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Craving Tapas? Add Spanish Ceramics for Delicious Results!

One of my favorite things about Spain are the tapas bars. Endless small plates, delicious wine… it’s a great way to spend an evening or afternoon with friends. Or in my case, the perfect way to unwind after looking at endlessly beautiful ceramics at Ceramica Valenciana. This same causal vibe is one of the reasons Spanish dinnerware is so popular; the ceramics are just as delicious as the food they serve!

Traveling to Spain not in your immediate future? Why not throw a tapas party? The individual elements are fairly simple and the result is a lovely way to spend time with people you enjoy. Here’s what you’ll need for tapas success at home:

Spanish MusicScreen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.15.42 PM

The right music instantly sets the atmosphere. And for a real Spanish party, there’s nothing like Flamenco. I’ll never forget how when I lived in Sevilla, Spain, I’d walk into tiny little bars and find people playing the guitar and singing Flamenco casually in the corner. This photo shows just that — the whole bar would all start singing along, clapping, and occasionally dancing too.

For your own tapas party, you can’t go wrong with Flamenco music. If you have it in your collection, the Gipsy Kings will do, and if not, use Pandora’s traditional Spanish station, one of the many internet radio stations on iTunes, or a similar streaming service for the right grooves. Keep the music low so that people can easily talk over it. Music done.

Spanish Food

This quirky post on The Paupered Chef outlines just how easy it is to make food for a tapas party. Some delicious Spanish ham (Serrano if you can find it), olives, cheese, and bread provides your base. A tortilla espanol (basically a potato omelet served at room temperature) is another staple. Sausages, shrimp, grilled bread with a variety of spreads and tapenades, marinated mushrooms… the list goes on and on. Check out Real Simple, Martha Stewart, and All Recipes for more tapas ideas and recipes. Food done.

Spanish tapas

Spanish Ceramics

The real workhorses of a tapas evening, Spanish ceramics will make all your delicious treats look their best for your guests. A variety of small plates and serving platters are key, as are bowls for dips and spreads. Also have a stack of small plates for your guests to load up with their favorite bites (if everyone is moving around the room) as well as plenty of napkins. Ceramica Valenciana has a host of serving pieces, from little plates to salsa bowls, that are perfect for tapas. Spanish dinnerware done.

Spanish ceramicssalsa bowls

Spanish Wine

Make a bowl of Sangria with red wine, fruit, and brandy (do this at least one day ahead so everything can soak for maximum flavor. Or head for your favorite Spanish wine bottles: Rioja and Priorat are classic Spanish reds. Or go for the sparkles of cava, a crisp Spanish white, or even a rosé. As one of the top wine producers in the world, there’s plenty of wine to choose from. Drinks done!

Now all you need to do is add the people and you have a tapas party all without heading to Spain. ¡Que aproveche!

Tapas images courtesy The Travelling Bum and heatheronhertravels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Champagne image courtesy of maxxtraffic.

Rosca de reyes image courtesy of From Argentina With Love.

Broken plate image courtesy of Kristian Thøgersen.

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Celebrate Our 4th Anniversary with 15% Off!

I can’t believe it’s been four years since I started Emilia Ceramics. I began by carrying handmade ceramics from just a few artists like Gorky Gonzalez and Tuscia d’Arte and now am proud to work with eleven artists from France, Italy, Mexico, and yes, Spain (coming this fall).

It couldn’t have happened without fantastic customers like you. That’s why this month we’re celebrating with discounts – but you’ll need to work for it (though not too hard, I promise).

Simply send us a photo (or a few photos) of the Emilia Ceramics you already own, in your home. Whether you’re serving dinner on one of Gorky’s plates, displaying fresh flowers in a Vazquez vase, or enjoying your morning coffee in a Bartoloni mug, we want to see it in action!

Here’s how to get your discount:

Option 1: Email us the photo(s) of your loved Emilia Ceramics in action, we’ll send you a 10% off coupon in return.

Option 2: Like us on Facebook and post your photo(s) on our wall. Then send us a private message so we can send you a thank you in the form of a 15% off coupon.

We’ll post all the photos on the Emilia Ceramics Facebook page and our Pinterest album Emilia Ceramics in Action. The best photos will also be featured on our new website, set to launch in October. And who knows, our favorite photo overall might even get a little extra something… wink, wink!

Don’t own any Emilia Ceramics yet? Don’t worry, you have until the end of August to buy that piece you’ve been lusting after, photograph it in action and send/post the photo. Then we’ll send you the coupon. No matter how you get us your photos, you can use the one-time discount through the end of 2012.

The offer ends August 31st, so get your cameras out and send us your photos now!

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My Obsession with Majolica Dinnerware, Fine Italian Ceramics, Spanish Pottery, and More!

My love of Spanish pottery and fine Italian ceramics is long-standing and one of the reasons I began Emilia Ceramics. While living in Southern Spain, I saw gorgeous pieces of pottery (plates, cups, and bowls were only the beginning) being used everyday that were just as unique as the people using them. I realized that I couldn’t use all the pieces I thought were beautiful, but knew that there were others who would love them too. And thus Emilia Ceramics came into being.

Now my collection includes fine Italian ceramics, Tuscan pottery, as well as ceramics from France and Mexico. I’m excited because it looks like I’ll be adding Spanish pottery (by Ceramica Valenciana) to the Emilia Collection by the end of the summer (crossing my fingers about how shipping times work out). All these pieces emerge from the same roots and display similar techniques — resulting in majolica dinnerware and accessories that have distinctively “fat glazes,” vibrant colors, and unique designs that vary not only from region to region, but also from artist to artist.

But while I love these new pieces being produced today, what about vintage pottery? Collectors of Quimper, Fiestaware, majolica from Deruta and Faenza, as well as other fine Italian ceramics know what I’m talking about. A friend sent me a link to some Portuguese pottery she’d found made by SECLA (this espresso cup was my favorite piece) and it got me thinking about how designs and glazes have both changed and stayed the same for all these years. Just look at these Portuguese pottery tiles, ashtrays, and vases designed by Ferreira da Silva. Most of them are from the 1950s, yet their modern lines and fun designs could come out of an artist’s studio today.

That’s one of the reasons I love all kinds of pottery – they hold timeless appeal. Fine Italian ceramics become heirlooms, whether it’s a plate or a lamp. Majolica dinnerware graces the table for decades since its sturdy construction holds up quite nicely to the rigors of daily use. Not only does Tuscan, French, Mexican, and Spanish pottery look great, it’s functional and stylish. No wonder I keep finding artists whose pieces I love to add to the Emilia Collection!

Portuguese pottery image courtesy of R.Ferrao.

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What Sets Fine Italian Ceramics Apart?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Azulejos image courtesy of Concierge.2C.