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How To Set a Beautiful Thanksgiving Table

It’s almost that time of year… when family and friends gather, prepare delicious food, and sit down together to give thanks for all their blessings. I am the first to admit that serving dishes and colorful plates are not the most important part of this holiday. However, I do believe that food tastes better when it is displayed well and that hand-crafted pottery is the perfect pairing for hand-crafted recipes. With that in mind, I’ve put together a guide to setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table.

ceramic holiday serving dishes
#1 Size: Be sure the food fits the dish.

The first consideration in how to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table is the size and shape of your plates and bowls. You want to choose ceramic serving dishes that fit your food comfortably, with plenty of space for hands to pass the dish or serving spoons to rest within it.

#2 Color: Show off your food.

While often overlooked, the color of the food is an important determining factor when deciding in which plate, platter or bowl it should be served. You want to highlight the food and make it look it’s best, which usually means serving it on contrasting colors. Here are a few examples:

Cheese Plates

I love adding grapes and dried fruit to a cheese plate, both for the visual effect (adding color) and to balance the richness of cheese. The Tuscan Fruit Platter (below) is perfect because of its hand-painted fruit motif, which supplements whatever you serve on it by adding a backdrop of fresh fruit color.

cheese plate

Yams or Sweet Potatoes

Colorful foods are always the easiest to make look good. The most important thing to keep in mind with especially bright and colorful food is to serve it on a plate or in a bowl that allows its color to really stand out. If the serving dish is too colorful itself (whether in a different or similar color), the food will not stand out. blue and white platterFor bright orange yams, I opt for a white background so the color can really pop. Here are too great options: Gorky Gonzales’ El Mar Platter (seen on the right) and Ceramica Valenciana’s Rectangular Platter in white (below). The El Mar Platter has always been one of my favorite ceramic serving dishes because of the unique shape and subtle decoration around the edge. In this case, the complimentary colors of deep blue in the glaze and golden orange of the yams play off each other perfectly. Yum!

 

#3 Style: Whether sophisticated or casual, pick a style and stick to it.

You can pretty much tell by the collection of pieces I’ve curated at Emilia Ceramics that I usually opt for a relaxed, laid-back style. But there are definitely events (Thanksgiving being one of them) when a more sophisticated style is in order. That’s why I love Gialletti Giulio’s plates. They have a grown-up, fancy look to them, but still maintain their hand-painted authenticity. You can literally see the brush strokes that were applied by the Italian artists who made them. But they also offer a lovely white backdrop for your meal. And there’s a variety of designs, which look great mixed and matched together or used separately.

italian salad plate

red plate deruta plate

My favorite style for dessert plates is subtle, yet fun and festive. The Spanish dessert plates (below) by Ceramica Valenciana are my ideal, because they work regardless of whether you’re serving pie, cake, brownies, or fruit salad. They are delicate, charming, original, and stylish. These plates are perfect for serving all ages and really showing off whatever dessert you’ve prepared.

spanish bird plate with pumpkin pie
spanish dessert plate
Other great dessert plate options are Richard Esteban’s fun yellow plates with various center designs, from cars, dogs, fish, and birds, to more festive polka-dots and stripes, these plates are as sweet as any dessert imaginable. For a more refined, grown-up look, Gialletti Giulio’s more basic plates with stripes are a lovely backdrop for apple or pumpkin pie.

fish dessert plate

french polkadot dessert plate

Do you have any special tips for how to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table? We’d love to hear them, so please share in the comments section below.

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Best Wedding Gifts

It’s May, which means wedding season is officially underway! I love weddings, especially those that really exude the personality of the couple getting married. When I choose a wedding gift, I try to mirror that individuality by picking a gift that is uniquely fitting for the bride and groom. The best wedding gifts reflect the couple’s originality and show that you were thinking specifically of them when you picked it out.

Of course, some couples you know better than others. It’s easy to pick out a thoughtful and unique gift for your best friend… a little more difficult to be really creative with a coworker or second cousin who you barely know.

Here’s my guide to the best wedding gifts, based on things like age, life-stage, and general interests.

Twenty-Something + First Real Home = Italian Pitcher or Vase

These are the types of statement pieces that work with any style and become instant family heirlooms.
Left: Small Cherry Pitcher by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia
Right: Venice Fruit Vase by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia

italian ceramic pitcheritalian ceramic vase

Small Home + Already Have “Necessities” = Salad Bowl

Because everyone can use a cool salad bowl (and they double as fruit bowls between salads).
Left: La Fiesta Salad Bowl by Talavera Vazquez
Right: Large Mixing Bowl with Blue Stripes by Gorky Gonzalez.

mexican pottery salad bowlblue and white ceramic salad bowl

Older Couple + Established Home = Beautiful Serving Platter

These classic Italian serving platters elevate any meal and can also be hung on the wall for decoration.
Left: Rectangular Serving Platter – Tuscan Fruit by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia
Right: Oval Serving Platter – Lemons on Red by Ceramiche d’Arte Tuscia

italian ceramic platteritalian ceramic platter with lemons

Couple Who Loves to Entertain = Cheese Plate or Vino Pitcher

These pieces have tons of unique personality that will compliment any party.
Left: Cheese Plate in Lime Green by Richard Esteban
Right: Antique Vino Pitcher by Ceramica Valenciana

french cheese platewhite vino wine pitcher

 

Contemporary Style + Colorful Personalities = Large Vase for Long Stems

A colorful, tall vase has a small foot print, but makes a big impact.
Left: Large Burnt Orange ZigZag Vase by Talavera Vazquez
Right: Blue Striped Vase Especial by Talavera Vazquez

zigzag vase orange chevronblue and white striped vase

Modern Esthetic = Bold White Decor

For the minimalist couple, these hand-crafted pieces add subtle character to a modern landscape.
Left: White Footed Bowl by Ceramica Valenciana
Right: Chalk White Long Platter with Floral Relief by Gorky Gonzalez

white footed serving bowlwhite ceramic platter

If you don’t know where to start, I suggest looking at a couples’ registry online. Even if you don’t want to buy what’s listed, it will give you an idea of their style preferences and what they need. Have questions about buying the best wedding gifts? Call or email us… we’d love to discuss some options with you.

See all our Wedding Gift Ideas Here >>

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Setting a Beautiful Easter Table

I cannot believe this Sunday is Easter! Wasn’t it just New Years like last week?! Yikes, time is flying in 2016 and it’s time to set a beautiful Easter table. Here are my favorite pieces for sharing a big meal, whether in celebration of Easter, Passover, or the spring season itself.

Salad Bowls

blue_white_salad_bowl

This time of year, any get-together requires a fresh salad… and every salad looks better in a colorful large salad bowl, like this one: The Vina Azul Salad Bowl by Talavera Vazquez. See all our Serving Bowls Here >>

Unique Serving Plates

Blue and white serving platter

Why serve on plain white round platters? Add variety to the Easter table with rectangular or oval platters, round chargers, and square plates. We promise the mix will only add to the flavor of your meal. The above El Mar Platter by Gorky Gonzalez works for any appetizer or dessert. See all our Serving Plates Here >>

Footed Platters

italian_footed_serving_platter

I love varying the height and dimension of serving pieces. A footed serving platter is great for serving finger sandwiches, deviled eggs, or cupcakes. Choose between a deeper footed bowl and a flat footed plate, depending on what you’re serving. The above Italian dish would be ideal for setting out fruit like strawberries and grapes. See all our Footed Dishes Here >>

Flower Vases

Setting a beautiful Easter table also requires interesting, festive centerpieces like lush flowers arranged in original vases and pitchers. Tulips are a popular Easter flower and they look fantastic in the two vases below, left: Blue Striped Mexican Vase by Talavera Vazquez; And right: Butter Yellow French Pitcher by Richard Esteban. Here are some other beautiful vases and pitcher vases.

blue striped mexican vasebutter yellow french pitcher

Want more ideas for setting a beautiful Easter table? Check out our Easter Ideas Here >>
Do you have any other tips for spring entertaining? Share them in the comment section below!

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How To Set a Beautiful Thanksgiving Table

It’s almost that time of year… when family and friends gather together, prepare delicious food, and sit down together to give thanks for all their blessings. I am the first to admit that serving dishes and colorful plates are not the most important part of this holiday. However, I also believe that food actually tastes better when it is displayed well and that hand-crafted pottery is the perfect pairing for hand-crafted recipes. With that in mind, I’ve put together a guide to setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table.

ceramic serving platters
#1 Size: Be sure the food fits the dish.

The first consideration in how to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table is the size and shape of your plates and bowls. You want to choose ceramic serving platters that fit your food comfortably, with plenty of space for hands to pass the dish or serving spoons to rest within it.

#2 Color: Choose a dish that shows off your food.

While often overlooked, the color of the food is an important determining factor when deciding in which plate, platter or bowl it should be served. You want to highlight the food and make it look it’s best, which usually means serving it on contrasting colors. Here are a few examples:

Cheese Plates

I love adding grapes and dried fruit to a cheese plate, both for the visual effect (adding color) and to balance the richness of cheese. The Rectangular Serving Platter with Tuscan Fruits (below) is perfect because of its hand-painted fruit motif, which supplements whatever you serve on it by adding a backdrop of fresh fruit color.

cheese_plate

Yams or Sweet Potatoes

Colorful foods are always the easiest to make look good. The most important thing to keep in mind with especially bright and colorful food is to serve it on a plate or in a bowl that allows its color to really stand out. If the serving dish is too colorful itself (whether in a different or similar color), the food will not stand out. For bright orange yams, I opt for a white background so the color can really pop. Here are too great options (shown below): Ceramica Valenciana’s Rectangular Platter in white and Ceramiche Bartoloni’s Rooster Bowl with Handles. The latter has always been one of my favorite ceramic serving bowls because even when the center design is covered by food, there’s an equally beautiful decoration around the edge that is always visible. In this case, the hints of golden glaze are a perfect complement to the golden yams. Yum!

White Serving Platter
Italian Rooster Bowl
#3 Style: Whether sophisticated or casual, pick a style and stick to it.

You can pretty much tell by the collection of pieces I’ve curated at Emilia Ceramics that I usually opt for a relaxed, laid-back style. But there are definitely events (Thanksgiving being one of them) when a more sophisticated style is in order. That’s why I love Gialletti Giulio’s plates. They have a grown-up, fancy look to them, but still maintain their hand-painted authenticity. You can literally see the brush strokes that were applied by the Italian artists who made them. But they also offer a lovely white backdrop for your meal. And there’s a variety of designs, which look great mixed and matched together or used separately.

Deruta Dinnerwarered plateorange Italian plateDeruta Dinnerware

My favorite style for dessert plates is subtle, yet fun and festive. The Spanish dessert plates (below) by Ceramica Valenciana are my ideal, because they work regardless of whether you’re serving pie, cake, brownies, or fruit salad. They are delicate, charming, original, and stylish. These plates are perfect for serving all ages and really showing off whatever dessert you’ve prepared.

spanish bird plate with pumpkin pie
spanish dessert plate
Other great dessert plate options are Richard Esteban’s fun yellow plates with various center designs, from cars, dogs, fish, and birds, to more festive polka-dots and stripes, these plates are as sweet as any dessert imaginable. For a more refined, grown-up look, Gialletti Giulio’s more basic plates with stripes are a lovely backdrop for apple or pumpkin pie.

fish dinner platefrench polkadot dessert plate

Do you have any special tips for how to set a beautiful Thanksgiving table? We’d love to hear them, so please share in the comments section below.

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Holiday Season Essentials: Great Serving Platters for Entertaining and More

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

1. Assess Your Dishware

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

Pumpkin-Thanksgiving-China-Dishware-e1445780633130
Above Photo: Between Naps on the Porch

Holiday-dinnerware-in-shades-of-red-and-grey
Above Photo: Decoist

2. Pay Special Attention to Serving Platters

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

Bisse-Challoner_crests_on_seven_silver_salvers_-_200603
Above: Sterling Silver Salvers produced in the 1730’s, from Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Update your Bar

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

Horizontal-prost-bar-cart
Photo: Tasting Table

lucite-bar-cart
Photo: Simplified Bee

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

black zigzag utensil holderVino Wine Pitcher

Vino Wine Cups

4.  Create Mood Lighting

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

sidetable-for-living-room-lighting
Photo: Home Edit

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

 

 

 

 

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Last Minute Summer Party Ideas

I cannot believe it’s already August! As far as I’m concerned, it’s finally starting to feel like summer. And since I don’t have to go back to school, I figure why not enjoy the warm weather and stretch out the relaxed summer vibe a bit longer! Below I’ve come up with a few ideas for no-fuss summer entertaining (all built around a summer beverage) that feel right at home in August… or September.

taco_party

Since ceramics always play a big part in my own party planning, I created a special section of the Emilia Ceramics website with pieces that are perfect for warm-weather entertaining. Check out all the ideas for Summer Parties here >>

It all begins with a beverage

Summer parties are fun in so many ways (think swimming pools, burgers, warm nights, beautiful sunsets, croquet and corn hole) but one of the best parts is the ice cold beverage in your hand during all those activities. Everybody has their favorite, but these three drinks are crowd-pleasers that don’t require much work. What I like best is that whichever drink you choose, you can then plan an entire party around it. Of course, you might still need to offer some beer and Pinot Grigio (for the less adventurous) but these drinks really do make the party.

mexican_dishes

Margaritaville.

My favorite margarita is a strong margarita. Here’s a great recipe for a strong pitcher of margaritas that you can make ahead and then serve to your guests upon request. If you’ve chosen the margarita as your party drink, you’ve clearly got a party theme ready to go. Everyone loves a taco bar where they can load theirs just as they like it. Add some chips and guacamole, displayed beautifully on a few Mexican serving platters and your party is complete.

More Ideas: Celebrating Mexican Pottery with an ‘Indian Summer Taco Party’

cheese_plates

Bubbly.

Nothing elevates a party like Champagne. But Prosecco (the Italian version) and Cava (the Spanish version) are just as tasty and often less expensive. If this is a fancy Champagne-inspired party, dress up your buffet table as well. One of my favorite tricks is having dishware at various heights, like serving cheese and crackers on a footed platter, that’s arranged stylishly next to square plates and oval dishes. The variation is pleasing to the eye and ensures that all your party snacks stand out.

More Ideas: Check out this pinterest photo of a wheelbarrow filled with bubbly!

footed_serving_bowl footed_platter_side_2

Good Ol’ G&T.

Nothing says summer like an ice-cold Gin and Tonic (with lots of fresh lime). It’s so easy, yet oh so satisfying. Gin and Tonics remind me of my mom (she loves them), which then makes me think of her mom and the type of summer entertaining my grandmother probably did 50 years ago. I think of fun, old-fashioned finger foods, like cucumber sandwiches, deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, and crab dip. While these might sound slightly more labor intensive, they’re really all prepped in advance, leaving you to enjoy the party, Gin and Tonic in hand! I picture that my grandmother would have loved serving appetizers from this fun Spanish dish: Caracol Serving Platter.

Are you planning any more summer soirees? What’s your theme… and your drink of choice? If you need inspiration, check out our ideas for Summer Parties or our Party Planning Pinterest Board.

french_plattersausages

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Five Must-Have Serving Platters for 4th of July

serving platters

Summer is in full swing! The days are longer, the evenings are warmer and kids are getting into their summer routine. It’s hard to believe that fourth of July is right around the corner, but I’m looking forward to enjoying a celebratory evening with family and friends filled with fireworks, food and fun.

serving platters

A gathering of any kind is made much more festive when it includes serving ware that perfectly highlights the food offerings, since let’s be honest, the food is the MVP of most gatherings! As such, I am highlighting five unique handcrafted serving platters from Emilia Ceramics that I think would perfectly complement any Independence Day celebration.

Cherry Red Long Platter

Handmade and hand-painted by Gorky Gonzalez, this beautiful long platter is cherry red on the inside and white on the outside/bottom. This platter is great for serving vegetables, dessert, or an assortment of cheeses. The festive cherry red creates a lovely contrast to food, making any appetizer look its best.

red serving platter by gorky gonzalez

Purchase Here

Recipe suggestion: Grilled Okra and Tomatoes

El Mar Oval Serving Dish

Another Gorky Gonzalez piece, this dish is super useful. It’s great for serving a side dish or tossed green salad.

blue and white serving platter

 

Purchase here 

Recipe suggestion: Jicama and Watermelon Salad

Chalk White Serving Plate

Whether used as a serving plate or a charger, this simple piece will add authentic charm to your table. Mix and match with a red or blue serving plate, a festive blue and white platter, or for a more sophisticated look, try a red and white Italian charger plate.

white serving platter

 

Purchase here 

Recipe suggestion: Grilled Bread With Zucchini, Ricotta, and Basil

Blue and White Serving Platter

This blue and white serving platter adds subtle sophistication to any appetizer or side dish. Even without food, it looks great on display and works in both traditional and contemporary homes.

blue and white serving platter

 

Purchase here

Recipe idea: Grilled Steak with Green Beans, Tomatoes and Chimichurri Sauce 

Cherry Red Oval Serving Dish

Another festive serving platter by Gorky. This bright oval dish has a cherry red glaze on the inside and is chalk white on the outside/bottom. It looks great paired with the blue and white patterns of Gorky’s other pieces… especially for the Fourth of July!

red serving platter

 

Purchase here

Recipe idea: Grilled Halibut with Peach and Pepper Salsa

 

Need more? Take a peek at our red, white and blue bowls. Perfect for serving up delicious ice cream or a bowl of refreshing gazpacho.

– Shop our entire Fourth of July Collection Here –

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5 Tips for Adding Blue and White Ceramics to Your Home

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

Here are five tips for instant blue and white style.

blue and white ceramics

Use unexpected containers

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

Mix style with functionality

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

Go for the walls

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

Make snacks attractive

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

Mix patterns

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

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

Shop Blue and White Ceramics here.

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Celebrating Mexican Pottery with an ‘Indian Summer Taco Party’

While I enjoyed the “real” winter in Colorado last year, I am having a lot of trouble letting go of summer. Lucky for me, it has been practically perfect weather for the last week in Boulder. Like mid-60s to mid-70s, sun shining and just a few wispy clouds. Plus, the leaves are changing making for a super vibrant color spectrum of yellow, orange, and blue. In honor of this beautiful weather — and the impending cold, dark months to come — I decided to host a little taco party. I kept it pretty simple, focusing on fresh guacamole, carne asada tacos, and refreshing coin style margaritas.

I decided to make this party about celebrating Mexican pottery as well as great Mexican food (and lovely warm weather). I think I spent more time picking out the serving dishes, plates, bowls, and glassware than I did preparing the food! What I came up with was a color pallet that matched the scenery outside: warm oranges and yellows set against crisp blues and whites. These pieces fit the season and they made the food look delicious. Here are a few photos from the evening:

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Here’s a link to all the Mexican pottery featured at my taco party >>

While the “Agua” Cups and Pitcher are actually from Spain, I thought they added a fun and fitting touch for serving and drinking water. I always reach for the El Mar Platter and matching Serving Plate when I want interesting shapes, a subtle color pallet, and a decorative but not distracting pattern. To that I added the La Mexicana Dinner Plates and Dip Bowls (I love this classic pattern from Gorky Gonzalez). Of course I opted for a few bright pops of color, with the rich Pumpkin Bowls and Dinner Plates, the Cucumber Long Platter with Floral Relief and bright orange cotton napkins. The table was super colorful and the food was delicious! I think I definitely achieved my goal of celebrating Mexican pottery and paying tribute to what’s officially my new favorite season: Indian Summer.

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Labor Day Party Ideas: Time for White Platters

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

backyard grill

Classic BBQ

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

picnic spread

Potluck Picnic

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

white platter

Skewer Party

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

skewers on the grill

Grill image courtesy Robert S. Donovan via Compfight cc.

Picnic spread image courtesy Josh Liba via Compfight cc.

Skewer image courtesy joshbousel via Compfight cc.

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Our Favorite Handmade Handpainted Majolica

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

Victorian majolica

Victorian majolica

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

majolica serving platters

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

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

Mexican serving platter

 

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

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

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

Green kitchen image courtesy Mendelson Group via Laura Casey Interiors.

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Mother’s Day Celebration at the Boulder Showroom

IMG_4691

Last Saturday we celebrated moms at the Boulder Showroom. I was fortunate enough to have my mom fly in from California to help me prep for the party and join in the festivities. We bought lots of beautiful fresh flowers, rearranged a few of the shop displays, and even added two new tables: A round one dedicated to our Ethiopian Table Linens and French turquoise planters; And a low coffee table which I filled with stacks of Richard’s fun dinner and salad plates.

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It’s always more fun to clean and fix up the shop with company and my mom was a great help! She picked out her favorite pitcher by Sylvie Duriez for me to give her as a Mother’s Day gift — and of course added a few more pieces to her large collection of Gorky’s El Mar pieces. My mom is an expert gardener as well, so I put her to work planting my window boxes outside. (Unfortunately, we had to unplant them later because it snowed the following day! So now I’m trying to keep my flowers alive inside the showroom until it’s safe to plant them outside.)

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When it came time for the party, we used mostly white platters for serving. I love Ceramica Valenciana’s serving platters, which I piled high with muffins and strawberries. I also used one of Gorky’s white platters to arrange a variety of cookies. We served Italian Prosecco with fresh squeezed orange juice and made coffee for our guests as well.

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It was a fun morning with friends stopping by to enjoy a mimosa and admire the new arrivals from France and Italy. The weekend coincided with CU Boulder’s graduation, so we had a few guests from around the country (and one from the UK) who were in town celebrating their children. All in all it was a great day… and I was very glad to have my mom’s help cleaning up afterward!

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Creating a Great Bridal Registry

angel_platter_2When it comes to putting together the perfect gift registry, the most important thing to remember is: ‘you are what you register for.’ In other words, choose stores and products that speak to who you are (both bride and groom)… and who you are as a couple. If you achieve that, your guests will enjoy buying you gifts and you will love receiving them.

So don’t just list what your mom tells you to list. And don’t just go to Crate & Barrel because everyone else you know did. Think about what you really want and need, what your fiancé wants and needs, and most importantly, what the two of you will truly use and enjoy together. And then list away! Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking…

For Entertaining

Do you love having people over for drinks, dinner, brunch, or barbecue? Maybe you aren’t a great entertainer yet, but you aspire to be one. Either way, if hosting parties is something that excites you, be sure to include the supplies you need on your registry. The bonus of these gifts is that your friends and family will be able to see them being used and enjoyed when they come to your next dinner party!

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Best Stores for Entertaining Supplies:
– Emilia Ceramics for Unique Platters and Serving Bowls
– Williams-Sonoma for Barbecue Supplies
– Crate & Barrel for Glassware

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For New Homeowners

Does getting married coincide with moving into a new house? Lucky you… what a great time to ask friends to contribute special additions to your home that will become future family heirlooms. When you’re shopping for gifts that will be incorporated into your new home decor, it’s important to pick classic objects that won’t be out of style a year from now.

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Best Stores for Home Decor:
– Macy’s for Bed and Bath
– Emilia Ceramics for Lamps and Vases
– Sur la Table for Pots and Pans

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For World Travelers

Again, you don’t have to be a world traveler to aspire to travel the world… now’s your chance to get help from friends and family who want to encourage your dreams as a married couple. So think big, whether that means new suitcases, camping equipment, or ceramics that mentally transport you to the South of France or the Mexican Riviera.

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Best Stores for Travel-Related Gifts:
– Macy’s for Luggage
– REI for Camping Equipment
– Emilia Ceramics for Worldly Mugs

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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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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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Blue and White Mexican Pottery Promises Good Luck in 2014!

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

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

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

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

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

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New Hand Painted Italian Ceramics from Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio

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When thinking about hand painted Italian ceramics words like durable, intricate, original, and historic come to mind. From the locally sourced clay to fabulous, colorful glazes, Italian ceramics certainly stand out. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to find Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, a studio run by the brothers Antonio and Carlo, in Deruta, Italy. Another historic center for majolica, the highly ornate designs and lush colors of Deruta ceramics are justly famous. After I met the amazing team of artists at this third generation family workshop in the summer of 2013, I knew I had to share them as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection. Unpacking the boxes has been amazing.

For centuries hand painted Italian ceramics were used by wealthy families for their meals and home decor. Deruta became known for the intricate decorative work on their ceramics, setting their plates particularly apart from the rest. Gialletti Giulio’s exquisite plate collection continues this tradition, with intricate borders in an amazing array of colors. I love how the patterned borders create a strong statement when stacked together.

Italian hand painted ceramic platesItalian hand painted plates The decorative patterns really shine on their one of a kind jewelry boxes too. The flower-inspired motifs remind me of mandalas. You can also see every brushstroke, which makes these pieces even more special. These jewelry boxes are definitely a great gift idea for anyone who loves Italy and needs a small piece they can see every day on a dresser or tabletop.

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Other great daily reminders of Italy also include a variety of home accessories like salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar sets, and soap dispensers.

Italian salt and pepper setServing platters are another versatile, high-impact piece whether used as a centerpiece or holding your main course for dinner. Watching the artists work at Gialletti Giulio was much like visiting my other Italian artists; these are truly people who are meticulous and have a passion for their craft. I can’t wait to see what I unpack next so I can share even more of their amazing hand painted Italian ceramics with you all.

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Holiday Hours, New Arrivals, and Ginger Jars

Emilia Ceramics holiday hours

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

Holiday Hours

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

New Artists

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

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

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Ginger Jars

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

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

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The Pefect Gift: A Handmade Serving Platter


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Our Grand Opening Party!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Party Planning Tips from Our Boulder Showroom Grand Opening

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

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

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

Wine glass image courtesy Dave Dugdale.

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The Perfect Mexican Ceramics to Celebrate the Day of the Dead

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

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

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

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

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

skeleton bowlCandy skulls image courtesy of Glen Van Etten.

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Fall French Meals for French Platters

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

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

Crêpes

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

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

Cassoulet

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

French Onion Soup

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

Pear Clafouti

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

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

yellow French platterCassoulet image courtesy of stu_spivack.

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French Ceramics: Patrice Voelkel vs Richard Esteban Pottery

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

richard esteban potteryPatrice Voelkel

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

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

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

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

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

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The 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.

chalk white pitcher

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.

oval blue and white serving plateel_mar

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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Poterie Aigues-Vives: Another Great Visit with Richard Esteban

Well, I made it to Provence! It was a long trip, but well worth it… I checked into my new favorite hotel in St. Rémy-de-Provence and took an immediate dip in the refreshing (by which I mean freezing) swimming pool. I had the rest of the day for some much needed r and r, which helped prepare me for the long day to come, full of driving (and getting lost), shopping (mostly for ceramics), and continuously failing to be understood in French! (It doesn’t matter how much I study the “pronounced as” portion of my French translation book, I seem incapable of saying words correctly! I do have merci and parfait down pretty well though, which goes a long way in relaxed Provence.)

poterieThe plan for the day was to head to Aigues-Vives, a little town in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France where I have now visited Richard Esteban four times! After all those visits, I now know that as long as I can get near the town, I can find Richard. That’s because there are “poterie” signs helpfully displayed throughout town directing you to his home/workshop (like in the photo here). You see, Aigues-Vives is mostly on the map because of Richard Esteban’s ceramic work. It is a lovely little town, but I’m not sure anyone would visit unless they had heard of the polka-dot, stripe, and songbird designs painted there… or the charismatic artist himself.IMG_2146

When I arrived yesterday it was quieter than in the past, with just Richard and his right-hand-woman Katia manning the shop. They greeted me enthusiastically, asked about my business and my friend Jessica, who came with me last time I visited. I recently placed a big order with Richard, complete with all the polka-dot mugs, pitchers, and plates that have recently sold out at Emilia Ceramics. I knew immediately though that I’d be adding to that order while visiting the shop in person. That’ll give Richard some more euros to put in his custom-made piggy bank, as he is demonstrating in the funny photo on the right (with Katia)!

I’ve described before how Richard’s shop is like my personal heaven on earth. So many beautiful works of art — from giant statues of birds and soldiers, to small plates proclaiming Vive l’Amour. Each piece is original, whether in the shade of its rustic glaze or in its hand-molded design and shape. There is so much to see and be amazed by. Add to that the ambiance created by open doors and windows to let the warm breeze through, songbirds chirping in their cages, and pet dogs lazily strolling around or sleeping in the shade.

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Richard was the same outgoing character as in the past — At the end of the afternoon he mustered up his best English and asked “You want drink wine?” Of course I did… but I passed as I was already feeling my jet-lag kick in and needed to drive another couple of hours. It’s a good thing I said no, as the signs leading away from his “poterie” are not quite as clear as those getting there. My early success had given me too much confidence in my directional skills and I proceeded to get very lost on my way back to St. Rémy.  Luckily, that’s what I’ve come to expect on these trips. What’s an adventure in Provence without a little time spent circling roundabouts until you feel dizzy?! I had a great first day in France and I can’t wait for all that’s to come. Tomorrow I go see Sylvie and Poterie Ravel. And next week, andiamo a Italia! I can’t wait — I have high hopes that my Italian pronunciations will be much better! Honestly, they couldn’t get any worse : ).

 

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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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Set a Rustic Tuscan Table with Ceramic Pitchers and Other Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

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

If Mom likes…

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

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

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

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

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

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The Irresistible Charm of Blue and White Mexican Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese 13th century plate image courtesy of World Imaging.

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

 

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Behind the Scenes: Patrice Voelkel’s French Ceramics

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

Patrice Voelkel

I learned about Patrice Voelkel from a book on French ceramic artists that Sylvie Duriez loaned me many years ago. Since Patrice lived near where I was staying in St. Remy, I decided to check out his studio one rainy spring day. Thankfully it was clearly marked and easy to find – the French ceramics that covered the shelves are truly unique and unlike anything else in the Emilia Ceramics collection.

rustic blue pitcher

Patrice works with his wife Sylviane to create French ceramics with a modern sensibility that are deeply grounded in tradition. They use local black clay and create everything from design to finished product between just the two of them. Their dog Tina Turner keeps them company in their studio, known as Poterie Herbes Folles, which I think is named after the area’s wild and crazy grass. Patrice has worked with ceramics for over 33 years; he started making French ceramics near Lyon and then moved to the countryside and started Herbes Folles.

French ceramics drying in the sun

Poterie Herbes FollesThe Voelkels glaze their pieces with a variety of liquid-like colors, but I especially love their marbled blue and celadon pieces, as well as those in a contemporary chalk white. (Patrice himself seems to love blue – every time I visit the workshop he’s wearing some kind of blue shirt!) Patrice and Sylviane’s French ceramics are often large, heavy, and make a serious statement. The rustic grittiness truly reflects the little farmhouse and workshop where they are made. On my last visit, I saw pieces drying in the afternoon sun while Patrice worked on the wheel and Sylviane prepared ceramics for their final firing.

Patrice at work on French ceramics

I now have some new French ceramics by Patrice and Sylviane on the website. The one of a kind serving platter, rustic pitchers, and olive oil pitcher all in a rich indigo are ideal for bringing a bit of Provence to your home.

rustic blue platter

From spoon rests to prep bowls to serving platters, these French ceramics are stunning additions for any collection, reflecting so much of the people who made them with care and love. After working with Patrice for so long, I’m very happy I decided to take a detour in the rain all those springs ago.

white serving platter

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Bartoloni’s Lemons: More than Simply Decorative Plates

Looking for a decorative dinner plate that will bring cheer to your table? With Italian hand painted plates, your search is over. From square limoni plates to large serving platters, the lemon motifs by the Bartoloni brothers are a sure winner for kitchens and dining rooms alike.

lemon decorative plate

There are many factors that make these decorative plates so appealing. The rich colors are one; for example, the cobalt blue background contrasts pleasingly with bright yellows and greens on the blu limoni plates. The bright white of the limoni due square plate is more subtle, but just as vibrant with its two lemons (or limoni due) in the center and aquamarine border along the plate’s edge.

white lemon square plate

The unique rounded square shape also adds character to these Italian hand painted plates. They work well for serving appetizers, desserts, or side dishes with causal elegance. I’ve used them for artisanal meats and cheeses at dinner parties as well as delicate French macarons. No matter what they serve, these plates empty quickly – I think it’s because they make food look so delicious!Italian hand painted plates

Of course, hand painted dinner plates also appeal because of the human touch in their creation. Hand painting means that no two plates are exactly alike. The individual brush strokes, incredible detailing, and overall liveliness make for useful and usable works of art. For this reason lots of people like to hang the blu limoni plate as a wall decoration when not using it to serve. It’s just too vibrant to hide away in a cabinet.

Ceramiche Bartoloni’s lemons grace more than just plates, with mugs, pitchers, soap dishes, and spoon rests that continue the theme. Whether used as an accent or a central motif, these lemon plates are the perfect way to brighten a room with a touch of Tuscan charm.

lemon muglemon pitcher

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

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

Illuminate

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

green table lamp

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

green candle holder

Serve

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

large green cheese plate

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

green pitcher

Soften

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

Plant

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

green vase

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

green wall planter

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

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

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Contemporary Blue and White Ceramics with Mexican Flair

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

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

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

blue and white ginger jar

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

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

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

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

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Much Loved (and Used) Favorites!

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

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

gorky gonzalez serving platters and plate

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

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

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

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An Italian Country Style Gift Guide

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

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

Here are some Italian Country Gift Ideas:

Large serving tray

richard esteban serving platter

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

Italian pottery spoon rest

italian spoon rest

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

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

Ceramic serving dishes

oval platter

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

Italian country mugs

italian country mug

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

Tuscan utensil holder

italian country wine bottle or utensil holder

 

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

Tuscany image courtesy of Podere Casanova.

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Our Gift Guide for the Person With Everything

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

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

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

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

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

blue rooster utensil holder

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

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

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

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Four Holiday Party Ideas with Gorky Style and Flair

Once again it’s the holiday season. Time to shop, go to parties, and hear Christmas music everywhere you go. Entertaining never seems to stop between work parties, family obligations, and gatherings with friends. Looking for some ways to avoid blah entertaining? Here are four party ideas and ways to make them a success (hint: just add some creativity, Mexican ceramics, and some red plates):

1. Family sit-down dinner. No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or all three, chances are your family will find a time to gather in December. Use festive trivets to protect your table top from those delicious hot roasts and sides. The bright colors of Mexican ceramics add cheer to your serving platters and plates as well, whether they’re filled with appetizers or desserts. I love this red plate filled with homemade cookies – it’s a hit for guests of all ages.

2. Ugly sweater open house. The open house party is a great way to casually get together with friends, neighbors, and colleagues. This year, have an off-beat theme as a way to make the mingling easier. Ugly holiday sweaters are always a fun bet (and a great conversation starter), especially if you have a contest for the ugliest sweater, sweater with the most sparkles, etc. In keeping with the causal atmosphere, choose Gorky Gonzalez pottery with California cool. Oblong serving trays (like this red serving plate) are ideal for finger foods both savory and sweet. Pile cookies on plates around your party zone so that your guests can’t resist just one more nibble.

 

3. Festive cocktail party. Pull out those recipes for mulled wine, spiked cider, Irish coffee, and other warming delights – ’tis the season for warm drinks. Choose colorful Mexican ceramic mugs for serving. Different colors and patterns make it less likely your guests will lose their drinks. While many warm drinks work well kept on the stove or in a crockpot, offer some classic cocktails (such as an old fashioned or kir royale) pre-mixed in pitchers with labels for your guests. This keeps you from having to play bartender and lets your guests try a variety of old seasonal favorites.

4. Gingerbread house building party. Little kids can build simple homes out of graham crackers and frosting, or you can go whole hog and create a gingerbread mansion with all your guests. Gingerbread houseNo matter the scale, use these Gorky Gonzalez pottery bowls for your “building materials” such as gum drops, candy canes, and sprinkles. Building small gingerbread houses on a large flat Gorky plate ensures plenty of room for creativity.

Do you have ways you use your Gorky Gonzalez pottery in California or anywhere across the country for the holidays? Leave a comment below with any of your favorite tips for entertaining with Mexican ceramics and style.

Gingerbread house image courtesy of Kermitfrog 🙂.

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Guest Blogger Bethany: Six Months Later with New Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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