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Why This Rooster Pitcher Is Perfect for Spring

rooster pitcherHave you noticed April filling up with social engagements, with friends and/or family? Temperatures are rising, the light lasts longer, and it feels like everyone is waking up after the chilly, dark winter months. Call it spring fever; I’ve definitely caught it.

So how do rooster pitchers fit into this time of celebration? Just like other rooster ceramics, they exude a cheer and brightness that’s perfect for spring. A rooster creamer sets the tone for your breakfast table (even if you’re not a morning person). Fill one of Gorky’s rooster creamers with cream for your coffee or tea. Don’t caffeinate first thing? Fill a small rooster pitcher with daffodils or wild flowers and adorn the table or kitchen nook where you eat the first meal of the day.

rooster pitcher

Spring also means it’s time to start reaching for crisp white wines with lunch or dinner. A ceramic pitcher minimizes messy spills, adds a personal touch to your meal, and keeps the wine perfectly cool. Always having two pitchers on the table—one filled with water, the other wine—remains one of my favorite European traditions. Definitely ideal for spring entertaining, don’t you think?

wine pitcher

‘Tis also the season of showers, both literal and celebratory. Bridal showers, wedding showers, baby showers… it seems like there are never enough weekends for all the celebrations taking place! Bored by giving the same predictable gifts? For anyone starting a life together, a rooster pitcher symbolizes good luck for their home. Your friends who throw parties will love rooster ceramic platters and serving plates (the same goes for your family members!). A global icon, rooster ceramics come in so many different styles that you can easily find the perfect pieces for all those you’re fêting this spring.

rooster ceramic

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Blue and White Mexican Pottery Promises Good Luck in 2014!

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

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

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

paloma dish - blue and white Mexican pottery

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

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

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Spice Up Your Table with Salt & Pepper Sets

Looking for a way to quickly transform your table’s look this fall? New placemats or napkins in fall colors are a typical strategy for seasonal decorating, particularly when helped by a complimentary tablecloth. However, small details like salt and pepper shakers are another key factor for your table and one that often gets overlooked. Here are three reasons you should think about changing your current salt & pepper sets. Ready to spice things up?

salt and pepper sets

Color. A blue & white salt & pepper shaker set looks great all year round, but these table accessories are a fantastic way to add seasonal flavor to your space. Earth tones like those on these rooster salt and pepper shakers match the colors of fall without feeling too gimmicky. If your current salt pepper shakers are neutral, think about using them as a pop of color that adds interest to your tablescape.

rooster sal and pepper shakersAccessibility. The holidays are just weeks away and that means massive entertaining. Instead of trying to pass a single set of seasonings around the table, have a few ceramic salt and pepper shakers along the length of your table. Whether you choose a mix of colors and shapes or stick with identical styles, this trick will make sure your friends and family can season their plates while the food is still warm.

blue & white salt & pepper shakerAmbiance. A romantic dinner for two calls for candlelight and soft music while a family brunch lends itself to loaded plates and pitchers of juice (and maybe mimosas). If you’re looking for a simple way to change the feel of your dining room or kitchen table, accessories such as salt pepper shakers and a cream and sugar set are a perfect way to start. Playful, sophisticated, sleek, or traditional – these small additions will definitely help you set the right tone.

creamer sugar setLove ceramic salt and pepper or cream and sugar sets? Have a collection of blue & white salt & pepper shakers that you adore? Check out our Pinterest board devoted to salt & pepper sets and let us know your favorites.

Salt & pepper set collection image courtesy of Randy Son Of Robert.

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Showroom Spotlight on Decorative Dinner Plates and Stylish Dining

cactus and rooster platesOne of the best parts of the Emilia Ceramics Showroom is arranging ceramics in ways that people actually use them. I love the way that stacks of decorative dinner plates look and have had fun displaying lots of plates and bowls. The results look good enough to eat (off of)!

The dishware sets by Gorky Gonzalez are consistent favorites with customers and looking over the many styles, sizes, and patterns, it’s not hard to see why. Their mix of colors means there are plates for every taste. There are plain dinner plates for the minimalists and richly decorated salad and dessert plates for those who like more personality with their place settings. Gorky’s whimsical designs make for decorative dinner plates that people use daily instead of only for special occasions.

decorative dinner plate rooster plates Gorky’s studio has an entire team of artists who paint his plates and bowls. Although there is a traditional design that the artists follow, Gorky encourages them to add their own creativity and style to the piece. So no two fish or cowboys look exactly alike, giving each plate its own intentional charm. I particularly love the new caballero plates with their mustached cowboys in a variety of sizes and the Mexican cowgirl (la charra) serving plates. They definitely add some spice to the other characters in Gorky’s tableware sets.

cowboy decorative platecowgirl decorative serving plate

Stacking smaller plates on dinner plates is an easy way to add style to the table, whether it’s a family brunch or formal dinner. Having a variety of colors and patterns creates texture and can quickly change the feel of your space. Often people mix the designs of the smaller dessert and salad plates, having a set with a variety of animals or figures. I think it makes everything just a little more dynamic. If patterns or figures lack appeal, simply mixing colors can be an easy way to update a table and add a personal touch to the meal. Pair a stack of plates in rainbow hues with neutral table linens for a table setting that really pops.

decorative dinner platesNow that fall is truly here, I know people are starting to think about all the entertaining that cooler temperatures bring. For me the biggest question will be which plates and bowls to leave off the table—and with so many great options from Gorky, it’s definitely a question that will take time to answer!

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For the Love of Rooster Pitchers…

With the new Emilia Ceramics Showroom up and running, I’ve been able to see our collection in a whole new way. One thing that really stands out is just how many rooster ceramics we have in the collection. Right now it’s mostly Mexican and Italian rooster ceramic, though I’m sure to have French roosters and other new additions in the coming months.rooster ceramicRight now, though, I can’t get enough of the rooster creamers and rooster pitchers from Gorky Gonzalez. These ceramics are unique in how they are actually shaped like roosters, full of personality from the colorful feathers to the beak that doubles as a spout. Both rooster creamer and rooster pitcher are fun enough to be a permanent addition to your counter or table. I think they look great filled with a small bouquet of wildflowers or just on their own.

rooster creamerowl pitcherThe new owl creamer is another feathered friend that’s proven popular in just the few short months I’ve had it in stock. Like Gorky’s salt and pepper shakers, these creamers are a great gift for anyone who likes a little whimsy. And for those more traditional rooster fans, there are always the Italian rooster pitchers and creamers by the Bartoloni brothers. The smooth lines and detailed, colorful crowing rooster embody the vibrancy of Italy (and they make waking up just a little easier). Rooster pitchers are a traditional good luck gift, ideal for housewarmings and weddings. I’m not sure if they really do protect the home against danger, but they certainly look regardless!

owl creamerrooster pitcherHave you given a rooster pitcher as a gift? Are you a fan or collector of rooster ceramic? Leave a comment and let us know about your favorites.

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The Plate Designs of Gorky Gonzalez: Endless Combinations

Whenever I make a display of Gorky Gonzalez plates, I am faced with a unique challenge: no matter how I stack the mix of colors, patterns, and designs, these plates look great. So finding the most attractive arrangement can take some time. But the results always are appealing, with unique designs and vibrant colors that are beautiful on any table.

Gorky Gonzalez PotteryStacking plates is a quick and easy way to make any meal feel more like an event, whether you have guests or just your family around the table. Of course, the permutations depend on what you’re serving. Some ideas to get you started: Soup bowl on top of salad plate on top of dinner plate. Three plates of descending sizes stacked on top of each other. Square plates on top of round plates. For brunch, maybe a cup and saucer stacked on top of a bread plate and larger plate.

plate designs of Gorky GonzalezI think what’s special about the plate designs of Gorky Gonzalez is how they just beg to be mixed and matched. I have people who stick to the same color palette—blue and white is very popular—but mix the borders of their smaller plates to contrast with the patterns of their dinner plates. Others choose solid colored dinner plates and accessorize with complimentary salad and dessert plates in a mix of designs. I love a vibrant red plate as a starting point. For a dynamic table setting, things get even more interesting when each individual salad plate has a different central motif, but complimentary colors and border design with the dinner plates.

rooster_plateblue and white mini plateGorky dessert platered plateGorky’s plates are all handpainted, just like the rest of his ceramics, so no two plates are exactly alike. This personality really makes for a striking table, with the motifs of roosters, palm trees, fish, flowers, and more. What’s your favorite Gorky plate? How do you feel about red plates or blue plates instead of plain white plates? Leave a comment and let us know! I’m going to get back to arranging the plates in our new Emilia Ceramics Showroom… I just received a new order from Gorky so I have lots of material to work with!

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The Best Large and Small Handmade Ceramic Bowls

handmade ceramic bowls

You can never have too many handmade ceramic bowls. Mini bowls are perfect for serving dips, nuts, holding spices, or small kitchen items. Really large bowls are great for mixing, serving chips or pasta dishes, or holding colorful fresh fruit. And then there are bowls for ice cream, soup, salad… you get the idea. What handmade ceramic bowls are best for your needs? Here’s a roundup of bowls from mega to mini and how to best use them.

handmade ceramic bowls

Massive bowls are best for serving massive dishes at parties or gatherings. The serving dishes by Capelo and Talavera Vazquez are ideal for mounds of pasta, bottomless chip bowls, or even entrée-sized salads when you have a crowd to feed. Large handmade ceramic bowls also make stunning centerpieces on dining tables or in the living room. Fill them with fruit to encourage healthy snacks or leave empty for an artful impact.

large handmade ceramic bowllarge handmade ceramic bowl

salad bowlSalad bowls are a more moderate size — perfect for tossing and serving a green salad or other side dish. They also work well mixing bowls or as centerpieces in smaller dining spaces.

Bowls for individual use have so many potential functions. I love these bowls with scalloped edges that make soups, salads, or sundaes seem extra special. And when the bowl is empty, the design at the bottom becomes a lovely surprise.

 

handmade ceramic bowls

I love guacamole, so I’m always on the lookout for ideal dip bowls that will hold a hearty serving without looking too empty or full. Gorky’s rooster bowl is ideal for guacamole or homemade salsa because of its depth. Triple or double bowls are fabulous for serving condiments for tacos or tortilla soup. These handmade ceramic bowls also hold ice cream toppings surprisingly well.

rooster bowl

How do you use your handmade ceramic bowls? What size is your favorite? Leave a comment and let us know!

dip bowl

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La Dolce Vita

florence1After a long day of train rides, I made it from Nice (where I dropped off my rental car) to Florence. It was actually a longer journey than I had envisioned (in the past, I’ve always stopped along the way) and I arrived starving. About halfway to Florence, I had decided I was going to wait to eat until I could eat real Italian food… so I checked into my hotel, splashed some water on my face, and headed to the nearest trattoria. It was worth it! The fresh tagliatelle al funghi was delicious and the “house red” tasted as good as any wine I’ve had in a long time.

The next day I woke up early and headed back to the train station for the 20 minute ride to Montelupo Fiorentino. Montelupo is famous for its majolica because of the town’s location on the old Roman road that brought Moorish traders (and their ceramic wares) from Spain to Florence. During the Renaissance, artisans in Montelupo began elaborating on the ceramic designs, adding realistic imagery and brighter colors, transforming them into the high art form we know today.

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While there are many ceramic artists in Montelupo, I am pretty confident Emilia Ceramics buys from the two best! My first visit was to Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia. Co-owner (and grandson of Tuscia’s founder) David met me at the small train station and we drove to Tuscia. new_piecesWe found Gabriele (the head-painter and other co-owner) working and telling jokes to three other painters. They greeted me — most remembering my first visit 5 years ago — and were very nice when I wanted to take lots of photos while they worked.

As I’ve described before, Tuscia is located in a 2 story brick building, filled with ceramic artwork. Each shelf in each room is stacked with plates, bowls, canisters, and pitchers that look like they belong in a museum.

I selected a number of new pieces to add to the order I had already placed with Tuscia and had an espresso with David — who was expecting a new baby girl at any moment! Then David drove me to Ceramiche Bartoloni, which is in a more industrial part of town. We were greeted by Patrizio and Lucia Bartoloni. Lucia is Patrizio’s wife and helps run the business along with Patrizio’s brother Stefano and his wife. The four of them do almost everything themselves, only hiring extra painters when needed. Lucia speaks some English, so she talked with me about the recent order I had placed and showed me all the new designs and patterns.

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blogOf course, the limoni and rooster patterns are my Bartoloni faves… but there were a few new patterns that jumped out at me. So I added some new styles as well as some more sizes of bowls to my order (expect some great new salad and pasta bowls from Ceramiche Bartoloni). Patrizio was very busy and had to leave soon to pick his son up at school, but he gave me a double-cheek kiss and posed for a picture before he ran out the door. Then Lucia drove me back to the train station and I spent the 20 minute ride back to Florence trying to digest all the beautiful artwork I had just seen.

The next day, after another awesome pasta dinner and a few gelatos, I went to visit Daniela’s ceramic shop in downtown Florence: La Botteghina del Ceramista. Daniella is a good friend of my uncle Gifford (who is also responsible for introducing me to the ceramics from Tuscia and Bartoloni). I visited Daniella’s shop on my first trip to Florence, before I even knew I was going to start a ceramics-importing business. I fell in love with her collection though, which includes ceramics from the Bartoloni brothers, among other great Italian artists. On my first visit I bought the Square Blu Limoni Platter from Daniella and gave it to my brother as a wedding gift.

I’ve been back a few times since and been able to share with Daniella the progress of my growing business. As always, she was very helpful in pointing out new pieces and best sellers, telling me where they were from, and giving me contact names and numbers. It was great to visit with Daniella and watch her in her element, surrounded by the beautiful Italian majolica, sharing it with tourists and local Italians alike. It reminded me what a great job I have!

daniella

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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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Salt & Pepper Shakers: Quite Possibly the Perfect Gift

We’ve all been there: you need a gift for a housewarming or birthday party but are fresh out of ideas. It should be fun but practical, unique yet not too outlandish, and above all not boring. This is where salt & pepper sets come in. With so many possibilities, they may just be the ideal small gift for almost any occasion.

Every holiday season I always get dangerously low on my rooster salt and pepper shakers; people love them as stocking stuffers, host gifts, or as something unique for a friend, coworker, or family member. It’s a sure sign of Gorky’s playful animal salt and pepper shakers’ wide appeal. Of course, these amusing gifts are useful year-round as either a compliment to other kitchen accessories or all on their own.

One of the best parts about ceramic salt and pepper shakers or a cream and sugar set (for those tea and coffee drinkers in your life) is that they don’t need to match the rest of the kitchen. It’s also hard to have too many sets. Many people rotate through their collection of salt & pepper sets throughout the year or keep a set in kitchen, another on the table. And with the appeal of chickens, bunnies, and roosters, these salt and pepper shakers are sure to be used. The same goes for creamer sugar sets; appealing colors and shapes make for a sugar bowl that stays out on the counter or table instead of hidden in a cabinet. Seriously, who can resist the charm of a rooster creamer?

rooster creamers

I’ve given lots of ceramic salt and pepper sets as gifts over the years and always gotten a great reaction, particularly for housewarmings and as host gifts. Useful, practical, and anything but boring, unique salt and pepper shakers are an excellent choice when it comes to smart gifting.

What are your go-to gifts? Do you have unique salt & pepper sets that you love? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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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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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.

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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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An Old Favorite for the New Year: Our Tuscan Utensil Holder

I’ve really enjoyed my time in the pop-up shop this holiday season. As with every year, it’s wonderful to get to talk with people about their favorite ceramics, whether they are gifts for others or themselves. But there’s one piece that everyone seems to love unconditionally – the Tuscan utensil holder.

What is it about the Tuscan utensil holder that makes it so beloved? It’s quite functional for one, holding all the necessary kitchen utensils on a countertop with ease given its size. The solid ceramic also means it won’t fall over. And the cheerful fruit designs with apples, lemons, and leaves adds happiness to any kitchen.

Of course, Italian ceramics are a perennial favorite for gifts. The Tuscan utensil holder is wonderful for housewarmings or weddings, anniversaries or birthdays, making it a versatile piece no matter the occasion. Tuscia d’Arte makes other designs of this functional ceramic piece, including the playful blue rooster and simple blue and white pear motif. I think all these Tuscan utensil holders look great as a vase holding branches or a large floral arrangement, making them good gifts for those who don’t care to cook as well.

The difference between a Tuscan vase and utensil holder has to do with shape more than anything else. Good utensil holders have a cylindrical shape that prevents them from tipping over no matter how many utensils are inside. A Tuscan vase, on the other hand, often has a smaller base and curving sides. These vases are perfect for flowers or a stand alone decoration, but could spell disaster on a kitchen counter.

What do you put in your Tuscan utensil holder? Any ideas as to why so many people love this piece besides its beautiful functionality? Have you given one as a gift recently? Leave a comment and let us know!

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How Do You Ring in New Year’s? Some Traditions from Around the World

As we enjoyed the last days of 2012, I found myself thinking about the ways that people celebrate New Year’s Eve around the world. Special drinks and foods abound, as do traditions to bring good luck for the new year. From breaking plates (yikes, maybe not these plates) to wearing polka dots, here is a small sample of New Year traditions worldwide.

Mexico is not only home to Gorky Gonzalez’s pottery workshop, but a host of New Year traditions. People eat twelve grapes, one for every chime, at the stroke of midnight. Each grape is supposed to be a wish for the upcoming year. The same custom is found in Spain. Traditional food includes the Rosca de Reyes, Mexican sweet bread that has a coin or charm baked inside. Whoever finds the charm in their slice has good luck for the whole year.

Throughout Latin America, South America, Spain, and Italy, people turn to their underwear for good luck. Those looking for love wear red, while others looking for money wear yellow pairs. People in the Phillipines wear polka dots, a pattern that links to coins and prosperity. They also throw coins at midnight to increase wealth. Hoppin’ John, a dish from the American South, also invokes money for good luck. It consists of rice and pork-flavored black-eyed peas or field peas (which symbolize coins), served with collards or other greens (the color of money) and cornbread (the color of gold). A plate of home cooking that brings good luck – sounds delicious to me!

In Denmark people jump off of chairs at midnight to ensure they fall into good luck. They also smash old plates on their friends’ and neighbors’ doorsteps as a sign of good luck and friendship. Those with the biggest pile of broken plates in the morning are seen as the most lucky because they have so many loyal friends. Being surrounded by handmade ceramics and Gorky Gonzalez pottery here in the Palo Alto pop-up shop, I can’t imagine throwing these plates, no matter how lucky it might be.

For those wanting to get rid of things, in Italy people throw old televisions and other unwanted goods out of their windows. Folks in Ecuador burn portraits or something else that represents the old year as a way to get rid of the past.

No matter where you are, you probably have a tradition or two of your own — Maybe you served your wishing grapes on a cheerful rooster plate or another colorful piece of Gorky Gonzalez pottery, invested in some colorful underwear, or tried a new dish. No matter how you rang in the new year, here’s wishing you health and happiness for 2013.

Champagne image courtesy of maxxtraffic.

Rosca de reyes image courtesy of From Argentina With Love.

Broken plate image courtesy of Kristian Thøgersen.

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An Italian Country Style Gift Guide

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

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

Here are some Italian Country Gift Ideas:

Large serving tray

richard esteban serving platter

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

Italian pottery spoon rest

italian spoon rest

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

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

Ceramic serving dishes

oval platter

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

Italian country mugs

italian country mug

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

Tuscan utensil holder

italian country wine bottle or utensil holder

 

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

Tuscany image courtesy of Podere Casanova.

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Our Gift Guide for the Person With Everything

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

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

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

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

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

blue rooster utensil holder

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

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

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

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Ceramic Canisters: Practical Kitchen Decoration

Ceramic canisters have been used to organize everything from pasta and flour to medicines and special remedies for centuries. While I’m certainly glad we no longer need to rely on Renaissance-era medicine, I do like the idea of making storage beautiful as well as functional. Here are my top 5 ways to use ceramic canisters in your kitchen:

  1. Inject Style into Dry Good Storage. Flour, sugar, pasta, and other heavy-use items can be a pain to pull out of a cabinet or pantry every time you need them. Save yourself time by keeping these staple dry goods on the counter in ceramic canisters. The ever-popular spaghetti ceramic canister by Tuscia d’Arte is a great example (and doesn’t have to be limited to noodle storage). A variety of sizes keeps the counter interesting and can save you space.
  2. Add Floral Accents. A tall vase filled with dried or fresh flowers is a surefire way to cheer the cook throughout the day. In the fall, I love dried grasses or decorative branches in keeping with the season. Place your vase on top of the fridge or use it as a centerpiece on the kitchen table. This way the flowers don’t get in the way of cooking. I like how striking a blue vase can be even when empty, but take into consideration your kitchen’s color scheme when choosing the perfect option. Another idea for a hefty bouquet is to use a utensil holder as a vase.
  3. Keep the Wine Handy. A wine bottle holder is another kind of ceramic canister that has more than one use in the kitchen. Perfect for holding tonight’s bottle, it’s also ideal as a utensil holder for your favorite tools. The zig zag pattern on this ceramic wine bottle holder hits a modern note for a fresh looking kitchen.
  4. Don’t Forget Other Drink Options. Small ceramic canisters or even ginger jars are great ways to keep your coffee or tea on the counter with no one the wiser. I love the rooster on this ceramic canister; he’s definitely ready to help you face the day, no matter if you’re a morning person or not. The floral motifs on these ceramic canisters by Capelo also look great with a grouping of three (one each for coffee, tea, and sugar).
  5. Repurpose History. Ginger jars were a way to ship and store spices, herbs, and other trade goods (including ginger) in China for centuries, but today they’re valued mostly for their decorative properties. Still, a large blue and white ginger jar can add flair to your kitchen or dining room. Use it to store anything from dog treats to your shopping bags (depending on where it is in the room) or as a tall vase.

With all their varied uses, it’s no wonder that ceramic canisters make a functional and stylish gift no matter the occasion. How do you use ceramic canisters in your kitchen? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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What Makes Italian Coffee Mugs So Special?

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

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

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

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

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

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Behind the Scenes: 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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7 Top Tips: Buying Ceramics Online for the Holidays

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

IMG_4678

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

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

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

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New Arrival: Owl and Rooster Cream and Sugar Sets

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

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

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

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

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Find Your Plate Style with the Right Ceramic Dishes

When it comes to plates for dinner, what do you reach for? Large, plain ceramic dishes? Small, intricate decorative plates? Colorful pottery dishes? While white is a universal standard for plates, there are so many other options out there that it can seem overwhelming to think outside the “white plate box.” Looking to update your existing plates or invest in a whole new set of ceramic dishes? Here are three decorative styles for plates, inspired by the homelife buying guide for dinnerware. Which suits your home best?

Your Style: Supreme Simplicity

Elegant lines and simple shapes are the hallmarks of your ceramic dishes. Your idea of a perfect table setting has matching plates that don’t detract attention from your delicious meal. Smoothly glazed serving dishes, like a French chalk white serving plate or ivory footed serving platter, are good choices that blend into your existing tableware. Another approach is to highlight your more subdued dishes with boldly patterned Italian decorative plates for mains and sides. The detailed designs of these serving plates add just the right note of sophistication to your table.

Your Look: Rustic French Country

You want plates for dinner that would feel right at home in Provence, mixing personality with functionality. The butter yellow plates with colored polka dots by Richard Esteban are a great example of this plate style in action.

From dinner plates that say “Vive le bon vin” to dessert plates decorated with stripes or songbirds, these plates find their compliment with polka dot mugs, bowls and rustic casserole dishes.

All you need now is some wine, cheese, and fresh baguette.

Your Preference: Lively Color

You get bored with monochromatic pottery dishes, instead mixing and matching colors, shapes, and textures. Embrace your colorful leanings by having plates in all different colors or sticking to a palette of three complimenting favorites.

Patterned edges on salad plates are ideal for layering over the solid colored dinner plates by Gorky Gonzalez, creating a vibrant table before you’ve even brought out the food. Looking for another way to play with color? Incorporate plates with roosters, fish, or other whimsical designs. They’re a fun way to begin or end any meal.

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Add Style and Luck with Roosters in the Kitchen

Chickens and roosters in the kitchen are a classic theme. The trend is partially because a rooster in the kitchen is thought to bring good luck; and chicken decorations provide the perfect company. Whether your style is rustic farmhouse chic or streamlined and modern, there are multiple ways to incorporate some of these fun feathered friends into your kitchen, no matter its theme. Here are some suggestions for whimsical, fun (not tacky) rooster and chicken decorations in your kitchen.

  • Rooster wall plates: Blue and white rooster plates are classic, invoking fine china and delftware. A traditional black rooster plate from Chianti, or a colorful rooster ceramic platter are other great options to decorate your walls or above your cabinets.
  • Rooster centerpieces: Many spacious kitchens devote some counter space to a decorative ceramic rooster or two. This rustic blue and white rooster is just one example of a more stylized piece. You might prefer a more realistic looking rooster in ceramic, depending on the rest of your kitchen décor and color scheme.
  • Rooster weather vanes: Invoke a traditional countryside feel with an iron rooster weathervane as a wall decoration or countertop centerpiece. This example from Houzz proudly lords over the pantry, pointing the way to the food.
  • Soft rooster and chicken decorations: Why stop at just ceramic roosters? Kitchen towels, potholders, curtains, rugs, and cushions are all ways to expand on your kitchen theme. Big bold graphic prints grab attention, like this rooster rug. Small chicken prints are lively without being overpowering, no matter where you choose to use them.
  • Rooster art: For true rooster lovers, a fowl-themed painting can be the perfect touch for your kitchen (and compliment those blue and white rooster plates nicely).

    Or have a rooster on your backsplash above the stove or sink, like this example painted to look like tile.

  • Rooster utensil holders: With all the unusual utensil holders out there, roosters are a playful addition to your kitchen that’s also quite useful. This blue and white rooster ceramic utensil holder is full of personality, looking cheerful before your first cup of coffee until after you’ve washed the dinner dishes.
  • Rooster salt and pepper shakers: These are definitely a chicken décor favorite and make great gifts. Who can resist the colorful feathers on these handpainted rooster ceramic pieces by Gorky Gonzalez?
  • Rooster pitchers: In Italy rooster pitchers are a traditional housewarming present, meant to protect the home against danger and trespassers. Use a full size rooster pitcher for water or wine at meals or as counter decoration. A little ceramic rooster creamer adds cheer to your afternoon tea or looks sweet filled with a small bouquet of flowers.

Are you a rooster lover? What are your favorite ways to incorporate these roosters in the kitchen?

Rooster kitchen images courtesy of Houzz.

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Our Favorite Plates and Serving Dishes, both Large and Small

When it comes to plates, one size definitely does not fit all. Take serving plates. Sometimes you need small side dishes to hold additions for a meal (like chopped cilantro, slices of lemon, or spices), other times you need a massive ceramic serving platter to hold an entire roast or turkey (like at Thanksgiving). Having only a few plates that are somewhere around 9 inches wide just won’t do, particularly if you enjoy entertaining.

A customer emailed the other day asking what my largest serving dishes are, so here’s a quick roundup of the biggest and the smallest plates in the Emilia Ceramics collection (as well as some ideas about how to use them).

The longest plate

This is the pear rectangular serving platter by Tuscia d’Arte. At 22 inches long and 9.5 inches wide, it is a gorgeous decoration as a centerpiece or even more appealing holding an assortment of appetizers at a party. The other rectangular serving dishes (the Tuscan fruits plate and the peaches plate) are similar in shape, but just slightly smaller at 17.5 inches long and 9 inches wide.

The widest plate

Not quite as long as Tuscia’s serving plates, Ceramiche Bartoloni’s rooster platter is the perfect size for a turkey with its generous rectangular proportions (measuring 17 by 14 inches). This serving plate also looks fantastic hanging on the wall for a touch of Italian country charm.

Other large ceramic serving platters

The fish platter and the petal platter by Richard Esteban are both ceramic serving platters that make a bold statement, nearing 20 inches across.

Both these styles come in a variety of colors, the rustic glaze making these plates truly stand out on any table, buffet, sideboard, or as a wall decoration.

The smallest plates

Proving that even small plates can pack a major design punch, these 6.5 inch mini plates by Gorky Gonzalez are perfect as bread plates for dinner, serving dessert, or even as a soap dish.

The El Mar plate and Las Flores plate mix and match perfectly with your other blue and white serving dishes.

The even smaller plate

Speaking of soap dishes, the cheerful lemon soap dishes by Ceramiche Bartoloni also double nicely as tiny serving plates. 6 inches across, these round and square plates add flair to your condiments and other delicious additions to any meal, from jam at breakfast to chocolate shavings at dessert.

What do you use the largest and the smallest serving dishes for? Are there plates you just can’t do without? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Olympic Summer Style with Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

How did it become August already? If you’re like me, you’ve been watching lots of Olympics. While I’m a big fan of all things volleyball, other events like rowing, gymnastics, and diving have me trying to figure out the rules and cheer on Americans and hard-working underdogs whenever possible.

Of course, the Olympics are another reason to throw a party, whether it’s to celebrate the time trials or event finals for your favorite sport. That’s where Gorky Gonzalez pottery comes into the mix. While these plates, bowls, and platters might not run as fast as our favorite athletes, they certainly win gold metals for style. Here are some tips for using Gorky Gonzalez pottery to make your Olympic party (or even just your family dinner tonight) the best it can be.

  • Think red, white, and blue. These colors aren’t just for the USA, so if you’re cheering on France, the U.K., Chile, Russia, or Australia, you can still use Gorky Gonzalez pottery to show off your patriotism. The solid colors of the Gogo collection, like this long red platter or the brightly colored plates, make these pieces of Gorky Gonzalez pottery easy to mix and match. The blue and white octagonal rooster plate is perfect for you France fans — the rooster looks proud and poised to fight all comers.
  • Have fun with animals. A driving force behind the popularity of Gorky Gonzalez pottery are the lively animal motifs. Whether it’s bunnies or roosters as salt and pepper shakers, or a playful fish plate, you’re sure to smile when you see them on the table. Use these rooster plates for your fresh summer salad or refreshing dessert; people love seeing what appears after they eat.

  • Make room for the dip. Salsa, homemade guacamole, or classic onion dip all enliven boring plain chips. A big chip bowl is a must for any Olympic watching party, and use little bowls on the coffee table so that people can dip into their favorites. Even better, Gorky Gonzalez pottery is sturdy enough not to break if someone knocks things over in the excitement of the winning point.
  • Serve enough the first time. Who wants to go back to the kitchen to refill empty plates and platters when there’s only a minute left on the clock? Using large serving platters and bowls means that you won’t run out of snacks until the commercial breaks (and probably not even then!). One of my personal favorites in the Gorky Gonzalez pottery collection is this platter with the Las Flores design around the edge.Olympic Rings in London

Olympic rings image courtesy of David Catchpole.

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The Best Ceramics to Buy for Your Collection

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

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

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

Start small.

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

Reward your rituals.

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

Have pieces to share.

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

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

Think about display.

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

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

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Finding New Ceramic Wall Plates and Pottery Dishes in Mexico

I’ve been in Mexico visiting artists like Gorky Gonzalez and can’t get enough of the sun, the food, the… roosters. From ceramic dishes to the blue and white rooster that stand alone, I’ve seen roosters (and other fowl) everywhere.

But it doesn’t end with blue and white rooster plates; that’s just the beginning. New triple dishes feature hummingbirds and roosters to join the cactus, palm tree, and fish motifs already in my Gorky collection. I love these ceramic dishes because they’re so versatile: good for dips, condiments, olives, or nuts, they also function as a place to keep jewelry, keys, or the contents of your pockets (no more lost wallets and phones for you!). With both double and triple ceramic dishes, use a variety to add spice to your next fiesta.

With the new black rooster plates from Italy, I’ve been struck at the global nature of animal motifs in ceramic wall art. Chickens, frogs, fish, and flamingos join butterflies (like the pottery dishes by Angélica Escarcega), flowers, and people for quirky and lively decorative plates and bowls. Visiting the artists let’s me not only stock up on popular pieces (like those fun salt and pepper shakers) but also see new ideas from ceramic wall plates to tibors (ginger jars). One of my favorite things is seeing the painted but unfired pottery dishes – the kiln totally transforms them from pale, flat ceramics into the glossy, touchable pieces we all love.

Watching the artists paint every piece is also incredible. Whether it’s geometric patterns or those blue and white roosters, plates, bowls, trays, and other dishes come alive with every brush stroke.

Whether you prefer monochrome or full color decorative plates, look for new arrivals from Gorky, Angélica, Capelo, and Talavera Vazquez in the next few months. There’ll be some old favorites and some new surprises with ceramic dishes that are truly works of art.

Want to see more of my Mexico adventures? “Like” Emilia Ceramics on Facebook for photos and updates.

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Gorky Gonzalez: Better Than Ever

I admit it… I forgot just how much I love Gorky Gonzalez’s pottery. I first visited Gorky over four years ago and have been importing more and more of his ceramics ever since. I sell a ton of Gorky’s work, I blog about it often, am surrounded by it on a daily basis, and when I’m at my parents’ house, I even eat off it! But still, I forgot the excitement of visiting Gorky’s workshop in Guanajuato and seeing all the creative and colorful genius spread in piles around me. I forgot the pure joy of looking through those piles and discovering the gems: A perfectly painted rooster or fish, a serving dish begging to be filled with fresh guacamole, a new shape or design that I know my customers (not to mention my mom) will love.

Mrs. Gorky Gonzalez met me at the door and brought me upstairs to the showroom. We exchanged pleasantries and I reminded her that we had met about 2 years ago (the last time I was here in Mexico). I asked about Gorky Sr., her husband who founded the business and is renowned for reviving the majolica tradition in Mexico. Gorky Jr. (or Gogo), who runs the business now, joined us a few minutes later. He took me on a tour, visiting about 6 artists, either working on the wheel or painting. I spent a few minutes talking with one young man who said he’s been painting for Gorky for 9 years and still loves it. I was slightly disappointed to learn that he does not use Gorky pottery in his own home!

Then is was back to work… I spent more than an hour digging through each stack in every corner of Gorky’s showroom, selecting on the best plates, bowls, pitchers, and even a few gravy boats I could find.

All I can say is this: Get excited, get very excited! I’m pretty sure these new pieces will remind you just how much you love Gorky Gonzalez pottery. That is, in case you had forgotten.

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Top Salt & Pepper Sets, Collections for Any Table

I’ve talked about avid collectors before, but I think that Theresa Giottonini takes the cake when it comes to salt and pepper shakers. Her collection of 1,021 salt & pepper sets is staggering, filling shelves of her living room. She started her collection in the 1980s and it’s been steadily growing ever since, reports The Californian.

Theresa doesn’t just display her salt and pepper shakers, however. They become the stars of the table whenever the family gathers for the holidays or just a meal. Animals are a favorite, from chickens to monkeys, owls to seals, starfish to hippos. Of course, she’s not the only big collector of this table staple. Stephen and Mara Attles in Florida have over 1,200 salt & pepper sets, a collection that embraces much more than just ceramics, says The Tampa Tribune.

There’s even a Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Tennessee with over 20,000 sets. These are some serious collections.

But collectability aside, salt and pepper shakers remain an easy way to add whimsy to a table. Even if you’re not a serious collector, a variety of options means flexibility for indoor and outdoor dining, a family dinner, or a special occasion. So what options besides plain ceramic salt and pepper sets are there?

Animals

A favorite when it comes to salt and pepper shakers. Roosters, chickens, bunnies, and frogs are just some popular ceramic salt and pepper subjects. Several different sets together creates a mini zoo along a big table, amusing for kids and adults alike.

pepper grinder with sea salt

Grinders

There were several grinders on The Independent’s recent salt & pepper set roundup. For those who swear by fresh ground pepper and salt, a wooden mill is a classic tabletop addition. Modern electric mills might be more uniform, but I’m not a fan of the noise.

 Pinch Pots

Have your spices (why stop at just salt and pepper?) in shallow dishes so that everyone can pinch the exact amount required. I’m seeing more and more restaurants using mini salt dishes that have the perfect amount for the table, no more. This can be perfect for meals like pozole or taco night, letting everyone spice their dinner to the correct hotness.

Two in One

Since you’re supposed to pass the salt and pepper together, why not just keep them in one unit? Clever designs involve twisting chambers and grinders with two buttons or two directions. Practical for outdoor dining as it’s one less thing to carry, whether to the patio or on a picnic.

These are just a few ideas; what are your favorite salt and pepper shakers? Post a comment and let us know!

Salt and pepper collection image courtesy of Paper Cat.

Pepper grinder image courtesy of jules:stonesoup.

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The Italian Legend of the Black Rooster

I hadn’t been importing ceramics for long when I got what seemed like a strange request: Do you sell any black roosters?! The answer was no. I had colorful Italian roosters on plates, mugs, bowls, and pitchers, as well as tons of  blue and white roosters decorating Mexican pottery, but not one “black rooster” in the collection. While I was a little thrown off by the request for a black rooster, I did have a faint memory of a story related to the black rooster from when a friend and I tasted our way through the beautiful Chianti wine region.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized Ceramiche Bartoloni paints the black rooster. I was ecstatic, both because of the Bartoloni brothers’ unmatched painting skill and because I’d finally have a black rooster for the Emilia Ceramics collection. After all, we’re not talking about any old Vietri pottery rooster, this is a proud black rooster with a story and tons of personality.

And the new black rooster plates from Ceramiche Bartoloni did not disappoint: The dynamic blue, white, and yellow border perfectly frames a proud black rooster getting ready to crow. It’s also the perfect counterpoint to Bartoloni’s colorful rooster ceramic serving platters, bowls, and mugs.

And now to the story about the black rooster, which goes back to the 1200s in Italy. Florence and Siena had debated for years over who had claim to the Chianti region, each wanting it as part of their territory. Finally, the legend goes, leaders decided to settle the matter by a competition. Two knights (or horsemen, depending on your source) would set out at cock’s crow in the morning, one from Florence and one from Siena. Wherever they met on the road would determine the southern border for each city’s claim over the disputed land.

Siena chose a well-fed white rooster as official timekeeper, while Florence picked a starving black rooster. Again, sources differ as to why the black rooster was starving; the Florentines might even have kept it in a box with no food for several days. In any case, when the day of big event came, the black rooster crowed before dawn while the white rooster slept in and only crowed at sunrise. Thus, the Florentine rider traveled much farther than his Sienese counterpart, and the two men met about 19 or 20 km outside of Siena, giving most of the Chianti region to Florence.

Whether or not this legend is true, the black rooster was branded in 1384 as the emblem for the winemaking League of Chianti and is an important and common symbol for the region. The next time you get a bottle of Chianti, look for the black rooster (gallo nero in Italian) on the seal around the neck of the bottle. Different background colors and borders also represent different kinds of wines, says Wine Trail Traveler.

Complete with a legend, I’m excited to offer these new rooster ceramics. Whether you use them as ceramic serving platters or as a unique wall decoration, these black rooster plates are perfect for anyone who loves rooster chic with handmade Italian charm.

Rooster wine bottle label image courtesy of Live from Italy.

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A Plate for Every Occasion

I love a good-looking table, whether it’s for a champagne brunch or an intimate dinner. Besides serving dishes, plates are the big stars when it comes to making a table with personality. Easily overlooked, these dining essentials can be a simple way to inject some excitement into your meal. Let’s look at the different types of plates and the roles they play when it comes to making a dining experience that everyone will remember.

Serving plates

Often the biggest plates, a serving plate handles main dishes and sides with ease. Your roast or pasta primavera never looked so tasty. Serving dishes are also a party essential for finger foods and desserts. A sideboard with cheeses, bread, canapés, and other nibbles makes even the most causal gathering feel just a little more festive.

Dinner plates

These are the workhorses of the plate world. Dinner plates aren’t just for dinner, of course, appearing at most meals (though I stick to a bowl for my morning cereal). Mixing dinner plate patterns can be a fun way to make your table a little more unique. Kids especially like plates with pictures or different designs (though these plates can still have a grown-up feel). Whether you choose solid colors or patterns, use dinner plates as the core building block for your table design.

Salad plates

Slightly smaller than dinner plates, salad plates are a great way to keep courses separate. Whether you eat your salad before the meal or after (like they do in Europe), this plate is the perfect size for greens. If using salad plates for a starter, stacking them on dinner plates makes for a colorful table.

Dessert plates

The smallest plate in the set, dessert plates are sized to make your sweets look the perfect size.

I also use dessert plates as bread plates at a more formal dinner party or for toast in the morning. Fun motifs make dessert plates just a little sweeter, giving the perfect finishing note to the meal.

Wall plates

Any plate can be a wall plate, though often they have intricate designs or pictures. Unusual shapes (like this Limoni rounded square plate) also make for great display plates. Hanging or mounting plates can be a fun way to decorate a kitchen or dining room, making your favorite plates part of your daily life. Wall plates also make great gifts for any occasion (and serve a dual purpose as tableware and art – how’s that for smart giving?).

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No Foolin’ When It Comes to Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuscan Utensil Holders and Vases: Containment with Style

Having problems finding the pancake turner or a spatula in the middle of cooking? Many kitchens have a drawer filled with utensils that are never quite as handy as one would want. (And just try to keep a whisk in a drawer – you’re on the path to failure.) It’s hard enough to get everything right when making a meal, so having your tools at hand is a simple solution to lighten the load.

That’s why I (and so many others) love Tuscan utensil holders; sturdy, decorative, and highly functional these pieces are incredibly useful in the kitchen. Fruit motifs on the pear utensil holder are subtly sophisticated, while the blue rooster utensil holder adds some fun to any counter. Use multiple Tuscan utensil holders to separate wooden spoons from metal, spatulas from whisks and ladles, so that everything is easy to locate and put away.

Both utensil holders and Tuscan vases can do more than just hold flowers or cooking gadgets, however. Here are some more ideas for these ever-versatile ceramics:

  • Make a Tuscan vase into a bookend. Why only display a vase when you have flowers? Use stones to fill any favorite ceramic vase half way so that it’s heavy enough to hold up your books. If you have glass vases, fill them with shells, marbles, or other small objects for a personalized accent. From one accent piece to several decorating a shelf, your books never looked so good.
  • Decorate with dried flowers or branches. Lavender and pussy willow branches are two of my personal favorites, but many blooms look great when dried and will last year round. Use this decorative accent in a favored Tuscan vase anywhere in your home (though keep a sharp eye out for mold if in the steamy bathroom) for unexpected texture.
  • Grow plants or flowers. Vases and utensil holders can both become miniature gardens. Line the bottom with pebbles for drainage, then fill with dirt and plant anything from herbs to flowers. A row of planter vases looks charming. A large glass vase easily becomes a terrarium when filled with sand and some succulents.

Have any more ideas on how to use a utensil holder or vase in an unexpected way? Let us know with a comment below!

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Gorky Gonzalez Pottery & California: A Perfect Match

Why is Gorky Gonzalez pottery so popular in California? Is it the rustic design? The playful motifs on Gorky’s traditional pieces? Or maybe the sleek contemporary feel of the Gogo line? I think it’s all of these things and more. Gorky Gonzalez makes pottery that perfectly fits a relaxed California vibe, a refreshing idea regardless of whether you live in the state! Let’s look at some reasons why:

Rustic. From beach culture to farmlands, California has plenty that’s a little rough around the edges and a lot of California design reflects that. Gorky Gonzalez pottery is all handmade and hand-painted, lending individuality to each piece. The animal and human subjects on plates, bowls, and platters fit easily into a more relaxed design feel, making them fantastic gifts that work equally well at a dining or picnic table.

Playful. Check out the salt and pepper shakers; they’re a perfect example of why Gorky Gonzalez pottery is so ideal for California. In our Palo Alto pop-up shop, the bunnies, frogs, chickens, and roosters are flying off the shelves.

From swimming fish to a man on his horse, Gorky Gonzalez pottery has real personality. These pieces are an easy way to make everything from breakfast to dessert more fun.

Southwestern. The desert is definitely part of California. The cacti, soft colors, and unique shapes make some pieces of Gorky Gonzalez pottery feel right at home in a California home with southwestern flair.

The La Mexicana motif with bright fruits and leaves fits this style perfectly (and with all the pieces available from mixing bowls to serving platters, it’s easy to create an entire matching set).

Contemporary. Gorky Gonzalez uses techniques deeply rooted in tradition, but he isn’t stuck in the past. His son Gogo has created a line with the same quality craftsmanship but a more modern and contemporary feel. The bright solid colors mix well with more patterned pieces, whether bowls, plates, or platters. The Gogo espresso cups are another fun and unexpected shape that’s sure to get compliments. These pieces of Gorky Gonzalez pottery easily fit into a range of aesthetics, both in and out of California.

Eclectic. That all said, there’s something completely one-of-a-kind about Gorky Gonzalez pottery. The fusion of modern and traditional motifs, an inherent dynamism, and effortless charm make it perfect for an entire kitchen set or just a few pieces. Gorky pottery gives you the freedom to layer your favorite patterns and colors for a style all your own.

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Blue and White Rooster Plates: Beyond Function and Decoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Sets Fine Italian Ceramics Apart?

There are many diehard lovers of Italian ceramics out there, and for good reason. Whether it’s Tuscan pottery or a piece from Sicily, there is just something about Italian ceramics that sets it apart from the other other forms of maiolica-type wares being made elsewhere.

The majolica technique itself still flourishes throughout the world, seen most often in Portuguese, French, Mexican, and Spanish pottery. While the majolica process varies little between countries and hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years, there’s definitely a wide variety of results.

Both Spanish and Portuguese pottery have long been recognized for their gorgeous tiles, in addition to their tableware. Called azulejos, these glazed tiles decorate large swathes of Portuguese buildings from churches to houses to train stations and their use dates back to the 15th century. The geometric patterns and later figurative motifs create stunning mural-like decoration in the most unexpected places. Truly beautiful and useful, the tiles also help with temperature control.Igreja da Misericórdia de Tavira - Azulejos

The tradition behind both Portuguese and Spanish pottery (as well as most of the Mediterranean region) started when Arabs introduced the technique in 711. An important coastal town for centuries, Valencia remains a major center of Spanish pottery and I’m still hoping to start carrying pieces by some artists from there in the near future (stay tuned).

So how is Italian Majolica different? I believe it is a combination of excellent artists (many of whom have dedicated their entire lives to perfecting the craft) and the traditional designs which generations of Italians have enhanced, individualized, and improved upon. Tuscan pottery is what many people picture when it comes to fine Italian ceramics. From the noble tradition behind the wares made in Montelupo Fiorentino to more commonly found pieces from Deruta, the bright colors, practical shapes, and ineffable charm truly put Italian ceramics in a class of its own. Who can resist the cheerful lemons, proud roosters, and rustic flowers that decorate plates and other majolica dinnerware from Tuscia d’Arte and Ceramiche Bartoloni?

Italians are masters at blending art and function to create masterpieces that are beautiful and unique. But just as Italian ceramics stay near and dear to our hearts, there’s no reason to overlook the gorgeous producers of ceramics in Portugal, Spain, France and Mexico. Among all these individual traditions there’s sure to be a majolica-inspired pottery that’s just right for your home.

Azulejos image courtesy of Concierge.2C.

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Salt & Pepper Sets Flying off the Shelves

When setting up the pop-up shop in Palo Alto, I always wonder what that year’s best sellers are going to be. Vases? Planters? Mugs? Platters? When giving gifts these are all popular favorites for sure. But this year the best sellers have been small but mighty: salt and pepper shakers lead the way, closely followed by cream and sugar sets.

Why the salt and pepper shaker frenzy? For one, salt & pepper sets are small. It’s obvious, but if you’re shipping presents across the country or just trying to find a great host gift, little things make a big impact without weighing too much. Ceramic salt and pepper sets like these by Gorky Gonzalez are sturdy enough to travel well, but not clunky or bulky. One customer said she was going to use the rooster salt and pepper shakers she bought as a stocking-stuffer for her in-laws. They’re the perfect fit. What a great idea!

But salt and pepper shakers aren’t just small, they’re also practical. The same goes for cream and sugar sets – people can really use these items whether it’s everyday or for special occasions. Functional gifts are always appreciated instead of a knick-knack that just adds to clutter. Multiple salt and pepper shakers mean you can have a set in the dining room, kitchen, and patio table in the summer. Another customer told me when he gave the bunny salt and pepper shakers to some old friends they immediately said they’d use them in their second home on Cape Cod. There’s always room for one more set somewhere.

I think though the reason people gravitate towards ceramic salt and pepper and creamer sugar sets is that they’re just so much fun. The spots on the bunnies, the wide-eyed chickens, the squinting roosters, and the grinning frogs are totally full of personality and charm. Since each set is hand painted, no two are exactly alike. Their originality makes salt and pepper shakers great for any collection as well. From people who collect Italian ceramics to those that love roosters or chickens or bunnies or frogs, these small additions always bring a smile to people’s faces. And best of all, you don’t always have to give them away – the perfect salt and pepper shakers make a fun gift for your home too. Now just to pick out your favorites!

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Blue and White Rooster? Red Rooster? Find the Right Rooster for You.

Not all roosters are equal when it comes to decorating, as any true rooster fanatic will tell you. Like other fun decorative accents, there is a range of rooster styles to choose from. A traditional motif for Mexican and Italian pottery, you can easily find roosters on everything ceramic: serving platters, cups, pitchers, and plates are just the beginning.

But where to find the right roosters? While Vietri pottery is well-known for its Italian pottery, I find their collection of roosters disappointing. Rustic rooster plates and cups should have personality, not look manufactured. But even though Vietri pottery might not be the rooster destination I desire, there are many other options out there. Here’s my quick list of some rooster styles and pieces suitable for a variety of homes:

Rustic Roosters

Straight from the barnyard, rustic roosters work well for homes with a hint of country. The blue and white rooster on Tuscia d’Arte’s utensil holder is playful and practical. The hand-painted aesthetic of Gorky Gonzalez’s roosters, like this rooster salad plate, adds color to the table.

Modern Roosters

A stylized rooster sculpture by Vietri pottery is a good example of a modern interpretation of ceramic roosters. Sleek, streamlined shapes and clean lines let the bird blend into any kind of minimalist décor with ease. Another great example is Gorky’s set of salt and pepper shakers, portraying wide-eyed and funky roosters, which definitely appeal to a more contemporary aesthetic. 

Blue and White Roosters

Yes, I love blue and white, and roosters are no exception. The simple color-combination lends a subdued, more sophisticated feeling to the rooster motif. A long-time favorite, El Gallo Azul (the blue rooster) looks great perched on a kitchen counter — adding a subtle, yet fun vibe to the everyday kitchen routine. Of course, blue and white rooster ceramic serving platters or bowls are another useful option.

Vintage Roosters

The timeless popularity of rooster ceramics make them a great addition to any vintage collection. A blue and white rooster plate like this one on Etsy adds charm with china. Try antique stores and flea markets for other one-of-a-kind finds.

Kitchen RoostersRealistic Roosters

Looking for a rooster that makes people do a double-take? Sculptural pieces are your best bet when it comes to ceramic roosters that look lifelike. A stand-alone piece works like El Gallo Azul as a striking accent to a table, counter, or shelf. You can also try something like this realistic rooster cachepot, perfect for your favorite flowers or plant.

Functional Roosters

Don’t use roosters just for decoration, but also practicality. Rooster salt & pepper shakers, rooster creamers, rooster sugar bowls, rooster mugs, and rooster pitchers are all excellent additions to the breakfast table, adding some real personality and flair.

Realistic roosters image courtesy of srqpix.

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Gorky Gonzalez: Why Style Matters

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

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

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

The Gorky Gonzalez wedding collection

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

Gorky Gonzalez animals

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

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

Gorky Gonzalez original designs

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