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Gift Guide Part I: Gifts for Under $50

Well, it’s officially holiday season. We are quickly approaching December and that means holiday shopping, parties, delicious meals, time off from school and work, and spending time with loved ones. While it may not even be Thanksgiving yet, many of you are already brainstorming gift ideas for friends, coworkers, and loved ones. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving you gift ideas at different price points and tailored toward everyone on your list, starting with today’s theme: Gifts for Under $50.


1. Jewelry Boxes

A great gift to give your mom, sister, or best friend! With many different color schemes and designs to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect match. Hand-painted exclusively by Talavera Vazquez in Mexico. Starting at $24.

JewelryBoxes

Mexican Jewelry Boxes

Shop Our Jewelry Box Collection Here >>


 

2. Round Vases

Our round vases are the perfect gift for any home. Available in various colors, they can be placed anywhere in the home (think kitchen, bedside table, office, or bathroom), look great alone or with a small floral bouquet, and compliment any style of home decor. Handmade by Talavera Vazquez in Mexico. Starting at $48.

RoundVases

 

Shop Our Vase Collection Here >>


 

3. Colorful GoGo Pottery

Whether it’s a pair of bright green mugs or a festive serving platter, colorful Gogo Pottery is a gift that will be enjoyed for years to come. Handmade by artist Gorky Gonzalez in Mexico. Starting at $20.

gorkymugs

 

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Our newest additions to this collection are these charming GoGo Square Plates (below). Perfect for holding appetizers, small entrees, and desserts, they’ll be cherished far beyond the holiday season.

GoGoSquarePlate

 

Shop Gogo Mexican Pottery Here >>


 

4. Fabulous French Coffee Bowls & Mugs

Some of our most popular pieces year-round at Emilia Ceramics are our french polka dot dishes! The bowls come in 3 sizes: cereal ($34), ice-cream ($32), and dip ($30). I love giving a trio of dip bowls, or a pair of ice-cream bowls. Our polka dot mugs are equally charming. They make an easy gift for coffee-loving friends or family. Handmade by Richard Esteban in France.

french polka dot bowlsfrench polka dot mugs

Shop the Richard Esteban Collection Here >>

Need More Ideas? Gifts >>

 

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Capelo Pottery: Old World Charm Meets Sophistication

When it comes to finding a statement piece to add old world charm to your home — or giving a sophisticated, one-of-a-kind gift that is sure to impress — Capelo pottery is a sure bet. Capelo and his small team of artists never paint the same pattern twice and no two shapes are exactly the same. This individuality ensures that every piece of Capelo pottery exudes pure Mexican charm and sophistication. Here’s a rundown of my favorite Capelo pottery pieces, each of which is still available on the website: Capelo Pottery Collection. But remember, there’s only one of each, so if you decide that a particular vase or bowl is the perfect addition to your home, you better hurry! Not only do we have limited Capelo pottery in stock, but there will never be another piece exactly the same.

Statement Pieces: Vases and Candleholders

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Never has a flower vase better filled the description of statement piece than Capelo’s Fleur de Lys Vase. While it shows off long-stemmed flowers perfectly, it also looks great on its own. The rich glazes, beautifully-painted design, and sophisticated shape will dress up any book shelf or entryway nook.

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I am also a huge fan of the Kenzie Candleholder. It’s pure old world Mexican charm makes it the ideal family heirloom to pass down for generations to come. We do have two of these, which make a great pair, especially because they are perfectly imperfect (not exactly the same as each other).

Functional Pieces (that go way beyond function): Plates and Bowls

While Capelo’s Little Plates are just that (little) they have big personality. Never has a dessert plate been more fun to use (whether for dessert, breakfast, tapas, or holding jewelry next to your bed). Each of our six little plates is unique, meaning each person at your table can choose their personal favorite. Then choose another favorite the next day! little_plate_5
Capelo pottery is true artwork. Each piece combines creativity, whimsy, and perfectly-applied glazes. It is unique when such sophisticated artwork is also highly functional, which is why I love Capelo’s bowls so much. They make the perfect backdrop for a tossed salad, but also work as a centerpiece between meals. Or fill them with fruit on your kitchen counter. Equally beautiful and useful, these bowls make great gifts!

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Do you have any Capelo pottery in your home? What do you think it is about Capelo pottery that makes it so special?

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The Best Decorative Dinner Plates for Summer Dining: 3 Tips

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

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

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

 rectangle serving platter

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

decorative dinner plate - orange stripeyellow dinner plate

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

dishware set

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

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Fellow Caffeine Fans, French Coffee Mugs Are Back!

I have a confession: I am addicted to warm beverages. Specifically my morning tea (often earl grey with cream and honey), though an early afternoon coffee is hard to resist. Of course, if I want to get any sleep, I have to carefully juggle the coffee/exercise/time equation. And then there’s getting the accessories right: which mug to use is of paramount importance, as is the tea or coffee pot if I’m brewing at home. Sound like anyone you know?

French coffee mugs

Thankfully with all the new French arrivals at Emilia Ceramics, I have plenty of beverage accessories to add to my collection. The polka dots on Richard Esteban’s French coffee bowls remain a favorite; I just love the easy way these pieces mix and match. Richard’s French coffee mugs are another must. There’s even a place to rest your thumb on the handle (good for not spilling as I walk my full cup back to my desk). The barn red is my personal favorite, but just like his French coffee bowls, there are plenty of color combinations to mix and match with abandon. These mugs also hit the sweet spot size-wise: big enough that you don’t have to constantly refill, but not so big that the contents are cold by the time you get to last sips. These are definitely a sure winner if you’re trying to buy ceramics for a caffeine lover.

red French coffee mug

Summer is also almost here, which means it’s time to start brewing iced tea and iced coffee. And that means it’s time for pitchers! Looking to expand your summer serving ware? Try pieces like the quirky Richard pitcher, complete with hat and mustache or one of his polka dot pitchers to match the bowls and mugs.

Richard pitcher

Other fun beverage accessories of the moment: cream and sugar sets (perfect for entertaining) and the modern Ceramica Valenciana coffee pot. Sure, it’s Spanish, not French, but it beautifully compliments the playful chic of Richard’s ceramics. So many coffee mugs, so little time.

coffee pot

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the kettle is boiling… time for another cup!

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4 Spring Design Trends Beyond #Coloroftheyear

Radiant orchid is just the tip of the spring design iceberg (if I may mix my metaphors). Pantone’s color of the year 2014 is everywhere from makeup to home accessories, coating the world in a wonderfully vibrant purple-pink. Inspired by sunshine, pastels, and warmer temperatures, here are four more on-trend ways to refresh your home in time for spring entertaining.

flower bowls

1. Get crafty!

I’m a sucker for DIY and love Apartment Therapy’s recent posts about spring craft projects: lots of Easter-themed ideas here (many of them great for kids), floral-themed projects here. Maybe this year I will finally make those paper flowers I keep seeing all over the blogosphere. Maybe.

paper flowers

2. Bring on the pastels.

The pastel hues this year are a bit richer than I remember, playing well with existing neutrals. HGTV calls the pastels “romantic” – shades of lavender, soft green, pink, and (you guessed it), orchid are definitely fresh. Pair these shades with neutrals (think gray, navy, or cream, not beige) for an uplifting pop.

Radiant orchid room design

3. Go outside…

Sure, it’s still not really all that warm in most places yet. But it will be soon! Take heart and plan for living outside on your patio/deck/porch/balcony. I’m inspired by Elements of Style’s take on the Gramercy Park Hotel’s terrace. The fig leaf pillows are particularly wonderful, especially with the black and white palette and lush greenery.

 terrace at the Gramercy Park Hotel

4. …Or bring the flowers inside.

Soft, diffused watercolor florals are all over the runways. The same goes for graphic florals: mirrors, wallpaper, purses, and dresses only get things started. Check out Elle Decor for more ideas. The take home is that no matter how stylized or abstract the flowers, these harbingers of spring are a definite must for both fashion and home decor.

mini flower bowlHow are you decorating for spring this year? Will you do anything special for Easter or Passover? Leave your decorating tips and ideas below and enjoy the sunshine!

Paper flower image via Sweet Paul Magazine.

Orchid inspiration via Pantone.

Patio image via Elements of Style.

 

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Deruta Plates: Italian Dinnerware at Its Finest

Deruta has been famous for centuries and after a quick look at its ceramics (both old and new), it’s easy to see why. One of Italy’s largest ceramic production areas, there are more than 300 ceramic workshops in Deruta today. Just as with other historical ceramic centers in Italy, modern Deruta is home to a mix of traditional artists still crafting everything by hand and those now mass producing their work. What’s wonderful about Deruta in particular is that it’s still possible to visit the artists who are following the old ways, in their studios. I’ve visited many artists there over the years while looking for the perfect fit for the Emilia Ceramics collection. Finding the Gialletti family-run studio took a long time, but was definitely worth the effort.

DerutaDeruta jewelry boxes

Ceramics have been made in Deruta since the 14th century. Classic patterns such as Raffaellesco, Arabesco, and Gallo Verde harken back to its Renaissance peak, with each piece of Italian dinnerware painted by hand. Artists train under masters for years, perfecting their technique since majolica is a completely unforgiving medium. You can’t erase the glaze if you paint outside of the pattern. With all those intricate details, I always hold my breath when watching the artists at work. I’m afraid if I make a noise I’ll ruin everything!

Deruta Italian dinnerware
Italian dinnerware

This video by Geribi underlines the epic nature of Deruta as well as shows examples of its long history. Some of the fragments look much like pieces made by Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, which is quite amazing.

Want more Deruta? Check out the area’s history and incredible Italian dinnerware to see for yourself why so many people are just a little obsessed. Pinterest is also full of beautiful Deruta, though it’s a mix of authentic, handpainted pieces and imitation designs that have been mass-produced. With all these beautiful pieces of Italian dinnerware, I’m sure that Deruta will remain loved for centuries to come.

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Loving Sylvie Duriez!

I recently sent out a newsletter (what?! you don’t get our newsletter? Sign up here) entitled: “Unique is French for Awesome.” It was all about our most popular French artist Sylvie Duriez and her one-of-a-kind, totally original and totally awesome ceramic artwork. It’s difficult to describe Sylvie’s work… and nearly impossible to truly impart its beauty through online photos. You just have to see it to believe it.

Sylvie Duriez Collection
(While the new Sylvie Collection just arrived, I picked all these pieces out while visiting Sylvie back in June. If you want to learn more about Sylvie, here’s her bio: Sylvie Duriez — Or you can read the post from my last visit to her studio in Pertuis, France.)

sylvie_on_wheel
Sylvie throws each piece by hand, sticking to pretty basic shapes: tall cylindrical pitchers, little pitchers, bowls of various size and shape, and plates. The magic really happens after she’s fired these pieces and begins to decorate them. Sylvie dips each piece in a cream colored base glaze and then uses a fine needle to draw the outline of her subjects (birds, flowers, dogs, cats, bunnies, girls, and occasionally mice). This creates a cool effect by exposing the terracotta below the base glaze. She then uses subtle, yet beautiful glazes to paint within those lines (and often outside the lines as well) to bring her subjects to life.

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Her paintings are much like watercolors, they consist of only a few brushstrokes, delicately applied and sometimes smeared, but they come together to convey huge emotion and personality. Regardless of their color or size, her dogs, cats, birds, and people spring to life. Even the flowers jump off their ceramic canvas and become animated… so real you can almost touch and smell them.
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And that’s truly what I love best about Sylvie’s work — the plates don’t require a perfectly arranged meal… the pitchers don’t require the perfect bouquet of flowers… and the bowls certainly don’t require a beautifully-tossed salad. Each piece makes it’s own statement, all on its own. Regardless of whether it is displayed on a shelf or set on a table, used for food, full of flowers, or left empty, the piece itself is the art and it imparts beauty all day long, everyday. I guess I could say the same about each piece in the Emilia Ceramics collection. After all, I choose each one individually because it inspires me and I believe it will bring joy and beauty to the home where it ends up. They are all handmade lovingly to be used and enjoyed… but mostly enjoyed. Sylvie Duriez, however, really ups the anty. Her pieces are true works of art. Each one an individual. Each one conveying its own unique story with its own unique personality and beauty. And that’s why ‘unique is French for awesome!’

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Favorite Handmade Ceramics Bowls from France

For all you fans of Sylvie Duriez, the wait is finally over. Her new collection of one of a kind, gorgeous handmade ceramic bowls, pitchers, and plates is now making its way onto the website. After photographing all these French bowls, I have them on the brain!

handmade ceramic bowl
Each of Sylvie’s bowls tells its own unique story. These dogs in the snow look incredibly content, like best friends having the time of their lives; the robin perched on a blossoming branch seems to promise spring.

handmade ceramic bowl

The two mice in the sun on this dish also spoke to me. I love their shadows and the gentle colors of the background.

handmade ceramic bowl

Richard Esteban pottery bowls have a totally different look and feel, though no less appeal. His polka dot collection of handmade ceramic bowls is perfectly sized for everything from dips to huge servings of ice cream or soup. The mix of blue, red, and yellow have endless combination and playful flair.

polka dot bowls
They also compliment the lemon yellow bowls from Poterie Ravel. These French ceramics definitely stand out from the crowd.

lemon yellow handmade ceramic bowls

Other French bowls include workhorses like Richard’s casseroles and Patrice Voelkel’s mix and pour bowl. These handmade ceramic bowls move effortlessly from kitchen to table, no matter what you happen to be serving.

Richard Esteban potteryhandmade ceramic bowl

What kind of handmade ceramic bowls do you find most appealing?

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French Ceramics on the Table: Pinterest Inspirations

Rustic French ceramics invoke a country chic like none other. C’est magnifique, n’est-ce pas? I recently went on a Pinterest binge, pinning all sorts of French country tables, decorating and centerpiece ideas for special occasion, and everyday stylish French living.

French country dining room

Of course, I love supporting French ceramic artists from the prolific Richard Esteban and Poterie Ravel to the unique pieces of Sylvie Durez and Patrice Voelkel. With so many wonderful ceramics, it makes lots of sense that many French country-inspired designs feature open shelving to display pieces when not in use. This blue and white dining room is particularly striking, don’t you think?

French country blue and white dining roomFrench ceramics in country kitchen

French ceramics also mean whimsy. Take Richard’s polka dot dishes – no matter the weather outside, these polka dot bowls, mugs, plates, and pitchers are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. The bright colors also enliven the creams, whites, and medium browns of many French country color schemes.

polka dot dishes
French country colors

 For centerpiece ideas, a flower arrangement is classic French country. Use a pitcher vase or metal bucket for a more rustic touch.French country tableteal pitcher vase

 

And then there are French chickens and roosters, a perpetual favorite. This blue and white rooster has true vintage flair. I can see similar designs working well as wall art or even place mats.

French rooster The key to French country is accessible, beautiful tablewear and a homey, rustic vibe. The open storage for dining areas and kitchens alike allows the perfect combination of function and decoration. What are some of your favorite French country decorating inspirations? Leave a link below or check out our inspiring home decor and France boards on PInterest for even more ideas.

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Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Beyond the Clichés


Roses are red (and tired), chocolates are cliché. What Valentine’s Day gift ideas do you have for this year? If you’re stumped (or want to give some gentle hints), try one of these swaps for your sweetheart this year.

Instead of chocolates, try cheese.

Does she love brie? Maybe he adores Roquefort. For fans of cheese, a cheese plate paired with a specialized server or two will get plenty of use during your dinner parties or intimate evenings in. And unlike a box of chocolates, a good cheese plate and cheese knives will last for years instead of days.

barn_red_cheese_plate

Instead of a bottle of wine, try cups to toast your love.

Ok, if you both like wine, why not add some new ways to drink your favorite vintage this Valentine’s Day? Stemless wine glasses are always a good move (and won’t break in your dishwasher). I’m also loving these rustic chic vino cups and wine pitcher by Ceramica Valenciana.

Whatever kind of wine vessels you choose, take my advice and avoid black glass. They look great, but it’s impossible to tell what’s inside, which becomes a problem when you need to tell the red from the white.

Instead of a necklace, try a jewelry box.

Maybe she has an entire collection of jewelry from all the time you’ve spent together. A jewelry box that matches her personal style prepares for many more beautiful pieces to come. Think about specialized storage for the pieces she collects. Earrings do well hanging on a tree while rings and bracelets are right at home in a smaller box.

unique vases

 

Instead of flowers, try a unique vase.

Flowers fade, but a vase is a great way to make a lasting statement. Try giving your bouquet in a vase suited to the style of your recipient (and the flowers inside). Whether covered in ornate patterns or a single shade, made of ceramic, glass, or another material, these gift ideas have endless possibilities.

Instead of dinner out, try breakfast in.

Valentine’s Day is on a Friday this year, so instead of going out that evening, have a special breakfast the next morning. Serve your sweetheart coffee or tea out of new mugs just for the occasion. A red and white espresso cup is festive; blue and white mugs are also sure to please. Other gift ideas from kitchen accessories to table cloths can also feature in your morning repast. Add some mimosas and you’re ready to go!

 

Still stumped for gift ideas? Try one of our new gift cards. They always fit and that way your love can truly get their heart’s desire (at least ceramic-wise).

Heart image courtesy Muffet.

Breakfast image courtesy Will Merydith.

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New Spanish Ceramics, Just in Time for the Holidays

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After all the wait, I’m thrilled to announce that the newest addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection has arrived just in time holiday gift-giving. These handmade Spanish ceramics from Ceramica Valenciana are playful and sophisticated, showcasing a stark simplicity with clean, modern lines. A family-owned business, Ceramica Valenciana is one of the reasons I started Emilia Ceramics years ago. We’re still unpacking the boxes, but here’s a quick look at what has been unwrapped so far.

blue and white mugsThe blue and white mugs are currently some of my favorites. With gently curved handles and handpainted blue glaze, the designs really stand out. I love how you can see the brush strokes on the blue and white checkered mug; the café mug and mug are perfect for anyone who loves coffee or tea first thing in the morning. And the labeled pots for coffee or tea help the caffeine flow all morning long.

coffee and tea mugs
ceramic coffee pot
Ceramica Valenciana has a whole collection of ceramics that are clearly labeled for easy identification; these coffee and tea sets are just the beginning. Anyone who loves wine will appreciate the vino cups with their rustic flair.

vino cupsThe aqua pitcher and cups round out the set, serving water in an equally stylish manner. Definitely these are great gifts for anyone who loves to entertain.

serving pitcherThe three canister styles are another example of practical Spanish ceramics. Labeled pastas, garbanzos, and arroz, these gently rounded canisters will keep anything looking good on your countertop (including pasta, beans, and rice). I think they would make excellent unexpected cookie jars too.

blue and white canisterWe’ll be getting even more serving pieces from Ceramica Valenciana on the website soon, so make sure and check back for updates as more Spanish ceramics appear over the coming weeks. Otherwise explore our holiday gift ideas as we count down the days until Christmas.

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Spanish Ceramics Coming Soon from Ceramica Valenciana

spanish ceramics from ceramica valenciana
I’ve gotten photos of my new Spanish ceramics from Mari Jose, the third-generation owner of Ceramica Valenciana. After months of waiting, the newest addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection is almost here! I’m incredibly excited and am hopeful that these beautiful Spanish ceramics will arrive before the end of 2013. Luckily, they’re worth the wait!

cocina spanish ceramic Spanish ceramic butter dish spanish ceramic bottlesAs many of you know, Ceramica Valenciana is one of the inspirations behind the founding of Emilia Ceramics. The studio’s full name is La Cerámica Valenciana de José Gimeno and it’s located near Valencia in Manises, Spain. This famous maker of Spanish ceramics has been in business since 1925 and is still family owned. Their work is the perfect combination of innovation and tradition with a uniquely Spanish spirit. Every time I visit their studio I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of patterns, colors, shapes, and unique ceramics that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s truly a wonderful place to spend time.

spanish ceramic salsa bowlsvino wine pitcherCeramica Valenciana is best known for reproductions of traditional ceramics and azulejos (tiles), crafted with love and expertise by their team of artists using traditional majolica techniques. Their modern line still is completely handmade and handpainted, with bowls, plates, serving pieces, canisters, and other Spanish ceramics that have a clean, understated feel. The upcoming arrivals are pictured below being packed up with care. I am trying to not obsessively email reminding them to over pack everything so that nothing breaks. These Spanish ceramics look so great it would be a shame to have them arrive in fragments… so here’s to the magic of good packing material and quality shipping companies. The pitchers and bowls alone are certainly worth waiting for. I can’t wait to share them all with you in the coming months!
packing Spanish ceramics
Spanish ceramics

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Spice Up Your Table with Salt & Pepper Sets

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

salt and pepper sets

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

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

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

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

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

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Showroom Spotlight on Decorative Dinner Plates and Stylish Dining

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

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

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

cowboy decorative platecowgirl decorative serving plate

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

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

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French Ceramics: Patrice Voelkel vs Richard Esteban Pottery

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

richard esteban potteryPatrice Voelkel

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

blue mix and pour bowlyellow French vase

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

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

indigo pitchergreen fish canister

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

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

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The Energy of Orange Decor: Feel Good with Bright Lamps and More!

Burnt Orange Striped Lamp - EmiliaCeramics.com

golden gate bridgeWarm and energetic, orange is definitely a color that lifts the spirits. That’s why it’s such a great way to revitalize a room. From coral to brick, here are some ways to incorporate some orange into your home no matter your current color scheme. I think of it as Golden Gate-inspired decorating. After all, isn’t orange the new black?

Bright orange walls. Definitely a bold statement, orange walls instantly brighten even the gloomiest room. Bright tangerine looks crisp with white shelving or sets off bright blue perfectly. Because of its energy, orange walls are best in areas where you entertain, like the living room and dining room. These citrus-inspired room ideas from Elle Decor definitely make me want to reach for a can of paint!

orange living room
Orange furnishings.
A rust-colored couch or patterned chair is sure to add interest to your living room. The orange table in Barbara Bestor’s home has a wonderfully mod feel that is both classic and contemporary. Orange dining table chairs are another bright touch for a subdued space.

orange table
Burnt orange ginger jars and lamps.
A wall’s worth of orange is a big commitment, so it’s sometimes easier to work the color in with carefully chosen accessories.

orange ceramic accessories

Burnt orange lamps
literally brighten up a room, from a pair of large striped lamps flanking a bed to a smaller zig zag burnt orange lamp on a desk or end table. Using a pale orange lampshade is another easy way to warm a room if you already have lamps you love.

chevron burnt orange lamp burnt orange lamp striped

Rust orange pillows. If your current living room is a sea of neutrals, orange throw pillows add just a pop of color without taking over. Pick a variety of patterns to keep things interesting. The same goes for bedrooms: orange sheets or a duvet cover can be a quick way to make things cozy. And as Centsational Girl points out, orange is a fantastic gender-neutral color for kids’ rooms.

orange kids room
Pantone’s color of 2012 was tangerine tango, and with all the many ways to work orange into your home, it’s definitely a hue that’s here to stay. How do you feel about orange? A fan of burnt orange lamps or other home accessories? Have you had success decorating with orange in your home? Share your experiences with a comment below.

Golden Gate Bridge image courtesy of Denis Cappellin.

Orange living room image courtesy of Elle Decor.

Orange table image courtesy of Old Brand New.

Orange nursery image courtesy of Lilly Bunn.

 

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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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Capelo Pottery, a Unique Take on Mexican Ceramics

Capelo's studio and countryside

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

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

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

Capelo pitcher

square serving dishCapelo plates

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

Capelo fluted footed bowl

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French Ceramics for Hot Summer Fun

French ceramic pitchersI’ve made it to Boulder, CO and it is H.O.T. I know the country has been experiencing a heat wave this summer, but “hot” in San Francisco is above 70°F, not close to 100°F. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, though there is something wonderful about getting to be outside at night without a jacket of any kind. Having to unload a truck worth of ceramics in the heat… that’s less exciting.

What does the weather have to do with French ceramics? Well, with the extreme temperatures, items like water jugs become a necessity to stay cool and hydrated in the sultry afternoons. That’s where Poterie Ravel’s fabulous water jugs and pitchers come in. Perfect for water, iced tea, or a batch of mojitos, these French ceramics are the ideal mix of practical and beautiful for the summer. Poterie Ravel itself is located outside of Marseille in southern France; the ceramic artists there definitely know about beating the summer heat when temperatures start to rise. Water jugs aren’t just decorative accents, but heavily used French ceramics to keep everyone cool.

Of course, these French ceramics work wonderfully as a centerpiece idea for dining indoors or out. Fill the jug with water for your guests or with flowers for a colorful table accent. A pitcher vase always looks rustic and casual, ideal for times when it’s too hot to think clearly. Used on a picnic table, these substantial French ceramics will also keep a tablecloth from blowing away in the breeze. The whites and ivory shades that Poterie Ravel uses for many of its French ceramics feel crisp and cool, perfect for hot days. I also love the water jugs with natural clay exposed at the bottom, evoking the garden pots that Ravel is so well-known for.

Looking for something refreshing to fill your favorite pitcher or water jug this July? Try cold-brew iced tea, no hot water required. I think adding mint and a bit of simple syrup makes for the perfect summer drink. What are your go-to beverages to beat the heat? Leave a comment below and let us know. I’ve got to get back to organizing French ceramics, though thankfully they are now all inside!

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La Dolce Vita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

daniella

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French Finale: Colorful Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

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

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

yellow_tealbowlspitchersdude

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

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

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Update on Sylvie Duriez

IMG_2233I spoke with Sylvie about a week ago, before I left home. She had never responded to my email letting her know when I’d be in France, so I was a little concerned she’d be out of town. However, she assured me over the phone that she would be there and would be expecting me. In her quiet, tentative English she added, “but I do not have much.”

This made me a little nervous. You see, among Emilia Ceramics customers there are a lot of Sylvie Duriez fans. People email and call me asking when I’m getting more of Sylvie’s ceramics. Plus, I’m a Sylvie Duriez fan and I suddenly realized I haven’t kept any of her work for myself! All of a sudden I was really worried… What if there’s nothing to buy? None of the favorite subjects we’ve all come to cherish: Whimsical women sitting under trees or staring thoughtfully out windows; Plump pink birds frolicking in fruit trees; Cats and dogs lazily laying on sofas; Bright bouquets of iris and red poppies. What will I do then?!street_corner

Well, you can all relax… After all, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post if I didn’t have good news to share about Sylvie and her beautiful ceramics!

After my stay in St. Rémy-de-Provence (and my visit with Richard Esteban), I moved on to Aix-en-Provence. Aix is a bustling university town, which actually reminds me a lot of Sevilla, Spain (where I lived a while back). Both cities seem to be in constant party-mode. The shopping streets in Aix are always teaming with beautiful, well-dressed people, and the cafés and bars are full morning, noon, and night with friends catching up over espresso, rosé or campari. Fresh fruit, vegetable, and flower markets also seem to be everywhere… everyday of the week. Needless to say, Aix is always a fun place to “have” to go : ).

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market_1

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As much as I’ve come to love it, one of my favorite things about Aix is leaving it to drive the 20 minutes to Pertuis, the little town where Sylvie lives and works. It’s always a bit stressful getting out of Aix (small, one-way streets and lots of roundabouts), but then you’re suddenly out in the country, passing through grassy fields with rolling hills in the distance. This time, it was even more green and beautiful than I remembered. I’ve been to visit Sylvie at her home 3 times now, so it was easy to find. I love her house/studio… so picturesque: 48 Rue du Moulin à Huile!

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Sylvie was the same as I remember her from my previous visits — quiet and soft-spoken, yet very warm. She is much more comfortable speaking English in person than on the phone (which is totally understandable) and quickly opened up about her new plans to move her studio away from her home and experiment with new techniques. She is especially excited about the idea of working with porcelain, which will require a new kiln and different supplies.

To my relief, Sylvie had a lot of beautiful work for me to choose from. Her hesitation on the phone was mostly because she’s not sure if she’s going to continue to make the type of decorative bowls, plates, and pitchers we all know and love. As I’ve explained before, Sylvie Duriez is a true artist, striving to create original artwork. She isn’t concerned with what will sell — she wants to follow her passion. As sad as it makes me that she may not always produce the pieces I have grown so fond of, I do understand. She is so talented and it wouldn’t be the same if she was producing on command.

IMG_2228I assured Sylvie of my support for her artistic decisions and told her I’d be excited to see whatever projects she comes up with next.  Then I went to work picking out all my favorites from her current collection. As usual she acted amazed by the number of pitchers, bowls, and plates I was selecting —  but this time she didn’t complain that she’d “have so much work to do when I left” as she has said in the past. I think she was genuinely relieved to make space in her life (and on her shelves) for what’s to come. And I was more than happy to help!

I’m thrilled with the assortment of Sylvie Duriez pieces I selected to add to the Emilia Ceramics collection — as always each is completely one-of-a-kind and packed full of personality. I feel confident that none of the Sylvie fans out there will be disappointed!

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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.

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

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

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

hillsides around Guanajuato, Mexico

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

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

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

Capelo statement vase

footed serving bowllittle blue plateCapelo Mexican ceramics

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

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

handmade ceramics: bowlmodern handmade ceramics

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

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

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

handmade ceramic tray

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

amor platehandmade ceramic bowl

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

tall vaseblack pitcher

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

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Salt & Pepper Shakers: Quite Possibly the Perfect Gift

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

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

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

rooster creamers

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

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

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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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Add Instant Sophistication with Italian Blue and White Ceramics

blue and white pitcherBlue and white is a popular color combination, though not all blue and white ceramics have the same feel. I think the flexibility of blue and white explains the combo’s success since it can adapt so easily to any decorating style. For example, blue and white ceramics from Mexico have a quite contemporary feel while Italian blue and white ceramics feel more subtle and refined. Feeling overwhelmed with all the blue and white options out there? Trying to find the perfect blue and white vase or serving tray? Here are some easy ways to pick the pieces that are right for you.shades of blue

First, think about the blue shades that you gravitate towards. Rich cobalt or a lighter slate? Turquoise or teal? Navy blue or sky blue? Peacock blue or periwinkle? If you already have a blue in your decorating scheme, look for something like a blue and white vase in a complimenting shade. Blue is wonderful in that not everything needs to exactly match, but try to group hues together that have similar tonal qualities for the best look. Wikipedia has at least 61 pages devoted to different shades of blue – you’re sure to find at least one that you like!

Italian blue and white lamp

Next think about the blue and white balance. More white or cream, like with most Italian blue and white ceramics, tends to read as more refined and sophisticated. Do you want blue and white mugs that are mostly blue with a touch of white or the reverse? Mixing dominant colors with your blue and white ceramics and home accessories is a good way to keep things textured and balanced. Think white plates on blue chargers with a blue and white pitcher holding water or wine at dinner. Or a blue and white lamp as an accent light in the bedroom or den.

Blue Striped Vase by Talavera Vazquez

Of course, patterning is another factor when adding blue and white home décor. Do you tend to mix prints and patterns or stick with a single motif? Prefer mostly solid colors with some subtle accenting textures? I recommend additions like a blue and white serving platter – the color combination makes food really pop, no matter how ornamented or plain the platter is itself. The same goes for blue and white mugs, plates, and bowls. I tend to mix patterned pieces with solid colors, but there are endless interesting ways to combine dinnerware that will reflect your own unique, individual style.

Italian blue and white mug

Do you prefer blue and white ceramics from Italy, Mexico, France or somewhere else? How do you use these pieces to create sophistication in your home? Check out our blue and white decorating ideas on Pinterest, then leave a comment below and let us know.

Shades of blue image courtesy of Booyabazooka.

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Vases for Your Valentine from Around the World

Stuck on what to give your Valentine this year? The saying goes “say it with flowers.” Roses might be cliché, but they are certainly a traditional standby. Tulips are another colorful winter flower, as are daisies, irises, stargazer lilies, and orchids. No matter the flowers you pick, you’ll need the right vase to show off those blooms to full advantage. I think giving a vase with a bouquet is a great way to make a lasting statement beyond when the flowers themselves droop and die.

Of course, choosing the proper vase is its own task. It’s important to choose a vase that suits the flowers – a large vase might be ideal for roses or lilies, but dwarf delicate sprays of orchids. A big round vase balances a massive varied bouquet, but overwhelms a simple arrangement. Style is another key consideration – will the delicate flourishes of Italian vases be more appealing or the graphic boldness of a Mexican vase more appropriate?

With vases available from all parts of the world, it’s important to think about the style of your recipient. Do they tend towards minimalism and clean lines? If so, a solid colored vase with sleek styling, like this big round vase, is a good choice.

For those with a more ornate sensibility, a fancy vase with intricate patterning makes sense. The hand painting on vases from Italy makes them perfect for display even without flowers. I love this large vase with Tuscan fruits and curving handle detailing.

Color palettes also change with location. Mexican vases often have bright colors that really pop. An exception to this norm are vases by Capelo, whose soft colors are dreamlike and extremely touchable. His one of a kind Hawaiian vase with floral motifs and sloping sides makes a statement without taking up much space.

The Mexican vases by Talavera Vazquez, on the other hand, use rich cobalt, deep black, vibrant green, or burnt orange for their striped, zig-zag, and patterned vases. French vases by Richard Esteban also use deep colors, though his vases tend to use solid-colored glazes instead of patterning.

 

Will you give flowers and a fancy vase this year for Valentine’s Day? Have another go-to gift? Leave a comment and let us know!

Rose image courtesy of “KIUKO”.

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Behind the Scenes: French Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Making Creative Dishware Sets with French Ceramics

As we wrap up the season of holiday entertaining, I find myself thinking about dishware sets. Instead of the couple of plates and bowls you use daily, entertaining has most people emptying the cabinets to serve the 8, 12, 30 people gathered for dinner, brunch, or afternoon cocktail party. If you’re not used to crowds in your home, finding enough of the proper servingware can be the biggest challenge. That’s where having flexible dishware sets comes in.

One of my favorite current trends with tableware sets and decorative dinner plates is having pieces that mix and match. Individual dinner plates with fun designs or vibrant colors make each place setting really stand out, and add incredible depth to a table. Layering dishes with different complimenting colors and designs is another deceptively simple way to create a dynamic table setting.

For color and pattern, I feel like French ceramics have a playful spirit, polka dot plates bowlsparticularly those from Provence. Whimsy endues polka dot plates and bowls by Richard Esteban as well as the delicate pastel washes of Sylvie Durez’s one of a kind French ceramics. Then there are details like Poterie Ravel‘s pitchers splattered glazes or the delicate edging of their bowls. Patrice Voelkel’s French ceramics go another direction with jewel-toned glazes and local black clay. No matter what speaks to your aesthetic, these plates and bowls are truly unique and make any table stand out.

Of course, French ceramics are useful throughout the year, not just around the holidays. Their festive spirit injects joy into all occasions, from toast covered with your favorite jam for breakfast to celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Appetizer dishes hold daily snacks, pitchers bouquets of fresh flowers, and bowls everything from ice cream to cereal. Richard’s plates and bowls are an excellent example of the versatility of French ceramics. The soft yellow base glaze makes food look delicious and the playful dots, stripes, bird, or dog motifs add lively personality to these decorative dinner plates.

Paired with weighty pieces like the barn red milk pitcher or a rustic casserole full of tonight’s dinner, it’s hard to resist these French ceramics.

How do you dress up your table for the holidays or everyday dining? What are your favorite French ceramics? Are there dishware sets you absolutely adore? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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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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Ceramic Pitchers, A Stylish and Functional Gift

Still looking for the perfect unique gift this holiday season? What about a French ceramic pitcher? With my recent pitcher additions by Poterie Ravel, as well as pitchers by ceramic artists Richard Esteban and Sylvie Duriez, you’re sure to find a pitcher that combines graceful lines with full functionality. Our pitchers look equally fantastic as a vase or holding your favorite beverage at the table, from juice in the morning to wine at dinner. These ceramic pitchers also add French decorative charm to any kitchen, which is hard to resist.

White pitchers, like those by Poterie Ravel, are stunning in their simplicity. Soft glazes allow for the graceful lines to shine fully unobstructed. The one of a kind ivory French water jug makes a great centerpiece, and this fancy pitcher fits right in at anyone’s chateaux (or home).

Another fantastic white pitcher is the Provence pitcher. The spout makes me think of an old-fashioned watering can, and it’s a pitcher that holds a bouquet of fresh blooms with casual style. Besides the white pitcher, the Provence pitcher is also available in aquamarine, truly celebrating the spirit of the region.

For the more tactile-inclined, rustic pitchers with exposed clay are the perfect fit. The pelican pitcher by ceramic artist Richard Esteban combines lush glazes, a swooping spout, and exposed red clay at the bottom for a one of a kind piece. Looking for a ceramic pitcher to brighten someone’s day? The sunny yellow of this milk pitcher is charming with its soft and inviting glaze. I think this pitcher looks wonderful as a vase filled with tulips on a spring morning.

Sylvie’s unique pitchers stand out as works of art all on their own. The tall, modern feel of this ceramic pitcher with flowers combines subtle color with bold lines. The result is something that’s striking and serene.

Want to give a ceramic pitcher on Christmas day? Our shipping deadline is today (December 18th) for regular shipping, but please contact us by phone at 650-257-0292 or email if you want a quote for expedited shipping later this week. Happy gift giving!

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Guest Blogger Bethany: Six Months Later with New Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We’re “Bowled” Over by These New Bowls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ceramic Canisters: Practical Kitchen Decoration

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

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

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

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Behind the Scenes: Gorky Gonzalez’s Mexican Ceramics

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

A visit to Gorky Gonzalez’s workshop in Guanajuato, Mexico is truly a feast for the senses. There’s color and creative genius everywhere you look, piled in ceramics both finished and in process. Considering the number of awards and international acclaim Gorky’s pottery has received, it’s no surprise that his development as a ceramic artist has international flavor as well.

An antique piece of Majolica pottery that Gorky found in the early 1960s inspired him to rescue this basically forgotten craft. After studying in Japan (where he met his wife Toshiko), he returned with a variety of techniques that have truly revitalized Mexican ceramics. The results blend past and present, creating Mexican ceramics that are unique and timeless.

Today Gorky Gonzalez and Toshiko’s son Gorky Jr. (known as Gogo) handles the daily responsibilities of the business, continuing the family tradition. On my most recent visit to Mexico this past June I was delighted to find all three members of the Gonzalez family hard at work with their dedicated team of artists. I visited with about six artists who were working on the wheel or painting these vibrant Mexican ceramics by hand. Whether dinner plates or mugs, each piece is treated with care through the multistep process that Majolica requires including multiple firings in the kiln.

With a workshop as large and bustling as this one it can seem like it might get old painting the same Mexican ceramics every day. However, there are always plenty of new pieces and designs being created as well as the continuation of old favorites. I talked with one artist who’s been painting Gorky pottery for nine years and still loves it. Each piece has a design guide that the artists follow, but they are encouraged to put their own individual stamp on it so in the end, no two pieces are ever exactly alike.

On this trip I was lucky enough to find some truly unique pieces to add to my Gorky pottery collection: dinner plates with the Catrina design (perfect for Dia de los Muertos), new creamers with owls and roosters, and even some fun new dip bowls. As Gorky pottery designs expand to include more traditional patterns as well as the modern Gogo collection, I’m always excited to share these amazing Mexican ceramics with you.