Utilitarian History of Talavera

Talavera ceramicHandpainted Talavera Pottery is mostly used to make utilitarian items such as plates, bowls, jars, flowerpots, sinks, religious items and decorative figures. However, a significant use of the ceramic is for tiles, which are used to decorate both the inside and outside of buildings in Mexico, especially in the city of Puebla. 

The Puebla kitchen is one of the traditional environments of Talavera pottery, from the tiles that decorate the walls and counters to the dishes and other food containers. It is a very distinct style of kitchen. In monastery kitchens of the area, many of the designs also incorporate the emblem of the religious order. Many of the facades in the historic center of Puebla are decorated with these tiles.

These tiles are called azulejos and can be found on fountains, patios, the facades of homes, churches and other buildings, forming an important part of Puebla’s Baroque architecture. This use of azulejos attested to the family’s or church’s wealth. This led to a saying “to never be able to build a house with tiles”, which meant to not amount to anything in life.  Being able to show this kind of wealth was not restricted to Puebla. In Mexico City, the church of the Convent of La Encarnacion and the church of the Virgin of Valvanera both feature cupolas covered in Talavera.  The most famous example of Talavera in the capital city is the Casa de los Azulejos, or House of Tiles, which is an 18th-century palace built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba family. What makes this palace, in the City of Palaces, distinct is that its facade on three sides is completely covered in expensive, blue-and-white tile – sensational at the time the tiles were applied.

Authentic Handmade Mexican Talavera

MH461a - Talavera PlateTalavera, in Puebla, Mexico, is a type of maiolica pottery, which is distinguished by a milky-white glaze.  Authentic Talavera pottery only comes from the city of Puebla and the nearby communities of Atlixco, Cholula, and Tecali, because of the quality of the natural clay found there and the tradition of production which goes back to the 16th century.  Much of this pottery was decorated only in blue, but colors such as yellow, black, green, orange and mauve have also been used. Maiolica pottery was brought to Mexico by the Spanish in the first century of the colonial period. Production of this ceramic became highly developed in Puebla because of the availability of fine clays and the demand for tiles from the newly established churches and monasteries in the area. The industry had grown sufficiently that by the mid-17th century, standards and guilds had been established which further improved the quality, leading Puebla into what is called the “golden age” of Talavera pottery (from 1650 to 1750). Formally, the tradition that developed there is called Talavera Poblana to distinguish it from the similarly named Talavera pottery of Spain. It is a mixture of Italian, Spanish and indigenous ceramic techniques.

The tradition has struggled since the Mexican War of Independence in the early 19th century, when the number of workshops were reduced to less than eight in the state of Puebla. Later efforts by artists and collectors revived the craft somewhat in the early 20th century and there are now significant collections of Talavera pottery in Puebla, Mexico City and New York City.

Talavera Pottery

MH458aMajolica ceramics, made in the Talavera style, are produced throughout many different regions of Mexico.  These new influences have produced a variety of modern styles and designs that are growing in popularity.  One such area, Dolores Hidalgo, is the home of Artesanias Amora fabrica.  It is considered the best fabrica in the area and produces some of the finest quality modern Talavera in Mexico today.  Although these products do not meet the exacting standards established by the Consejo Regulador de Talavera, they are fine quality modern Talavera pieces a modest prices.

As we have already discussed, Talavera is fired at very high temperatures making it a very durable product.  We recommend treating your Talavera as you would treat any other fine china product.  If you decide to place it in the dishwasher, use care to ensure that it does not rattle against other pieces during the washing process. It is microwave safe, but use care as it will absorb heat.  The high firing temperatures also make it oven safe.  We recommend placing the piece in the oven when the oven is started and let it warm up with the oven.  With proper care, your Talavera piece will last for years to come!

Origins of Talavera Pottery

Authentic Talavera PlateFrom the time of the Olmecs, between 1200 BC and 600 AD, pottery has been a central part of Mexican life.  Their use of clay, knowledge of primitive firing and coloring techniques, as well as designs was passed down to other cultures that followed.  The Olmecs are considered by many as the mother culture of Mesoamerican civilizations.

Talavera de la Reina, a Spanish village, has long been influential in the world’s knowledge of fine ceramics.  When the Muslims conquered North Africa and moved into Europe, their tin-glazed ceramics, known as Majolica, came to Spain.  Majolica was developed in the Middle East but gained cultural diversity through influences from the Chinese, Italians, Moors and Spanish cultures.  Spanish craftsmen learned and further developed this craft and, in the 16th century, introduced it to Mexico.  The term Talavera is used to describe faithful reproductions of the pottery that is made in Talavera de la Reina, Spain.

When the Spanish introduced their stylized pottery to their recently established colony in Mexico, the local artisans blended these new techniques with their established practices to creat the famous Talavera pottery of Mexico.  It is believed that the first workshop was established in the city of Puebla around 1600 AD.  Puebla became the home of authentic Mexican Talavera and is where the first potter’s guilds were formed to establish standards and regulations for the production of Talavera.

Historical Mexican Talavera Pottery

Authentic Talavera Plate - MH469aSince the 16th century, Mexican craftsmen have been producing Talavera pottery.  This art form has evolved from ancient cultures and influenced the production of pottery in Mexico resulting in the exquisite Talavera pottery that is available today.  True, certified Talavera pottery is produced in the city of Puebla, in the state of Puebla, Mexico however, high-quality, modern Talavera pottery is also available from factories in other Mexican districts such as Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato.

Age-old techniques have been passed down from generation to generation by master craftsmen.  These techniques produce unique pieces that are truly works of art.  Vibrant colors and delicate details are trademarks of Talavera pottery that give it the characteristic color and brilliance known only to Talavera ware.

Talavera is a type of majolica earthenware that is fired at extremely high temperatures producing a very durable product.  Artisans are not limited to the production of tiles and vases.  You will find beautiful pieces to suit your taste in plates, jars, pots, religious figures, animals and more!

To appreciate your Talavera, you should know something of its origins.  We hope that this short history of this beautiful pottery lends a hand to creating this understanding.

Golden Age of Talavera

ThMH460ae period between 1650 and 1750 was known as the Golden Age of Talavera.  Puebla became the most important earthenware center of New Spain.  Pieces were shipped all over the territory, and were sent to Guatemala, Cuba, Santo Domingo, Venezuela and Colombia.  During this time, the preferred use of blue on Talavera pottery was reinforced by the influence of China’s Ming dynasty through imported Chinese ceramics that came to Mexico via the Manila galleons. Italian influences in the 18th century introduced the use of other colors.

During the Mexican War of Independence, the potters’ guild and the ordinances of the 17th century were abolished. This allowed anyone to make the ceramic in any way, leading to a decline in quality. The war disrupted trade among the Spanish colonies and cheaper English porcelain was being imported. The Talavera market crashed. Out of the forty-six workshops that were producing in the 18th century, only seven remained after the war.

In 1897, a Catalan by the name of Enrique Luis Ventosa arrived to Puebla. Ventosa was fascinated by the history of the craft which was unique from other art forms in Mexico. He studied the original processes and combined it with his knowledge of contemporary, Spanish work. He published articles and poems about the tradition and worked to decorate ceramic pieces. In 1922, he befriended Ysauro Uriarte Martinez, a young potter, who had inherited his grandfather’s workshop. The two men collaborated to create new decorative designs, adding pre-Columbian and Art nouveau influences to the Islamic, Chinese, Spanish and Italian influences that were already present. They also worked to restore the former levels of quality. Their timing was good as the Mexican Revolution had ended and the country was in a period of reconstruction.

Talavera Clay Pottery from Mexico

Authentic Talavera Pottery from Puebla, MexicoAlthough the Spaniards introduced this type of pottery, ironically the term Talavera is used much more in Mexico than in Talavera de la Reina, Spain, its namesake. In 1997, the Denominación de Origin de la Talavera was established to regulate what pieces could be officially called Talavera. Requisites included the city of production, the clay that was used, and the manufacturing methods. These pieces now carry holograms. One of the reasons the federal law was passed was that the remaining Talavera workshops had maintained the high quality and crafting process from the early colonial period, and the goal was to protect the tradition.

However, the tradition still struggles. Angelica Moreno, owner of Talavera de la Reina, is concerned that the tradition of the craft is waning, despite her workshop’s efforts. One problem the craft faces is the lack of young people who are interested in learning it. An artisan earns about 700 to 800 pesos a week, which is not enough to meet expenses.

Authentic Talavera Tiles, Pottery and Folk Art

Authentic Talavera Pottery - Fruit BowlAuthentic Talavera Tiles, Pottery and Folk Art - The art of beautifully handcrafted Talavera art has been cultivated for centuries and the extraordinary heritage of the artisans is apparent at a glance. Providing striking accents throughout your home, our wide array of Talavera pieces offer you the opportunity to draw on this legacy as you bring them into your home.

Rustic imperfections in the finish provide a special appeal and our selection of tiles and will bring the colors and allure of Mexico to your home. Accentuate bathrooms, cover the risers on a staircase, create borders and backsplashes in your, use single tiles for coasters or trivets – let your creativity shine as you place them in your home. Secondary sets of pictures are provided to show you nine-tile views, border effects, and geometric pattern options to assist you in your planning.

Alongside the unique figures, alters, and nativity scenes already offered in our collection of Religious Folk Art , several Talavera crosses have recently been added, exquisitely handmade for worship and decoration. Whether you’re searching for a special gift or a highlight for your own home, the true artistry of each piece will shine through – the only difficult part will be choosing the perfect one from among them.

Talavera – We’ve Got Your Number

tal tileJust when you thought Talavera could not think of one more wonderful thing to do with color, tile, texture and art.  We are here to say.  They did it again.  Browse through all of our eye catching house number flavors.

Liven up the exterior of your home with these eye catching Talavera house numbers. Each Talavera house number is hand-painted in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico, and embodies all the classic charm of Mexican Talavera. Every address number has a grooved, rough-out backing to assist in gluing or tiling to a wall or frame.

There are so many styles, colors and designs to choose from.  There is no mistaking your address with these stylish and functional designs.

Bring the southwest to your home with our beautiful ceramic house numbers. Each of our rustic house numbers are hand-crafted by master artisans in Jalisco, Mexico. Every address number has a wire hoop for easy, hassle-free hanging.  Try the eye catching and unique southwest designs like Terra Cotta or Sand Jar design with assorted color choices which include a green, sand, and terra cotta colors.

And last but certainly not least.  Our hand-painted traditional house numbers, painted in the USA by a small, family-run business, our decorative ceramic house numbers will improve the exterior of any home.

These neutral designs blend with any house color and have coordinating border tiles available with complementary “Welcome” or accent messages.

Made from thick, high fired ceramic, and with the same fade resistant and weatherproof finish as our other decorative tiles, these southwest styled house numbers feature a simple, sand-colored background. For simplest installation consider displaying our house numbers in a durable aluminum frame.

Make no mistake whatever pattern, color, texture or style you choose.  “We’ve Got Your Number”. Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles.  That’s the beauty of Talavera.

Authentic Talavera Tiles for Day of the Dead Style

Day of the Dead Ceramic Tile is each beautifully handcrafted and feature images which represent the annual celebration of El Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). A common symbol on our Day of the Dead Talavera Tile is the skull (calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas (colloquial term for skeleton). These skeletons or “calacas” are meant to depict a joyful and active afterlife, and are often used as home decor.

Day of the Dead Tile

Every November in the villages of Mexico, communities gather in local cemeteries to honor departed loved ones and to celebrate the joy of living. The traditions and activities that take place in celebration of the Day of the Dead are not universal, often varying from town to town.

In many American communities, especially those with a large Hispanic population, Day of the Dead celebrations are very similar to those held in Mexico. In some of these communities, such as in Texas and Arizona the celebrations tend to be mostly traditional. For example, the All Souls Procession has been an annual Tucson event since 1990. The event combines elements of traditional Day of the Dead celebrations with those of pagan harvest festivals. People wearing masks carry signs honoring the dead and an urn in which people can place slips of paper with prayers on them to be burned. Likewise, Old Town San Diego, California annually hosts a very traditional two-day celebration culminating in a candlelight procession to the historic El Campo Santo Cemetery.

Share your love of this annual celebration by incorporating Talavera Tiles which have been decorated with eye-catching Day of the Dead designs. Decorative ceramic tiles are also perfect to simply use as a drink coaster or trivet.