranging from flags to plates to wine bottles, though what they stand for changes vastly with geography.rooster dip bowl

Take Gorky Gonzalez pottery, for example. This Mexican artist has almost single-handedly revitalized Mexico’s majolica tradition rooster platterincorporating Japanese, Spanish, Italian, and Indigenous-Mexican techniques with his studies of traditional Mexican pottery. The rooster, in many ways, reflects Gorky’s pride in his country and his craft. For example, strutting roosters often are featured on the silvered or golden botonadura (the buttons and chains that decorate a dress suit) worn by Mexican charros (horsemen) and mariachis, most likely invoking the tradition that roosters bring good luck. In fact, one of the traditions about white roosters in Mexico is that they bring good luck, so you should never kill them, though a rooster crowing at night is a sign of bad luck coming.

The roosters on Gorky Gonzalez pottery may be silent, but they still make an impact. His rooster plates feature proud birds, whether brilliantly multicolored or monochromatic, caught mid-strut or proudly crowing. On my last visit to Gorky’s workshop, I noticed a proliferation of these birds and was happy to add many of his one of a kind plates, bowls, and even ornaments to the Emilia Ceramics collection.

blue and white rooster tray

Roosters also bring good luck in Italy. A common manifestation of this Italian tradition is a rooster pitcher, often given as a housewarming present to protect against trespassers and danger. The legend goes that an assassination attempt on Guiliano Medici in the 15th rooster salad bowlcentury was foiled when roosters announced the attack. Medici had hundreds of rooster pitchers created by local potters to celebrate. Though the rooster is often found on pitchers, other Italian ceramics such as serving platters, bowls, plates, and mugs are also popular. Bartoloni’s roosters are vivid and lifelike, with rainbow colored tail feathers, and are always painted mid-crow. As I prepare to visit these Italian artists later this month, I will be on the lookout for more of their black rooster plates, another Chianti legend and symbol of the region.

From rooster plates to pitchers, mugs to bowls, these birds are certainly a great addition to traditional ceramics the world over. Do you know of any other traditions associated with roosters from around the world?

italian rooster pitcher

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We’re Ready for Summer Entertaining with Mexican Serving Dishes

Frog Cream and Sugar SetMemorial Day is just around the corner, and with it comes picnics and barbeques galore. Instead of reaching for paper plates, which can blow away in the wind and cause serving disasters, try using sturdy ceramics, like Mexican serving dishes. Your food will look better and be easier to handle as a result. No more worrying about if your burger will end up in your lap or your mouth.Mexican serving dish

I’m not the only one who loves Mexican serving platters for summer entertaining. As the weather has warmed up, I’ve been seeing a surge in orders for these party essentials. The long platter, part of Gorky Gonzalez’s Gogo collection, is ideal for grilled asparagus, raw veggie assortments, or cheese and crackers.

The handles on Mexican serving platters mexican serving platterby Talavera Vazquez make them ideal for passing meats fresh from the grill. Pasta salads or greens fit perfectly into one of Gorky’s cheerful serving bowls. And with Gogo dinner plates in a rainbow of colors, a fun, festive atmosphere was never easier to achieve.

But my favorite part of summer table décor are Gorky Gonzalez’s whimsical Mexican salt and pepper shakers. These are a fun way to season that corn on the cob or grilled steak. Quirky but not too crazy, I can’t get enough of these fantastic animals for any table setting inside or out. Bonus: use salt and pepper shakers to keep an outdoor tablecloth from blowing away before everyone sits down to feast. The blue and white chickens are quite popular (and lend themselves well to patriotic picnics like Memorial Day and Fourth of July), though all of these handpainted animal pairs has its own personality that’s definitely ready to party.

blue and white Mexican salt and pepper shakersmexican salt and pepper shakers

I can’t wait for my own Memorial Day grilling to start. With Mexican salt and pepper shakers, serving dishes, and the location set, all I need now is to figure out the menu! Here’s to a fun-filled holiday weekend; hope you enjoy it.

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Behind the Scenes: Capelo’s One of a Kind 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 hand-painted ceramics come to life.Capelo

Whenever I visit Capelo’s studio and home on a hillside above Guanajuato, Mexico, I’m always struck by the beauty of the landscape. The rolling mountains with their winding roads are stunning. Capelo himself definitely appreciates the beautiful setting — he goes for almost daily horseback rides through the mountains to relax and enjoy!

hillsides around Guanajuato, Mexico

Capelo Capelo’s one of a kind ceramics are similarly stunning. They possess an unexpected, organic, and completely touchable quality that really sets them apart from other handmade ceramics. Capelo’s studio is one of the smaller ones that I work with at Emilia Ceramics, with only a handful of artists working alongside Capelo himself to create and paint these beautiful Mexican ceramics. Capelo is also a highly regarded architect and teaches classes at the University of Guanajuato, manages the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and executes special commissions. On my visit last June he showed me the gold “key to Guanajuato” he made to present to the Pope. Capelo excels at oil painting and mixed-media sculpture; he is a true artist — always creating something new and exciting.

One of the most striking parts of Capelo’s ceramics is their unusual shape. He makes something as simple as a bowl or vase seem completely new with curves which are accentuated by the gorgeous hand-painting on each piece.

Capelo insists on using only natural glazes, which give his Mexican ceramics a truly special touchable quality. Like Sylvie Durez, all his ceramics are one of a kind, painted in a recognizable range of signature colors. I always have a hard time choosing pieces from all the gorgeous possibilities available and am sad to see them go (but, of course, glad when they find happy homes). The last buying trip yielded striking statement vases, a collection of serving bowls and planters, massive pitchers, and a set of plates that remind me of an ever-changing kaleidoscope. Just like the landscape around the studio, Capelo’s ceramics is a small slice of Mexico that is hard to forget. I can’t wait for my next trip since I’m sure to find a whole new range of Mexican ceramics to fall in love with and share with all of you.

Capelo statement vase

footed serving bowllittle blue plateCapelo Mexican ceramics

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Set a Rustic Tuscan Table with Ceramic Pitchers and Other Essentials

The charm of a rustic Italian table is unparalleled. Pitchers filled with wines and water are scattered to ensure everyone has plenty to drink. Platters piled with homemade delicacies are passed, then passed again. Exposed wood, ironwork, and handmade Italian ceramics all work together to enhance the flavors and experience.

Want to translate the homey, inviting feel of a Tuscan table to your home? Italian country décor invokes the same materials as Tuscany: large hand painted plates, ceramic salad bowls, Tuscan vases, wrought iron, glass bottles, and natural colors. Now you’re ready to invite over friends and family to feast the night away.

One of the easiest ways to get a Tuscan feel to your table is using ceramic pitchers. The thick clay keeps drinks cool in the summer and makes it easy to pour just one more glass of wine. Detailed patterns also make it easy to distinguish white wine from red wine, or adult beverages from those that are kid-friendly. A ceramic pitcher filled with wildflowers also makes for a great centerpiece, lending casual elegance to your table.

Sturdy serving pieces are also an essential for Italian country dining. A ceramic salad bowl large enough to toss greens for your entire group could also be used for a fragrant pasta dish. Platters stacked with cuts of meat or appetizing vegetables beg to be passed until diners can eat no more. Little bowls filled with sauces compliment everyone’s hand painted plates, large enough to comfortably fit a little bit of everything while adding a festive note to the table.

To feel truly like you’re in Tuscany, look for a wide-planked wooden table built to withstand the feasting of generations. If you’re satisfied with your current eating surface, a handmade tablecloth will transform it for your Italian feast; look for shades of orange and gold to compliment darker dishware. Add a Tuscan vase on the sideboard, some candles in rustic holders, and you’ll have the feel of Italy without getting on a plane. Buon appetito!

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Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

May is coming up fast and with it Mother’s Day, a time to celebrate the importance of moms everywhere. Stuck on gift ideas for that special lady and need some inspiration? Here are some handmade handpainted Majolica gift ideas that are just as special as she is.

If Mom likes…

Entertaining: Think about serving plates and platters. Unusually shaped pieces like the rounded rectangle Mexican serving platters will definitely stand out at her next event.

Cheerful polka dots or stripes make for whimsical French serving platters, while fruit and floral motifs characterize Mexican serving platters. Choose motifs or colors that already go with what’s in her kitchen to ensure she loves her gift.

Gardening: Help her plants shine with eye-catching planters and ceramic pots. Handmade handpainted Majolica works both indoors and out, decorating patios, porches, doorsteps, gardens, and windowsills with ease. Use a round planter as a cachepot for a blooming orchid or one of her favorite flowers or gift a larger planter with seeds and soil to start spring off right.

Drinking coffee: Then the right mug is a must. Consider the size of this large mug, big enough for an entire morning’s worth of coffee or tea. Or if she loves espresso, a colorful set of espresso cups might be just the thing she needs to start her day off right. Creamers, sugar bowls, and other coffee and tea accessories are also great gift ideas, especially if they make their first appearance on a tray for her indulgent Mother’s Day breakfast in bed.

Unique artwork: Consider one of a kind handmade, handpainted Majolica. Whether it’s a wall plate or serving platter, vase or pitcher, unique ceramics are sure to please. Majolica ceramics are elegant and sturdy, which is great for mothers of young children. She’ll love knowing that she has the only one in the world. I’d say she deserves nothing less.

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The Irresistible Charm of Blue and White Mexican Pottery

Blue and white pottery is steeped in tradition, going back centuries in China and the Middle East. Cobalt came from Persia to China in the 14th century, combining beautifully with the translucent white of porcelain. Just look at this plate from 13th century China; it looks like something you might find handpainted by a ceramic artist today.

Today’s blue and white serving ware is just as striking as the ceramics from the past. Though the antique feel of blue and white pottery continues to be popular for interior decorating, modern pieces also abound. Jonathan Alder, for example, creates playful designs on stacking porcelain platters with distinctly modern blue and white appeal.

With blue and white Mexican pottery, rustic charm meets modern aesthetics in the work of artists like Gorky Gonzalez. The playful patterns of these unique serving dishes mix well with other pottery platters, making your next meal or appetizer tray look even more appealing. The sloping sides of the El Mar oval serving dish are useful and the rounded corners of the rectangular Las Flores platter are unique.

These Mexican ceramics pair nicely with other pieces with the same border design or complement plain blue or white platters with ease.

Blue and white Mexican pottery by Gorky or Talavera Vazquez also plays with shapes. For example, the handles on Talavera’s blue and white serving dish make it simple to pass a roast. The curves on the end of this blue and white serving platter make it a piece that looks wonderful at the dinner table or decorating a console in the living room. Blue and white might be classic, but it is definitely still fresh in its appeal.

White on its own also gets updated in Mexican ceramics. Take our new chalk white square serving plate, part of the Gogo collection. This white platter is stunning in its deceptive simplicity. Other pieces in the same warm white – the long platter, oval serving dish, and dinner plate – further demonstrate how white platters can be anything but boring. Paired with deep blue dishware or another favored color, it’s easy to see how these unique serving dishes can steal the show!

Whether ancient or modern, intricately patterned or deceptively simple, blue and white is sure to please. What kind of blue and white serving platters do you love?

Chinese 13th century plate image courtesy of World Imaging.

Stacked tray image courtesy of jonathanadler.com via Emilia on Pinterest.

 

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Truly Unique Handmade Ceramics: Our Favorite One of a Kind Pieces

handmade ceramicsEven though all the ceramics in the Emilia Ceramics collection are handmade and handpainted, some artists focus on one of a kind ceramics more than others. Sylvie Durez’s French handmade ceramics are a perfect example. For her plates and bowls, she etches an original design onto the piece without a plan or pattern — then hand paints the piece, with women lounging, serene landscapes, or whatever else she fancies.

handmade ceramics: bowlmodern handmade ceramics

Every time I visit her Provence studio, choosing from all the many options can be quite challenging; often I wish I could just take them all!

Capelo also specializes in one of a kind handmade ceramics. He and his fellow artists in his Mexican workshop craft pieces with unusual shapes and truly touchable glazes. I especially love his vases. Take the Hawaiian vase: with its floral motifs and range of colors, this piece is beautiful empty on a shelf or full of flowers.

Hawaiian vaseCapelo’s unique bowls and trays are also fantastic examples of his one of kind work. They also make great gifts—with these handmade ceramics, you can be certain you won’t be giving something already in someone’s home.

handmade ceramic tray

Other artists, like Gorky Gonzalez and Richard Esteban, mix one of a kind pieces in with their regular handmade ceramic collections. For example, Gorky’s Catrina plates and the amor plate allow artists to get creative with their designs. I particularly love the El Pajaro bowl with its cheerful songbird. These pieces blend nicely with the rest of Gorky’s collection. They’re incredibly detailed, sharing border motifs, color palettes, and style with his other handmade ceramics.

amor platehandmade ceramic bowl

Richard’s one of a kind French handmade ceramics are also tied together by color and feel. Whether it’s a striking black tall pitcher, quirky polka dot planter, or striped serving platter, these ceramics definitely embody the spirit of his country home with a modern edge. I love his tall teal vase and its etching; this is another example of a vase that looks wonderful empty or full.

tall vaseblack pitcher

Of course, the one downside to all these handmade ceramics is once they are sold, they’re gone. It can be hard to not fall in love with every one, but if I kept them all, I’d have no room left in my home. That’s why I’m always happy to share them with you as well as hear from people about their new handmade ceramics when they receive them. Have a story about some handmade ceramics you love and how you use them? Comment below and please share it with us all!

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

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

Illuminate

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

green table lamp

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

green candle holder

Serve

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

large green cheese plate

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

green pitcher

Soften

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

Plant

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

green vase

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

green wall planter

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

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

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Rooster Ceramics from Around the World

What’s a motif you’ll find on ceramics almost anywhere in the world? Flowers are a good guess, as are geometric and abstract designs. But there’s another favorite design that might surprise you: rooster ceramics. From Mexico to France and Italy, proud roosters and sometimes chickens grace a variety of ceramics, both decorative and functional.

Italian roosters are probably the most refined of the bunch. Painstakingly detailed with realistic coloring, the Italian rooster pitcher by Ceramiche Bartoloni is a typical example of this rooster type.

Italian rooster pitcher

Even though this rooster looks almost the same on their rooster serving dishes and platter, the hand painting gives each piece a unique attitude with variations in the comb and waddle.rooster bowl

Mexican roosters, in contrast, are more fanciful than their Italian ceramic counterparts. Gorky Gonzalez’s colorful rooster plate is similar to the Italian rooster in details, but feels more like a watercolor sketch, with looser lines (though still definitely proud and tall!).

rooster plate

Then there are blue and white rooster plates, like this octagonal serving dish, which showcase a monochromatic bird on the strut.

blue and white rooster ceramic

Gorky’s three-dimensional rooster ceramics are definitely an excellent mix of fun and realism. The large blue and white rooster sits proudly on a shelf or countertop, and the rooster pitchers and creamers add whimsy and color to the table. Unlike the standard color palette of Italian roosters, these Mexican pieces often have a completely different color combination, making each rooster ceramic totally unique.

Rooster Creamers at Emilia Ceramics

In France, roosters are a mix of refined detail and playful whimsy. Quimper ceramics offer excellent examples of roosters, often in blue. “Le coq gaulois” is an important French symbol that dates back to Roman times and is used today as a sport mascot for French soccer and rugby teams. Some good examples of Quimper rooster plates can be found here and sculptural pieces here. French roosters are fighters and it shows, like in the proud rooster strutting below.

Choisy rooster

What are your favorite rooster ceramics? Are you a fan of chicken décor in general? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Crowing rooster image courtesy of hans s.

French rooster plate image courtesy of Patrick.charpiat.

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On Trend: Polka Dots in Home Decor and Fashion

polka dot ceramics

2013 is the year of many things, and one of them is polka dots, according to sources like Apartment Therapy and Marie Claire. Home décor like polka dot wallpaper, dishes, paintings, and bedding enlivens any room while clothing from dresses to bracelets get an injection of fun with this lively print. Whether clusters of dizzying dots or just a smatter of pattern, here are ways polka dots are trending right now:

Polka dot walls. Polka dot wallpaper seems to be everywhere, from small dots to large. Small black and white dots really pop with bright green, blue or pink accents. Another route is to apply big polka dot decals to one wall – I think this look is great for a stylish kids’ room or home office.

Polka dot bedding and cushions. I’ve been pinning this kind of polka dots for months. Comforter covers, sheets, throws, and pillows are all getting in the act with ikat dots or random clusters of different colors. These textiles are an easy way to update your living room or bedroom without being overwhelming.

Polka dot home accessories. Rugs, light fixtures, curtains, even dressers are getting the dot treatment. Adding dots to a sideboard refreshes your dining room or entryway. Not ready to fully commit to dots yet? Add a graphic polka dot print or piece of art to a wall and see how you like it.

Polka dot dishes. Polka dot bowls and mugs are an easy way to bring this lively pattern into your dishware collection. I love the palette of Richard Esteban’s reds, yellows, and blues for his polka dot bowls, mugs, platters, pitchers, and plates.

 

Polka dot fashion. You can get almost anything in polka dots from shoes to headbands this season. Some bold fashionistas are mixing multiple polka dot pieces (stick to the same color palette to keep from looking too busy), while others of us feel more comfortable simply adding a polka dot scarf, skirt, or clutch to their ensemble.

What do you think of polka dots? Do you prefer big polka dots or small? What’s your favorite polka dot piece? Check out our Pinterest polka dot board for more ideas, and leave a comment here to let us know your favorite polka dots in home decor.

Polka dot curtain image via Houzz.

Dancer image courtesy of davidrush.

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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.

gorky gonzalez serving platters and plate

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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Behind the Scenes: French Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

The most recent addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection, Poterie Ravel has been around since 1837. A fifth-generation family-run business, this French ceramics studio was founded in Aubugne, France, and made tiles and other terracotta products for the home. When Gilbert Ravel took over the studio from his father in 1935, he changed the direction of the company to make planters that had more modern designs. The focus moved to high-end interior and landscape designers; the result is a world-class workshop full of ceramic artists that handle 8 tons of product a day, most of it creating their famous large-scale pots. The next time you see a giant terracotta planter at a major hotel, airport, or other public place, look and see if you can find the Poterie Ravel logo – chances are you’ll find one.

Today two sisters, Marion and Julie Ravel, run Poterie Ravel. Their ceramics are definitely art, a process that begins with the clay itself, which is extracted from their own quarries. Small pots are thrown entirely by hand (including all the French ceramics in my collection), while the massive planters are molded by a ceramic artist using a plaster mold and a piece of wood. All the pieces big and small are finished by hand for a smooth surface and the terracotta pieces left unglazed. Other pieces, like the unique pitcher vases, platters, and serving bowls, are hand painted in vibrant natural glazes before being fired in one of their four gas ovens.

About 20 ceramic artists work at Poterie Ravel, including Etienne (pictured below) and Gil, who I met on my last buying trip to France.

One of my favorite parts about Ravel’s French ceramics is that every piece is stamped with the Ravel logo, date, and initials of the artist. After I had made my selections of these French ceramics, I found out that Etienne had made some of the platters, Gil some of the pitchers. I love how each piece tells a story; this kind of personal connection is definitely one of my favorite parts of working with local ceramic artists.

Poterie Ravel is one of the oldest ceramic studios in France, and the attention to detail is truly incredible. Anyone looking for centerpiece ideas needs look no further than one of their unique bowls or statement-making pitchers and vases. It took me four years to be able to offer their French ceramics as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection and I think it was certainly worth the wait!

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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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Behind the Scenes: Tuscan Pottery at Its Best

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

It has been way too long since I last visited Italy! I LOVE Italy… the food (every pasta dish is cooked perfectly), the wine (even the house bottle is always delicious), the cappuccinos (consistently 10 times better than anything Starbucks can do), the people (so friendly, so open, so Italian), and of course the ceramics. It’s no surprise that some of the most beautiful, colorful, and high quality ceramics come from Italy… it was 13th century Italian artists, after all, that transformed the tradition of Majolica into the high art form we know today. From relaxed fruit and floral motifs to precise depictions of renaissance characters, fine Italian ceramics continue to set the standard for the craft the world over.

Five years ago when I went on my first buying trip to Italy, I had the good fortune of visiting two of the best workshops in Tuscany: Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia and Ceramiche Bartoloni, both of which are located in Montelupo Fiorentino, a small town right outside Florence that is famous for Majolica. I learned of both artists from my uncle, Gifford Myers, who’s a ceramicist in Los Angeles and has collaborated with many Italian artists over the years. Gifford insisted that Tuscia and Bartoloni were the best in Tuscany and would be friendly, fun partners for me to work with. He was so right!

On my first visit, I took the train from Florence to Montelupo and was met by David, who runs Tuscia. David brought me to the warehouse where 3 of 5 local artists were painting that day. 

Gabriel (seen painting above) started working with ceramics when he was 15 years old and is now the principal artist at Tuscia. He is responsible for designing and executing the most intricate designs, such as my favorite, the Square Plate with Oranges.

David gave me the grand tour of the workshop, which was packed with beautifully crafted and painted platters, pitchers, lamps, and planters. It was like a museum, showcasing all the styles, sizes, and designs they’ve created over the years. I took a ton of photos, which I still reference when I’m placing a new order.

Founded in 1982, the Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia building has an old, slightly warn-down charm — it is so picturesque set amidst the rolling Tuscan hills. Patrizio Bartoloni (on the left below) met me at Tuscia and drove me to the Ceramiche Bartoloni workshop, where he and his brother Stefano run their business. While slightly smaller in scale than Tuscia, Ceramiche Bartoloni is larger than life when it comes to the vibrancy of their glazes, the delicacy in their designs, and the pure personality they put into each ceramic piece. Their sophisticated Italian style is clearly evident in the Limoni, Blu Limoni, and Rooster pieces, which have always been favorites among Emilia Ceramics customers.

Patrizio and Stefano started their business when they were 18 and 20 years old, respectively. At the time, their “studio” was a wood shed with a dirt floor in Capraia, a tiny village bordering Montelupo. When they outgrew that space, they moved to their current workshop in Montelupo, about 10 miles outside of Florence.

Patrizio is more of the flamboyant painter and Stefano does more of the intricate designs and lettering. My uncle met them in 1987 in their “studio” in Capraia and has been friends with them ever since. He nicknamed them the “Blues Brothers,” which they think is really funny.

In my opinion, small Italian workshops like Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia and Ceramiche Bartoloni represent the best Italian ceramics and Tuscan pottery has to offer. In these close-knit, family-run studios, artists are not just reproducing traditional ceramic pieces; they are creating their own unique artwork in a style that their ancestors have spent 600 years perfecting.

I am thrilled to be returning to Italy this coming spring — partially because I miss the great pasta, wine, and cappuccinos so much — but mostly to immerse myself in the originality, vibrancy, and colorful creativity that personify fine Italian ceramics. I’ll visit Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia and the Bartoloni brothers, hopefully discovering some new and hidden gems to add to the Tuscan pottery in my collection. But I will also seek out new, undiscovered Italian artists in other parts of the country. My hope is to diversify the Emilia Ceramics collection over time, adding the unique abilities and cultural influences of artists from Umbria, Sicily, and the Amalfi Coast. What are your favorite Italian ceramics and where do they originate? Leave us a comment below and let us know!

                   

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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.