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Where Ceramic Pitchers Meet Italian Style

Italian countryside
Italian country decor is truly timeless. Rustic, inviting, and always the perfect blend of function and beauty, it’s no surprise Italy inspires countless households outside of its borders. A Tuscan vase or little bowl on the table can invoke years of tradition to even the newest home. But the most versatile piece of Italian country decor? I give you the ceramic pitcher.

Think about it. Ceramic pitchers keep drinks cool and protect a table from drips, whether wine or water. Pour in a bottle of red wine about a half hour before your meal and even the least expensive table wine will greatly improve. Your pitcher just became a less-breakable wine decanter. A ceramic pitcher is also easier to pass around the table. Refill anyone?

ceramic pitcher

Nothing reminds me more of my time in Tuscany than a bouquet of wildflowers in a ceramic pitcher on a well-used, large wooden table. The embrace of natural beauty without artifice is relaxed and authentic. Using pitchers as vases also saves on storage space in your cabinets (bonus).

ceramic pitcher

Other ways to add the Italian touch to your dining experience? Italian hand painted plates showcase appetizers or desserts for a special touch. Try a ceramic salad bowl to serve your salad at the end of the meal like they do in Italy instead of at the beginning. Serving plates piled high with delicious food, little bowls filled with olives, and a Tuscan vase on the sideboard: your Italian feast is complete.

Tuscan vases
What are your favorite examples of Italian country decor?

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Spring: The Official Season of Emilia Ceramics

Yesterday, I sent out a newsletter with 6 Ideas for Spring Entertaining. The hardest part was getting the list down to 6! I could easily offer up 60 pieces from the Emilia Ceramics collection that are made for all the fun events this time of year: The beginning of barbecue season, outdoor dinner parties, Easter and Passover feasts, casual brunches, Mother’s Day celebrations, the list goes on and on. So I thought I’d put together a more exhaustive list of all my favorite serving dishes, pitchers, vases, and tableware for spring. Here goes…

Serving Platters

Let’s start with platters… whether you’re serving honey-baked ham, leg of lamb, burgers, or barbecued chicken, these are my favorite go-to platters:

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Serving Bowls

When I think of spring entertaining, I think of salad. Green salad, fruit salad, and of course, potato salad. These are my favorite salad bowls — as well as a few dip bowls that also come in handy this time of year!

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Pitchers

I love how in Europe they serve wine from hand-crafted pitchers. It seems to add to the earthiness of the beverage and can actually keep white wine colder than a bottle. Of course, these pitchers are also great for serving lemonade, iced tea, or water. And when they’re not being used to pour, they look fantastic with a bouquet of fresh flowers.
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agua_pitcher_sideVases

A beautifully crafted and painted vase looks just as great with flowers as it does without. These are my three picks for displaying fresh spring blooms:

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Tableware

I love all the new tableware we have at Emilia Ceramics. Whether it’s Gogo’s salad plates, Richard’s polka-dot mugs and bowls, or Ceramica Valenciana’s adorable dinner and dessert plates, adding one of these sets to your table is the perfect way to celebrate spring.

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Pasta Lovers and Culinary Connoisseurs

Counting down the days until Christmas and still need some gift ideas for pasta lovers on your list? What about your foodie friends? Hard to buy for friends and relations always pose a challenge this time of year, but here are some practical and delicious gifts that are sure to delight those who love to cook (and eat!) on your list.

Here some some Holiday Gift Ideas for Pasta Lovers

Pasta bowls: Ensure that the pasta lovers in your life have pasta bowls that are just as tasty as the sauce and noodle creations they consume. A good pasta bowl should be large enough for a hearty serving of everything from pesto gnocchi to spaghetti bolognaise. Gorky’s pasta bowls are colorful, large (but not overwhelming), and, with an array of bright colors, compliment pasta dishes from all over the world. Pair a set of pasta bowls with a hefty serving bowl for a family gift that’s sure to please. My favorite dish for mixing and serving a large bowl of pasta is Talavera Vazquez’s La Fiesta Bowl.

pasta bowlsPasta makings: Making fresh pasta is actually easier than you might think. Encourage pasta lovers to take their dishes to the next level with the durum and semolina flour that is the base for Italian-style pastas. Orecchiette requires no special equipment and is the base for tasty sauces like this carbonara. If shopping for more adventurous or advanced cooks, go for pasta making machines, specialized cookbooks, or hard-to-find ingredients sourced directly from Italy.

Gifts for Wine Lovers

Wine holders & serving pitchers: Help the wine lover in your life show off the perfect bottle in style with a ceramic wine holder or spacious pitcher. Wine bottle holders make for decorative centerpieces and keep bottles neat; in the hot summers a ceramic wine holder will also keep chilled white wines cool. Ceramic pitchers are another way to casually serve wine and are especially good for reds since having more exposure to the air allows their flavors to deepen. This vino pitcher, a new arrival from Spain, clearly lets people know what’s inside. Pair with a set of vino cups for a wine-inspired gift that’s much more original than another bottle of Pinot Noir.

vino wine pitcher
Wine glass markers:
No one likes mixing up glasses at a party. If your wine lovers like to entertain, the multitude of wine charms, bands, and other glass markers make for fabulous stocking stuffers. Choose markers that somehow fasten to the glass, suction-only markers are more likely to fall off at inopportune moments.

Gifts for Bakers

A specialty class: Many communities have short-term (a couple hours or a weekend) courses on topics like chocolate making, laminated dough (the basis for croissants), French macarons, or breads. Pair the gift of lessons with an appropriate ingredient or tool (quality chocolate, vanilla beans, dough scraper, or a candy thermometer) for a gift that keeps on giving.

baking class
Storage canisters:
If the baker on your list regularly can be found in the kitchen, a stylish canister will brighten the counter and keep essential ingredients at hand. Large or small canisters are perfect for favorite pastas, baking materials like sugar and flour, or even coffee and tea.

canisters from Spain
Need more gift ideas for pasta lovers or others on your list? Check out our holiday gift ideas as well as specialized gift categories for inspiration.

Baking image courtesy star5112.

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Create Tuscan Chic with Ceramic Pitchers & Italian Country Decor

Italian countryside

Looking to add the perfect touch of warm, Italian charm to your home? Look no further than Tuscany for your inspiration. The gorgeous countryside and rustic aesthetic have worked together perfectly for hundreds of years. Don’t own your own Italian country house? Here are some ways to add simple, yet chic touches from ceramic pitchers to iron accents that will add the feel of Tuscany to your home, wherever it might be.

Italian country kitchen

Bring in nature. Traditional Tuscan kitchens have herbs hanging and flowers on the table (often in a Tuscan vase). Connected to the land, there’s a seamless transition between outdoors and the organic feel of inside. Simple touches like branches or dried flowers are an easy way to freshen a space and bring some of the outside in. Hang a bunch of dried lavender, rope of garlic, braid of onions or another decorative and useful addition to your kitchen. Greenery adds warmth to the dining room, whether a few plants in the window or a vase on the sideboard.

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Mix materials.
A large wood table is the backbone of most Tuscan homes. It’s where people gather to feast, visit, or maybe make a batch of homemade pasta. Iron candleholders or trivets mix well with a ceramic salad bowl or Italian hand painted plates to set the table for your feast (or just for family dinner). Choose handmade accents whenever possible as you mix pieces together to create a warm, eclectic space. And forget about everything matching. With Italian country décor, when your ceramic salad bowl doesn’t exactly match your plates it feels more authentic.

Italian hand painted plates

Use ceramic pitchers. Surprisingly versatile, these ceramics can double as a Tuscan vase or decorate a shelf in your kitchen when not in active use. A ceramic pitcher full of water is ideal for any meal; use multiple ceramic pitchers to easily pass wine, juice, or another beverage of choice. Even the most ordinary dinner suddenly gains a relaxed Tuscan elegance.

Italian ceramic pitcher

Italian country kitchen image courtesy Craig Stanfill.

Garlic image courtesy nociveglia.

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The Ultimate Registry Guide: 5 Things to Not Forget

So you’ve registered with your favorite stores for your upcoming wedding. You’ve figured out the big items that you’d love to receive and are ready to rock… right? Not quite yet. While kitchen appliances and bakeware are the most popular registry items, there are plenty of overlooked items that make great wedding gifts and may have been left off your registry.

Here are my top 5 forgotten things you might just want to include on your wedding registry.

  1. Quality sheets. We all know how important sleep is, so why not use your registry to improve the quality of sleep you get. Find a set in 100 percent Egyptian cotton or 100 percent pima french coffee bowlcotton (known as Suprima) with a 300 thread count minimum. A set (or two) of luxury sheets will have you luxuriating in hotel-worthy comfort. Extra pillow covers are always useful too, so don’t forget to add a few more of those to the list.
  2. Coffee or tea supplies. How do you caffeinate in the morning? French coffee bowls are a fun choice for a gift that’s small and versatile. Like French coffee mugs but bigger, coffee bowls work wonderfully for small servings of soup and cereal. Everyone can use another couple of mugs, particularly for when guests come by. A coffee maker, whether a quality French press or fancy espresso machine, and/or a capacious tea pot are other must-haves.green and white tea pot
  3. More plates and glasses. Even if you only think you need a place setting for eight people, remember that things do break. So ask for others to help you buy ceramics you’ll need in the future, replacing that favorite dish or bowl. No matter if you have a design that’s fine china or handmade ceramic, few designs are produced forever, so stocking up now will pay off in the future. The same is true for glassware, both regular and wine glasses.
  4. Organizers. A spice rack, storage containers, or shelf dividers are definitely items that will see daily use. Use this as an opportunity to streamline the design of your home organization. A quality trash can, set of recycling bins, or garage storage are other useful items that many homes could use.
  5. Home bar accessories. A good corkscrew, wine bottle stoppers, and wine rack are a must for anyone who loves to have a few bottles of wine always on hand. Quality bar tools like a cocktail shaker, muddler, bar spoon, or a good ice bucket make mixed drinks even better. The square ice cube trays are also ideal for anyone who’s looking to take their drinks up a notch; the ice takes longer to melt when it’s in a big square block. And no matter your drink of choice, coasters are another item you never have too many of.

cocktail shakerHave other items you think should be on wedding registries? Do you like to buy ceramics or other daily use items as wedding gifts? Have any items you left off your registry and wish you hadn’t, like French coffee bowls or specialized serving ware? Leave a comment below.

Polka dot bed image courtesy of browndresswithwhitedots via Pinterest.

Cocktail shaker image courtesy of lennox_mcdough.

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From Blue and White Planters to Rustic Pitchers: Our Favorite Registry Picks

I love working with couples on their registries, seeing how excited they get about picking out beautiful ceramics together and then hearing about how they use their pieces after the wedding. Couples like Bethany and Martin use their ceramics daily, whether it’s a vase holding fresh flowers on the kitchen table, a pottery wall planter gracing the back deck, or one of Richard Esteban’s playful polka dot bowls filled with yogurt for breakfast.

blue and white serving bowl
jennie's_gogoAlong the same line, I recently visited my cousin’s house and loved seeing the collection of colorful Gorky mugs and bowls (photo on the right) she received from her Emilia Ceramics Gift Registry. She and her husband use these everyday, thinking of the friends who gave them and the event they celebrated — that’s what I consider the perfect wedding gift!

In recent blog posts, I’ve talked about ideas for where to register as well as unique gifts that people can give a special couple. Today I’m looking at registries from a slightly different angle, diving into the lists of some of the wonderful couples currently registered at Emilia Ceramics.

Sheena and Blake love blue and white as well as statement pieces with Tuscan charm. Their choices of serving platters and a wine bottle holder point to people who love to entertain. Blair and Christopher have a broad ceramic selection that ranges from big to small: an extra large casserole by Richard Esteban, long rooster platter by Gorky Gonzalez, intricate spoon rest, and even a colorful mini plate.

wine bottle holder
extra large casserole dishJen and Kristina love rustic white pieces from France and striped planters. The white pitcher below (sorry — it was one-of-a-kind and has already been purchased for them : ) and serving dishes contrast beautifully with the orange and yellow of their other favorite ceramics.

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Most registries contain serving pieces for entertaining – platters, pitchers, bowls – as well as practical statement pieces like vases and utensil holders. For those with a green thumb, a blue and white planter usually is on the list, and if the happy couple has any kind of yard, pottery wall planters as well. And pieces like the Amor platter are perfect for celebrating love. The range of big to small pieces also is perfect for helping guests pick the right gift for their price range.

blue and white planter

What ceramics do you think should be on every registry? Leave a comment and let us know!

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The Guide to Going “Off Registry”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s unfortunate, but not every engaged couple knows about the Emilia Ceramics Gift Registry. They don’t realize they could register for functional, beautiful ceramics that their guests will love to buy for them and they will love to use… for years and years and years to come. Now I understand that not everyone feels quite so passionately about the fact that Emilia Ceramics make the best wedding gifts, but I’m also not the only one who thinks they do. I know more than a few other die-hard Emilia Ceramics fans (you know who you are) who always buy Emilia Ceramics wedding gifts even when the engaged couple has not registered with us.

For those who believe that handmade, hand-painted ceramics make the perfect wedding gift, I recommend looking at a couples’ registry (or at their kitchen/home if that’s possible). You’re looking for the holes in their registries (maybe they overlooked serving platters or vases) and also wanting to get a sense of their style preferences. With a little background research, it’s easy to find a one-of-a-kind Emilia Ceramics piece that will fit their aesthetic and quickly become a cherished part of their new life together. Here are a few examples of thoughtful, meaningful wedding gifts that may be “off-registry” but are definitely on-track.

1. Lovers of White. They’ve registered for plain white plates, bowls, and mugs. But you know these people and they aren’t boring, so you want to give them a gift that’s simple and sophisticated, with a touch of color that will really show up in that sea of white. How about the Limoni 2 Liter Pitcher or Oval Platter? One of my new favorites is the Large Serving Bowl – Flores y Frutas. Another great, grown-up gift is Tuscia’s Blue Leaf Vase. These pieces all compliment a white palette really well, without overwhelming it.

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2. Moving into a New Home. It used to be that marriage was synonymous with making a new home together. Of course that’s not always the case anymore, but when it is, take advantage and give a statement piece that the couple can put in just the right place and build a whole room around. Of course, if you go this route you really should know their style and not just be choosing your favorite statement piece. Some great examples of striking gifts with tons of personality are the Extra Large Blue Floral Tibor, the Pablo Picasso Vase, the Palermo Lamp, and the Frutta Venezia Canister.

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3. Entertainers. You know this couple loves to entertain and while they registered for cooking, baking, and barbecuing supplies, they seemed to miss the serving platters and bowls that make a party work. Hone in on their color pallet… Blue and white? Choose one of these great Mexican bowls and platters: La Azteca Oval Serving Dish, El Mar Serving Plate, or the Large Round Platter – Flores Azules.

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blue and white platterAre they more into the earthy, jewel tones? Richard Esteban has them covered with the Large Petal Platter in Butter Yellow, Fish Platter in Burnt Honey, or the Large Cheese Plate in Barn Red.

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4. Who knows?! Whether it’s an old friend you haven’t seen in years or a coworker you just met, sometimes you have to buy a wedding gift for a couple you really don’t know very well. These gift ideas are sure bets for just about anyone. It’s still a good idea to look at what else they’ve registered for so you can match colors, styles, and get a sense of their needs. But in general, you can’t go wrong with these 5 gift ideas:

  1. Amor Platter: The name says it all. This platter evokes love and it’s shape makes it great for serving appetizers or dessert.
  2. Burnt Orange Striped Vase – Especial: Everyone loves this vase. Everyone.
  3. Tuscan Fruit Oval Platter: An Italian classic that can be hung on the wall or used to serve appetizers and main dishes.
  4. Large Love Birds Bowl: Yup, Love Birds… need I say more?!
  5. Small Cherry Pitcher: The voluptuous shape of this pitcher and beautifully painted pattern make it unique, yet universally loved. Great for serving drinks, displaying fresh cut flowers, or just plain looking good.

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tuscan_fruit_oval_platterlove_birds_bowl_1little_cherry_pitcherWhat’s your favorite, go-to wedding gift from Emilia Ceramics? Leave us a comment below to let us know.

Also, if you’re ever having trouble finding the right gift, don’t hesitate to call or email us with questions. We’re here to help and love the challenge of finding just the right gift!

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Capelo Pottery, a Unique Take on Mexican Ceramics

Capelo's studio and countryside

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

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

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

Capelo pitcher

square serving dishCapelo plates

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

Capelo fluted footed bowl

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The Best Large and Small Handmade Ceramic Bowls

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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.

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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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We’re Ready for Summer Entertaining with Mexican Serving Dishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Behind the Scenes: Capelo’s One of a Kind Mexican Ceramics

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

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

hillsides around Guanajuato, Mexico

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

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

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

Capelo statement vase

footed serving bowllittle blue plateCapelo Mexican ceramics

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Set a Rustic Tuscan Table with Ceramic Pitchers and Other Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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The Irresistible Charm of Blue and White Mexican Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese 13th century plate image courtesy of World Imaging.

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

 

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Bowls, Bowls, Bowls: A Photo Essay

How do you use bowls? Mini bowls, cereal bowls, soup bowls, serving bowls, salad bowls, pasta bowls, and other kinds of bowls are incredibly useful and — I’ve noticed — make for some excellent photos. Here are some of my favorites:

blue and white fruit bowl

The shelves of Poterie Ravel

Stacked bowls or bowls filled with favorite foods, there are bowl pictures of all kinds.

Bowls by Capelo

Lemon Yellow Bowls and Platters

gazpacho

How cool are these? Open-style serving bowls that look great empty or full:

What would you fill these bowls with? Pasta, salads, or lots of sweets?

Have any favorite pictures of bowls we should know about? Leave us a comment with the link!

Ice cream bowl image courtesy of timsackton.

Stacked orange bowls image courtesy of Lili Vieira de Carvalho.

Silver serving bowl image courtesy MOMA.

Blue glass bowl image courtesy of Craftori.

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Behind the Scenes: French Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We’re “Bowled” Over by These New Bowls

It’s been a busy past few weeks. I’ve been setting up the Palo Alto pop-up shop, working on a new website design, and also sorting through new arrivals from Gorky Gonzalez and Capelo. Whew!

Some of my favorite new pieces are bowls. Large and small, bowls can be some of the most heavily used ceramics in anyone’s collection. I think it has to do with versatility. A soup bowl also works for cereal, salad, or a massive ice cream sundae. A ceramic pasta bowl doubles as a fruit bowl on a table or countertop; a shallow serving bowl becomes a decorative centerpiece or a mail catchall.

The large serving bowls by Gorky are a great fusion of fun and utility. The one of a kind El Pajaro bowl has a playful exuberance and would look great filled with a fresh salad or hanging on a wall. The skeleton bowl is perfect for fall with colors in warm orange, brown, yellow, blue, and green. Other Gorky bowls like the octagonal bowl with palm trees or the sunburst pasta bowl are equally charming and unique.

Other new Mexican bowls come from Capelo. I have new pieces similar to the Las Flores bowl currently in the pop-up shop (look for them on the website soon!). With its unique fluted corners, these serving bowls are perfect for mixing up cakes, pancakes, or other delicious treats – just use a corner like a spout! There are also some lovely large footed bowls which will be stunning on a coffee table or in the dining room.

Of course, bowls aren’t just for serving and display. The bright yellow of these smaller bowls by Poterie Ravel are sure to brighten any table, while the rich glazes of Gorky’s Gogo soup bowls add a rainbow of hues to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I know that my family’s table will be full of  with our favorite sides and holiday foods. How will you use bowls entertaining this year? Leave a comment and let us know, or simply share a bowl that you absolutely love.

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Just Opened: New Exhibition on French Ceramics in LA

Love French ceramics from the seventeenth- and eighteenth-centuries? Then you need to check out the exhibition that opened last Saturday, October 6, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Entitled “Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics from the MaryLou Boone Collection,” it features over 130 examples of faïance, soft-paste porcelain, and hard-paste porcelain used in French daily life.

I found out about this exhibition months ago and wrote about it when comparing French ceramics past and present. For example, the curves of French country pottery pitchers mirror those of antique ewers which traditionally held water for washing in the morning. Other French ceramics in the exhibition include tablewares, tea accouterments, toiletry items, and even pieces used in times of sickness. The sugar bowl and spoon featured on LACMA’s blog is charming, with soft pink accents and a curiously slotted spoon.

Covered Sugar Bowl, 1780, Lunéville, France; and Sugar Spoon, 1775, Lunéville Petit Feu Faïence Manufactory, Lunéville, France; gifts of MaryLou Boone, photos © Susan Einstein

“This exhibition reveals and celebrates both the artistry that exists in the service of the utilitarian and the ability of this discriminating collector to bring together remarkable examples of that artistry,” said Elizabeth Williams, assistant curator of decorative arts and design at LACMA, in a recent press release.

Wine Bottle Cooler (Seau à demi-bouteille). Chantilly Porcelain Manufactory, Chantilly, France, c. 1730-1735. Soft-paste porcelain with glaze and enamel, The MaryLou Boone Collection. photos © Susan Einstein

I couldn’t agree more, especially looking at examples of handmade French pottery today, from French platters to the elegant curves of a French ceramic serving bowl. I was amused to see a French ceramic wine bottle holder circa 1730-1735 as a featured piece on the LACMA website. The Asian influence is obvious, as is the practicality of having something to keep wine cool. Unlike the porcelain jars for pomade, a wine bottle holder is a practical ceramic piece people still use today.

Many of these pieces look like they came from Asia because they were imitations of pieces from Japan and China that only the very rich could afford. Today’s French ceramics embrace colors, shapes, and textures of a timeless (yet contemporary) French aesthetic. French country pottery is a pleasure not only to see, but also to use, though the delicate artistic touches on Sylvie Durez‘s birds or the edging of Poterie Ravel’s French platters invoke the early examples of this tradition the LACMA exhibition highlights.

“Daily Pleasures” runs until March 31, 2013, so if I make it down to L.A. before it’s over, I’ll definitely check it out. Have you seen this exhibition or know of others that focus on French ceramics in your area? Leave a comment below and let us know!

“Daily Pleasures” images courtesy of LACMA.

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Customer Spotlight: Your Favorite Uses for Serving Trays

I know my favorite ways to use Italian blue and white ceramics (like a blue and white mug for my morning coffee), but it’s always great to hear from customers about ways they use ceramics in their daily lives. Recently people have let me know about the ways they entertain with their favorite pieces, from square serving trays to blue and white ceramic bowls, so I wanted to share some of their stories with you.

At the Brown house, family dinner often involves a mix of ceramics. They mix and match serving trays from Gorky Gonzalez for mains and sides (and dinner in this photo certainly looks delicious!). The rounded shape of this rectangular serving platter makes it perfect for vegetables or desserts alike while the sloped sides of the oval serving dish keep sauces nicely contained for your main course. Even with different designs, the blue and white ties these serving trays together for a stylish meal everyday.

“Sometimes bigger really is better,” Michael wrote about his fish platter by Richard Esteban. He went on to say that this oval serving tray “is great for summer salads when I have people over for a barbeque.” I think this salad looks super delicious with the one-of-a-kind decoration around the edge. Other large trays, like this unusually shaped mustard yellow serving tray by Poterie Ravel, are ideal for handling the fixings for burgers, tacos, or other customizable meals.

On Facebook, Sarah told her secret for throwing a great party: “a beautiful Italian platter with yummy cheese and crackers.” This technique works well for a wine and cheese party, casual get together, or special occasion like a birthday, anniversary or engagement celebration. Square serving trays by Ceramiche Bartoloni with their cheerful lemons or Italian blue and white ceramics decorated with fruit motifs are great ways to use Sarah’s tip. Compliment your cheese and crackers with Italian blue and white ceramic bowls like this one with cheerful lemons.

Many thanks to all of you who have written in about how you use your ceramics and posted pictures on Facebook. Want to share your favorite uses for rectangular serving platters, Italian blue and white ceramics, or salad bowls? Simply leave a comment below!

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How to Throw the Perfect Wine and Cheese Party

There are few things that are more delicious than the pairing of cheese and wine, so it’s no wonder that this duo is the star of so many parties. You don’t need to be an expert to love the idea of wine and cheese, or to throw a fabulous wine and cheese party. Some plates, bowls, glasses, and bottles and you’re already well on your way.

Here are six ideas to make your cheese and wine party a success:

1. Leave out the snobbery. Experts can clearly articulate what makes up a wine’s “nose,” but many of us casual wine drinkers prefer to just enjoy the wine, regardless of its subtle nuances of aroma and taste. The look, swirl, smell, taste method is classic, but encourage people to share what they think using their own vocabulary. One trick I’ve seen is to cover all the bottle labels with a wine bottle holder or paper and only mark the grape (or just a number) so that people can form their own opinions without being swayed as to the wine’s region or brand.
2. Share the work. My favorite cheese and wine parties involve the guests bringing a bottle and a cheese based on a theme. It could be as simple as “red” or “Sauvignon Blanc” or get more complicated with a night dedicated to Spanish reds, New Zealand whites, Californian Wines, or bottles from 2008 only. This ad hoc approach can create some interesting (and delicious) cheese plates as well.wine tasting party idea
3. Arrange your plates in threes. Construct an appealing cheese plate with this simple rule. Have at least three things on your plate (more if it’s big) – two cheeses and one fruit, three cheeses, one cheese with some nuts and honey, you get the idea. Make sure to have a separate knife for each cheese on the plate to prevent mixing.4. Bring on the extras. Fill plates and bowls around the room with fruits, nuts, crackers, bread, and other accompaniments for your cheese and wine. Sliced apples, grapes, and dried fruits are a good starting point and can lead to some complex pairings. Some chèvre and grapes on a plate and a large bowl of fresh sliced baguette always appeals.

5. Let guests know what things are. Clearly label everything from your cheese plate to your non-alcoholic options to help people find their favorites (and know the real name of that amazingly stinky cheese). If you’re providing the wine and cheese yourself, use chalkboard contact paper as a runner to construct a clearly marked table before guests arrive. This tip from Rock UR Party also lets you draw arrows to what foods pair best with which bottles – it’s smart and fun.
6. Label your glasses. From wine charms to ribbons, even using a sharpie (it should wash off) or chalkboard paint to label the glass, there are plenty of ways to help everyone keep track of their own glasses. Pick your favorite (and make sure you have a few extra glasses in case a few end up lost regardless).

Do you have any wine and cheese party tips? Favorite plates you use? Leave a comment and let us know (and enjoy that glass of vino)!

Wine bottles and glasses image courtesy of .craig.

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White Dishes and Kitchen Décor to Fit Your Style

Black and white is perhaps the most versatile color combination out there. From modern design to rustic country décor, these basic colors create spaces that are full of personality and depth. After our zigzag black and white ceramic wine bottle holder was featured on the cover of the September issue of HGTV magazine I’ve been thinking more about how to use black and white effectively in kitchen décor. It’s the perfect counterpoint for color and so much more!

Here are some ideas to help you find the best ways to use black and white in your kitchen:

Let colors rule. Black and white looks the most striking when paired with vibrant colors. Cheerful cabinets, walls, and countertops create a backdrop for your black and white kitchen décor that prevents things from looking flat and lifeless. Lighter shades are equally effective (powder blue and pale yellow are some personal favorites), but make sure there’s enough richness in the base tone of your paint to avoid a washed-out, blah effect.

Find white dishes with character. Plain white plates are boring, so choose white dishes that have something unique about them. Textured glazes and unusual shapes are great ways to pack some punch with your white serving platters.

This white plate with cut-out handles is the perfect example with black clay that shows just around the edges, giving an unexpected softness to the piece. Similarly, a white bowl becomes playful with decorative fluting around the edges.

 

Who said white dishes had to be basic?

 

Embrace touches of modern design. Not everyone wants a kitchen that feels like a futuristic spaceship. But that doesn’t mean that you should reject contemporary décor accents like curtains, countertop accessories, or vases. Mixing in a little of the modern gives any kitchen décor a definite edge. Take Gogo’s white espresso cup and saucer or Richard Esteban’s carved black vase; these pieces have timeless appeal with a distinctly modern feel.

Or try a graphic black and white ceramic wine bottle holder that becomes an appealing utensil holder and plays up your other colorful accents.

What ways do you incorporate black and white into your kitchen décor or dishware? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Entertaining with Originality

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

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

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

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Lemons + Ceramiche Bartoloni = Cheerful Italian Ceramics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Need a Quick Injection of Italian Country Décor?

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have live in Tuscany, where the Italian country décor essentials like wrought iron, exposed wood, and sturdy ceramics are plentiful. But for the rest of us, there are many ways to incorporate this decorating style into the home, whether it’s your kitchen or other rooms. The most basic principle when it comes to Italian country is to think about how to make your home inviting and approachable… everything else comes from there!

Italian country décor is a mixture of comfort and chic that never fails at making people feel welcome. Fresh flowers in a pitcher on the table, appealing chairs and couches, and other soft touches warm the stone, wood, and other uncompromising surfaces that characterize many Italian country homes, both in and out of Italy. This is why the kitchen often becomes the focus of any Italian country decorating – it’s the perfect place to make people feel at home around a substantial wood table, whether for a cup of coffee or a full dinner.

For an easy way to incorporate Italian country into your décor, look no further than ceramic serving dishes. These pieces serve double duty: they add color and interest to your walls when not in active use, then delight your family and guests when you need a large serving tray or bowl for your delicious meal. Pieces don’t need to exactly match, but instead reflect colors and designs that you find appealing. The fruit designs of ceramic serving dishes by Tuscia d’Arte are the perfect example. Rich blue backgrounds and vibrant colors ensure that these large serving trays get noticed however and wherever they’re used.

Of course, the difficult decision can be what shape you need for a large serving tray. These rectangular platters are over 17 inches long, making them a striking centerpiece for their size alone. The fruit motifs add to their Italian country charm, and are sure to be a winner on any table. Equally at home with cheese and bread or desserts, you’ll find yourself creating reasons to keep these ceramic serving dishes on the table. Add other ceramic serving dishes like an oval serving platter with apples or the large serving tray with lemons on a red background and you’re on your way to easy Italian charm… without even having to pack a bag. Benvenuto!Italian countryside image courtesy of SanguineSeas.

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Serve It Right with Blue and White Mexican Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fish and Gorky Gonzalez Pottery: California Style, Mexican Roots

Ah, summertime. With outdoor BBQs, lazy afternoons on the porch, swimming and lounging poolside or at the beach, and all the delicious fresh foods at the farmer’s market, what’s there not to love? With so many options, what is it that says summer to you? To me, there’s something about Gorky Gonzalez pottery that’s very California, very coastal, and very summery. These pieces are simply perfect for this time of year, feeling at home on a picnic table or in a dinning room.

Perhaps it’s because California was once part of Mexico, but I find that many Californians are drawn to the relaxed feel of Gorky Gonzalez pottery with its multiple colors, fun designs, and party-ready plates and platters. There’s something there that speaks to eternal summer and a carefree attitude. For this reason, my current favorite Gorky Gonzalez pottery pieces for a California vibe feature fish (pescados). Playful and fun, fish reflect so many aspects of summer that I love. And while they are similar, each piece of Gorky Gonzalez pottery is hand-painted and so each fish is unique… meaning that collecting various plates, bowls, and platters is like creating your very own hand-painted school of fish for your California-style home.

 

Here are three ways you can incorporate fish into your summertime fun:

  1. Summer snacking: Fill a large serving bowl with tortilla chips and then add your favorite dips, whether it’s salsa fresca, guacamole, or a truly spicy habanero salsa. Small dip bowls around the chips cut down on drips and mess over your chips. This mini dip bowl reveals a playful fish when empty; it’s a pleasant surprise even when all your yummy salsa is gone.
  2. Taco party: The best tacos are ones that have a wide variety of options for garnish. Fresh cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, red onion, lime wedges, and sliced radishes are just the beginning. The pescado triple dish is a fun and practical way to make your three favorites easy to pass around the table. This is Gorky Gonzalez pottery meets California and Mexican fusion in a big way.
  3. Dessert time: Fresh berry pie is one of my great weaknesses, whether it’s strawberry rhubarb with a homemade crust or a chilled cream pie perfectly decorated with blueberries or raspberries on top.

Fish mini plates with a fun octagonal shape enliven even the most ordinary desserts. Need bigger servings of your sweets? Choose larger salad plates with another fun variation on the fish theme (or make a set that mixes your favorite animal motifs so everyone can choose a favorite).

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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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Summer Recipes to Fill Your Favorite Bowls

In these carb-conscious times, pasta bowls seem to be a true indulgence. That pile of pasta with a delicious sauce, from a homemade Bolognese to pesto to primavera, is delicious, but perhaps too heavy during the hot summer months. So what do you fill your favorite ceramic pasta bowls with in this season of swimsuit conscious eating?

From salads to ice cream, the fresh produce of summer just begs to fill up even the biggest ceramic pasta bowl. Here are some recipe ideas to get you started celebrating the season, no matter what bowl type or size you have.

Mini bowls. Little bowls are perfect if you’re having a Mexican-inspired feast (now that I’m back from Mexico, I can’t stop eating food that reminds me of the trip).

These bowls hold spices, cheeses, and dips for taco parties or just chips and salsa. I often fill a small bowl with guacamole – fresh lime juice, salt, chopped tomato, avocado, and some spice makes for a simple, pleasing dip that disappears quickly!

StrawberrySmall bowls. These bowls beg to be filled with ice cream sundaes, but if you’re trying to eat a little healthier, then turn to the fruits of summer. (Though check out these ice cream pies if you want to get truly decadent). Something like strawberry shortcake is always a winner, especially if you go heavy on the strawberries. These strawberry and cream biscuits by Smitten Kitchen would fill up a bowl nicely along with whipped cream and maybe even more berries on top.

Pasta bowls. For those who can’t resist the lure of pasta, something unusual like nettles makes for an inspiring summer dish. This recipe by 101 Cookbooks has feta, almonds, and garlic to accompany the green (though kale or spinach would also work) and looks great in a large serving bowl. Green summer salads, full of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, sprouts, and other seasonal delights are a lighter choice for lunchtime that’s also bowl-friendly. And then there’s classic potato salad… or a new twist on it: I love tzatziki, so this potato salad recipe seems perfect to try out at my next cookout.

Have any summer-inspired favorite foods that fill up your bowls? Post your recipes below and enjoy!

Strawberry image courtesy of Manchester-Monkey.

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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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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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Serving Plate Trends: Best and Worst

Serving plates are a key element for any party, whether you’re serving simple appetizers or a formal dinner. I’m sure you’ve been to an event where the serving ware didn’t quite match the contents and everything just felt a little off. Perhaps there was a large serving platter with only a few things on it, so the food looked dwarfed and scanty. Or a tray that was supposed to be passed was just too heavy to comfortably lift. Or a beautiful platter heaped with a pyramid of canapés that looked like it would collapse if anyone touched it… so nobody did the entire time.

While white platters are classic when it comes to entertaining, I’ve been thinking about some other trends in how to serve guests in a way that compliments the food, looks chic, and adds to the atmosphere of the event (even if it’s just family dinner). Here are some current trends to love (as well as some to skip) when it comes to serving plates and platters:

Blue and white serving platters. I’ve written about the versatility of blue and white serving platters for everything from watching “the big game” to having an elegant cocktail party. People love this color combination and it makes food look even more delicious. Mixing blue and white serving platters into an existing all-white set makes for a more dynamic table setting or buffet.

Cheese Plate Slate Chalk Food Macro January 23, 20111Slate. There are some great uses for slate platters, like labeling your cheeses for your guests. A piece of chalk and everyone knows that’s Roquefort, not another blue cheese. But when it comes to individual plates, I tend to agree with David Lebovitz’s take on this trend. Not only are slate plates hard to pick up from the table, they make poor cutting surfaces for a steak entrée or other food that needs cutting. Knives across a chalkboard is not a good dining sound, so I say keep these serving plates for cheeses or other stationary items only.

Meat + Cheese TrayBamboo. Wooden serving trays have always been a good way to transport breakfast in bed or a tea service to your company. Bamboo is not only good for the environment as a renewable resource; it looks streamlined with interesting stripe patterns and real durability. I have a large bamboo cutting board I always use for slicing fresh bread for parties (it looks fantastic with my blue and white serving platters too!).

Overly-specialized serving plates. While I think that having the right tool for the job is great, there’s no sense in wasting storage space on a piece that has no versatility. A good example is this ridiculous champagne and sushi serving platter (unless of course, you throw champagne and sushi parties often!). Functionality is also important. How frustrating is the chip and dip bowl where the dip hangs over the chips and drips onto the chips? No one wants to eat that. Just use a dip bowl next to a larger serving bowl and the problem is solved. Choose serving platters that are versatile and functional so you’ll actually use them.

Slate cheese tray image courtesy of Steven Depolo.

Bamboo serving tray image courtesy of Eric Kilby.

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Italian Country Décor: Charm for More than Just the Kitchen

Tuscany Country on a Overcast Day
Who can resist the charm of Italian country décor? From stunning patios to rustic kitchens, this is a decorating style that is warm, welcoming, and timeless. Traditionally, Italian country décor showcases simplicity and functionality throughout the home. I find that more and more people are embracing this chic yet comfortable decorating style, especially in the kitchen. So how can you get the look yourself?

Rustic tables, wrought iron racks, and earth tones all contribute to the feel of a Tuscan home. Throw in some Italian country ceramics, glass bottles, and your favorite Italian food to complete the ambiance. Details like ceramic tile floors, fireplaces, and exposed wood beams are architectural elements that also add to the look. Stonework in the living room or kitchen, gorgeous wood floors, and a stunning rustic chandelier continue the Italian country décor into the living and dining rooms. Want to see more? I’d recommend checking out Houzz for some truly inspiring images of Italian country décor from designers world-wide.

Of course, the warmth and friendliness associated with this Tuscan style is closely tied to the Italian tradition of hospitality that goes with it. Italians are experts at relaxed entertaining. It’s easy to channel this skill when you have Italian serving platters and bowls by Ceramiche Bartoloni and Tuscia d’Arte. In addition to my favorite square serving platters by Tuscia d’Arte (with oranges, lemons and pomegranates), we’ve just received this beautiful oval serving platter with lemons on a red background. Versatile for parties, dinners, or just wall decoration, this ceramic serving dish adds the warmth of Tuscany to any kitchen. Another new cheerful piece is the Limoni serving bowl, perfect for a tossed salad or gracing a tabletop filled with fresh fruit. Blu limoni serving trays remain a popular favorite for gift-giving, whether it’s a wedding, anniversary, or birthday.

Whether you’re going for Italian country décor or another style completely, remember that decorating goes beyond getting the furniture or ceramic serving dishes that fit your theme. It’s about making a home that’s yours — One that’s welcoming to your family and your guests. Let us know what you think about Italian country décor by leaving a comment below!

Tuscany image courtesy of Dennis Jarvis.

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Historical Roots of Blue and White Mexican Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just Arrived: Italian Pasta Bowls and French Plates!

Remember when you were a kid and you would wait impatiently for your birthday to finally arrive? Perhaps packages would come from far-flung relatives that would be stacked waiting for the big day. But when it finally came time to open the packages, it was totally worth the wait. I continue to enjoy that suspense as I wait for boxes of ceramics to arrive from artists around the world. Shipments are usually large and come by ship across the Atlantic for my France and Italy orders, making for slow progress. Still, with careful handling those bowls (from pasta bowls to serving bowls), plates, vases, mugs, and other gorgeous pieces arrive in perfect condition. They’re totally worth the wait, just like those birthday presents from years past.

Of course, when I do get a shipment, there’s lots of unpacking to be done. New pieces need to be photographed and posted on the site, like these new French ceramics by Richard Esteban, Sylvie Durez, and Poterie Ravel. I check every piece from bowls to platters for cracks or chips to make sure only the highest quality pieces are available for my customers. My recent French and Italian shipments came right at the start of the holiday shopping season, so there are some new bowls, pitchers, platters, and vases that are still only available in our pop-up shop in Palo Alto (though they’ll be on the website soon for those of you not in the Bay Area). Unpacking shipments is like the best birthday and Christmas rolled into one, but it certainly requires a huge amount of time to unwrap, organize, photograph, post, and store all the pieces.

Stay tuned as I update the website with all the new and beautiful pieces from Italy and France. To tide you over, here are a few that I’ve already added to the Emilia Ceramics website: the Italian Large Limoni Bowl and the French Olive Branch Bowl are both fantastic serving dishes, whether to show off your classic spaghetti and meatballs or fusilli with pesto. While these make great pasta serving bowls, I recommend enjoying them with the brightly colored Gogo bowls for individual servings of pasta or the Songbird Dinner Plates that have just been unpacked from France. Bon appetit!

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Countdown to Holiday Parties with Mexican Ceramics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Top 5 Gifts for Pasta Lovers

spaghetti al sugo
Spaghetti with a hearty tomato sauce, fettuccini alfredo, delicate handmade raviolis, gnocchi in sage butter… how can you resist the temptation of pasta? Ubiquitous in Italy, pasta comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors which makes it possible to never have the same meal twice.

With pasta so popular, it’s no surprise that Tuscia d’Arte’s spaghetti canister is a consistent top seller. Functional and decorative, keeping this stylish spaghetti canister fully stocked means you have a quick and simple dinner always on hand (ideal for those days you don’t want to think about cooking). This spaghetti canister also holds its own as a decorative element on a kitchen counter, or pairs beautifully with other canisters holding your essential dry goods.

As the holiday season approaches I’ve started thinking about creative gifts for my “hard to buy for” friends. Since so many people love pasta, it’s the perfect starting point for a useful and delicious gift, no matter the reason.

Here are my top five gifts for pasta lovers:

1. Pasta. While the boxed stuff is good for everyday, why not indulge your favorite pasta lover with handmade, fresh noodles? I love the pasta from Lucca Ravioli here in San Francisco. Their ravioli has incredible seasonal flavors like pumpkin or turkey and is always tasty. You can also find dried artisanal pastas at specialty markets if fresh isn’t easily available in your area.

2. Spaghetti canister. Fill it with quality spaghetti or fettuccini for a practical gift. The Tuscan Fruit spaghetti canister is perfect for anyone who loves Italian ceramics, Tuscan style, or just appreciates the fusion of art and food in their kitchen.

3. Pasta machine. Since fresh pasta is so delicious, why not make your own? From the manual to state of the art electric versions, pasta machines roll out dough to the perfect noodle thickness. Use cutters to make noodles or take the sheets to create ravioli and tortellini with your favorite flavor combinations.

4. Pasta bowls. The best part about pasta is eating it. A pasta serving bowl (I love the yellow and turquoise one pictured above) makes for the perfect presentation. Or try a set of individual pasta bowls that are large enough for a hearty portion of noodles and sauce. I like mixing and matching for more personality at the table.

5. Kitchen accessories. Pasta needs the right accouterments from a solid colander to spoon rest for your sauce spoon and pasta claw. A large pepper or cheese grinder, salt and pepper shakers, or a spice rack ensures perfect pasta seasoning. A wine bottle holder keeps a favorite bottle handy to compliment any pasta feast.

Now I’m hungry for some pasta myself. What’s your favorite pasta dish? Post a comment to let us know!

 

Spaghetti image courtesy of Dèsirèe Tonus.

Pasta maker image courtesy of Jeff Kubina.

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The Roosters Have Landed!

We just received a huge shipment from Gorky Gonzalez and among other things, I am happy to announce the arrival of the adorable Rooster Creamers. Although we ordered more than a dozen of these darling creamers, the fact that they were hand-painted means no two are alike. Each is decorated with its own unique pattern, from the color of the beak, to the handle and plume. Some have long and colorful eyelashes, while others have alert and fully-dilated pupils. The artists at Gorky’s studio must have had fun painting these! In fact, the only thing the roosters have in common is an immense amount of personality. I recommend using your favorite rooster to serve cream with the more subdued Gogo mugs — or filling it with a small bouquet of flowers on the sink in the bathroom.

I have to admit that I don’t consider myself a true rooster fanatic (while I can attest to the fact that there is a formidable group of them out there), but this time of year, I am drawn to game birds of all sorts: roosters, turkeys, chickens, and hens. There is an obvious synergy between these birds and the upcoming holiday, which happens to be my personal favorite.

Whether you’re decorating your own table for Thanksgiving or going to a friend or relative’s house to celebrate, here are some awesome rooster-inspired pieces — they make great hostess gifts!

1. Salt & Pepper Shakers: The perfect finish to any table setting, rooster or chicken salt and pepper shakers are colorful, functional, and always fun! My favorites are the big headed roosters with huge, mascara’d eyelashes.

2. Blue and White Rooster Serving Bowl: Great for passing a green salad, mashed potatoes, or stuffing.

3. Octagonal Rooster Bowl: Perfect for a smaller side dish, like green beans. This is one of my favorite pieces in Gorky’s entire collection. I love the unique shape and colorful rooster design. It’s one of those pieces that can be equally enjoyed on display and on the table.

4. And then there’s the rooster that speaks for himself: El Gallo Azul. This proud bird makes a fun statement as a centerpiece or on the kitchen counter. I love the idea of placing him amongst the many dishes on a Thanksgiving buffet to watch over the action.

Not into Gorky’s rustic roosters? Ceramiche Bartoloni in Tuscany make a more refined Italian ceramic rooster – choose from bowls, pitchers, plates, and mugs! I love the rainbow of colors the Bartolonis include in each rooster’s feathers. Okay, so maybe I am a bit of a rooster fanatic after all!

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Favorite Recipes to Fill Ceramic Salad Bowls

I love parties. Throwing them, going to them, it doesn’t matter. A friend’s potluck bash got me thinking recently about all the things I could make to share with a crowd. Making food for parties is totally different than cooking for yourself. For example, I wouldn’t be apt to make a dip to eat myself, but if some guests are coming over, I might make some humus, guacamole, onion dip, or fresh salsa to go along with pita or tortilla chips. I also love the excuse to pull out some Mexican or Italian ceramic chip & dip dishes and class up the entire experience. Dip bowls are just too appealing to pass up!

But what about uses for other Italian serving dishes? A ceramic salad bowl is versatile for lots of dishes from salads to soups to pasta. This tortilla salad recipe from 101 Cookbooks looks delicious and would be great served in a huge ceramic salad bowl. I love salads that use something besides lettuce for the base, whether beans or unusual greens.

Italian serving platters are great for meat dishes, appetizers or even desserts. A juicy roast, delightful canapés, cookies… I’m getting hungry! I find that when you have all these Italian serving dishes around you start looking for more excuses to use them. It makes daily meals just a little more gourmet as a result, just as with any other exciting new kitchen tool.

But back to the potluck dilemma. With all my Italian bowls in the kitchen, I was finally inspired to make a pesto pasta salad. Fresh basil from the farmer’s market really makes it a taste sensation, especially with fresh broccoli and squash. The empty bowl at the end was a testament to the fact that I’d made the right choice. Try my friend Andy’s recipe below and see what you think for yourself. It’s great on pasta both hot and cold; you can use any leftovers to make delicious omelets or jazz up scrambled eggs.

Pesto Recipe

2 cups fresh basil leaves

2 garlic gloves (lightly crushed)

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tb pine nuts

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2-3 Tb freshly grated pecorino cheese

Blend first 5 ingredients in a blender or food processor. Incorporate cheeses by hand when blended.

I’d love to know what recipes you use to fill your ceramic salad bowls – please post comments with recipes or links to good cooking websites you like!

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Oh, Glorious Italian Food!

In Italy, meals are truly an art form. The traditional Italian meal can be anywhere from three to six courses, incorporating a vast array of dishes and tastes into one delicious feast. It’s no wonder that Italian serving dishes are a vital compliment to this eating experience.

Italian food has a lot of personality and variation by region. For example, Northern Italian food tends toward risottos and polenta, though pasta is still popular, according to Life In Italy. Liguria is home to pesto, a worldwide (and personal) favorite. In Lombardy minestrone and osso bucco reign, while in the Vento, seafood and wild fowl are the stars. It’s a pretty good bet that whatever grows regionally will be served on local Italian platters.

Now that I’ve gotten you hungry, why not start planning an Italian style dinner party. Now that it’s summer and staying light later, slow down and enjoy a long evening, savoring a leisurely meal just as they do in Italy. Italian serving dishes are the perfect way to showcase your meal. Presentation might not be everything, but I can attest to the fact that it definitely makes the meal taste better.

Whether you prefer white serving platters or something a little more colorful, let’s break down the courses to see what Italian serving dishes work best for each part of the meal.

  • Aperitivo and Antipasti: A little alcohol prepares the palate while small snacks get your stomach ready for the feast ahead. Sliced cheese, meats, or peppers are all good ideas, especially when served on handmade Italian serving dishes, like a Blu Limoni Rectangular Plate.
  • Primo Piatto: For the first course, pasta, risotto, polenta, gnocchi or soup are traditional. An Italian ceramic pasta serving bowl makes everything from spaghetti to tortellini look gorgeous for your guests.
  • Secondo Piatto or Piatto di Mezzo: This second course showcases meats, whether seafood, meat, poultry or game. For the less meat inclined, an omelet or a cooked cheese or vegetable dish are all great options.
  • Contorno: A side dish of cooked vegetables, salad, rice, noodles or polenta is a perfect compliment to the second course. Ceramic Italian platters or a statement making salad bowl ensure your side won’t be overshadowed.
  • Formaggio & Frutta: Usually served in sequence, cheese helps the body digest and fruit cleanses the palate. A decorative footed platter makes apples, cherries, or peaches even more appealing.
  • Dolce and Caffe: Save room for dessert and the obligatory espresso to finish up the meal.
  • Digestivo: A liqueur like grappa, Amaro, or Sambuca finishes off the feast.

Spaghetti photo courtesy of Bejie Ordonez.