Majolica Pottery

Majolica Talavera Pottery La Fuente ImportsSince its introduction by Spanish settlers in the 16th century, talavera pottery has become synonymous with Puebla. The beautifully hand-crafted ceramics, which take the form of everything from garden tiles to dinnerware, adorn building fronts in the historic center, replace china sets in Mexican households, and travel home with visitors as souvenirs. Talavera is so revered that President Calderón ordered a special bicentennial pattern last year for his Independence Day state dinner; Governor Rafael Moreno Valle buys centerpieces to give as personal gifts; and collectors worldwide seek out new and historical pieces to display as fine art.

The local tradition of making talavera started shortly after the city of Puebla was founded in 1531. “The Spanish feverishly began building churches, monasteries, and convents,” notes “To decorate these buildings, craftsman from Talavera de la Reina … were commissioned to come to the New World to produce fine tiles as well as other ceramic ware. In addition, these same craftsman were to teach the indigenous artisans their technique of Majolica pottery, in order to increase production levels.”
Nearly 500 years later, artisans continue to produce talavera in Puebla.

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Genuine Talavera Pottery from Puebla

Talavera Serving Bowl - Made in MexicoGenuine Talavera Pottery is only made in the Talavera Zone, in and around the city of Puebla, in the State of Puebla, Mexico. The name ‘Talavera’ is applied to a very special type of hand decorated high-fired ceramic product. Produced in Spain around the year 1500 in a town called Talavera de la Reyna and hence its name. The art producing it was influenced by Chinese, Arab, and Italian Ceramics and tiles. The end product was attractive enough for the Spanish monks to introduce is to their recently established colony.

The first workshop, a tile shop, was established in the city of Puebla, in the state of Puebla. Historians believe this to be around the year 1600. The city of Puebla is some 80 miles south east of Mexico City. This first Talavera workshop started producing tiles with a white background and blue designs. Throughout the years the art was improved by adding new patterns, designs, colors, and products such as plates, vases, jars, urns, bowls, etc.

To avoid confusion, the Mexican Government has decreed that the use of the name ‘Talavera’ be protected and limited to a geographical area in and around the city of Puebla. In 1997 the State of Puebla obtained the Denomination of Origin stating that only the pottery produced in the geographical region of the State of Puebla or Zona de Talavera (Talavera Zone), including Atlixco, Cholula, Puebla and Tecali, and that follows the standards set by the Consejo Regulador de la Talavera (Regulating Council of Talavera) can be called ‘Talavera’. In order to be certified these workshops have to pass an inspection and verification process every six months. So, just as Champagne is only produced in Champagne, France, Talavera can only be produced in Puebla, Mexico.

The process starts with the selection of the right two types of clay. These clays are washed, cleaned, kneaded and then allowed to air dry to a consistency that allows molding either by hand, on a potters wheel, or in a mold to form the desired shapes. They are then air dried for several weeks before introducing them to a first firing in a kiln at around 1500 degrees Ferinheight. The next step is to reglaze them. The pottery pieces are then painted and decorated to obtain the desired colors and patterns. The pottery must be hand painted using only the six traditional mineral pigments: blue, green, yellow, red, brown and black. By combining these colors different tones of blue are achieved as well as an orange and purple color.The pigments must be made at the workshop following long-established formulas. Finally the pottery pieces are subjected to a higher firing at around 1900 degrees Ferinheight. Thanks to the diversity and good taste of our Mexican artisans you can now own a unique, beautiful, and original piece of ‘Talavera’ Pottery that can well be considered a collectors piece.

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Talavera is a type of maiolica earthenware, distinguished by its white base glaze. Authentic Talavera pottery only comes from the city of Puebla and the communities of Atlixco, Cholula and Tecali, as the clays needed and the history of this craft are both centered there. All pieces are hand-thrown on a potter’s wheel and the glazes contain tin and lead, as they have since colonial times. This glaze must craze, be slightly porous and milky-white, but not pure white.

There are only six permitted colors: blue, yellow, black, green, orange and mauve, and these colors must be made from natural pigments. The painted designs have a blurred appearance as they fuse slightly into the glaze. The base, the part that touches the table, is not glazed but exposes the terra cotta underneath. An inscription is required on the bottom that contains the following information: the logo of the manufacturer, the initials of the artist and the location of the manufacturer in Puebla.

The design of the pieces is highly regulated by tradition. The paint ends up slightly raised over the base. In the early days, only a cobalt blue was used, as this was the most expensive pigment, making it highly sought after not only for prestige but also because it ensured the quality of the entire piece.  Only natural clays are used, rather than chemically treated and dyed clays and the handcrafting process takes three to four months. The process is risky because a piece can break at any point. This makes Talavera three times more costly than other types of pottery.Because of this, Talavera manufacturers have been under pressure from imitations, commonly from China, and similar ceramics from other parts of Mexico, especially Guanajuato. Guanajuato state petitioned the federal government for the right to share the Talavera demonimation with Puebla, but, since 1997, this has been denied and glazed ceramics from other parts of Mexico are called Maiolica or Mayolica.

Today, only pieces made by designated areas and from workshops that have been certified are permitted to call their work “Talavera.” Certification is issued by the Consejo Regulador de la Talavera, a special regulatory body. Only nine workshops have so far been certified: Uriarte Talavera, Talavera La Reyna, Talavera Armando, Talavera Celia, Talavera Santa Catarina, Talavera de la Nueva España, Talavera de la Luz, Talavera de las Americas, and Talavera Virglio Perez. Each of these needs to pass a twice-yearly inspection of the manufacturing processes. Pieces are subject to sixteen laboratory tests with internationally certified labs. In addition, there is a test done by the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Puebla to ensure that the glaze does not have lead content of more than 2.5 parts per million or cadmium content of more than 0.25 parts per million, as many of the pieces are used to serve food. Only pieces from workshops that meet the standards are authorized to have the signature of the potter, the logo of the workshop and the special hologram that certifies the piece’s authenticity.

Pottery from Puebla Mexico

Authentic Talavera Pottery - Fruit BowlDifferent Mexican pottery shows the cultural, geographic and historic range of the country of Mexico. Pottery in Mesoamerica is produced about 4500 years ago in the pre-classic age. At that time, the clay pieces that were located reveal the cultural background of the country of Mexico. It takes advantage of the Spanish approach of glazing and heating as well as Indian form of creating and including designs and colours. In time, the handmade ceramics were changed by bulk create and cheaper items with the technical progression. Various of the Mexican pottery designs have changed the domestic ware in ornamental items. Most likely the most profitable and most displayed mexican talavera pottery which one can come across nowadays is definitely the Oaxacan Black clay.

Talavera Snack Tray handmade in Pueblo Mexico

Talavera pottery is from Puebla, Mexico. It is a type of majolica pottery that is characterized by a milky-white glaze. Real Talavera pottery arrives only from Puebla along with the close by communities such as Cholula, Atlixco and Tecali because of the natural clay quality found in these locations. Almost all of these potteries were decorated in blue. However, colours like black, green, yellow, mauve and orange are used. The golden age of Talavera pottery was initially since the yr 1650 to 1750. The tradition that established there is often known as Talavera Poblana to separate it out of the Talavera pottery in Spain. It is a mix of Spanish, Italian and indigenous ceramic methods.

Talavera from Puebla

Authentic Talavera from MexicoWhen we speak about Puebla we inevitably think about the imposing volcanoes that guard her, the Popocateptl and Iztaccíhuatl , the culinary delicacies that were created in this state, such as Mole Poblano, its baroque architecture, and of course, the ceramic of Talavera, that adorns practically every building, every patio, every square and even kitchens.

Talavera is a type of majolica earthenware, a white and glazed type of ceramic.  Although the Spaniards introduced this type of pottery, ironically the term Talaverais used much more in Mexico than in Talavera de la Reina, Spain.

In fact, Talavera is the oldest tin-glazed ceramic in America and it is still being manufactured with the same techniques as in the 16th Century.

Puebla not only was the second most important city in Mexico, after the country’s capital Mexico City, it was the most important earthenware center of the Nueva España, which was the name of Mexico in Colonial times.

The production of tiles and ceramic ware in Puebla, started almost immediately the city was established in 1531.  Thanks to the abundance of quality clay in the region and to the splendor of the arts at that time in Puebla, in a short time the  Talavera Poblana achieved such quality and beauty that it was soon exported to the rest of the continent.

There are several theories about its origin in Mexico, but the most accepted explanation is that Spanish monks from the Santo Domingo monastery in Puebla, sent for craftsmen from Talavera de la Reina to teach the indigenous people of the region how to work the clay so they could create pieces similar to the ones produced in Spain.  They wanted to decorate with tiles and religious sculptures their monastery and church.

The indigenous people of Mexico were very accomplished potters and already had a very long tradition producing earthenware.  But they did not know how to use the potters wheel or tin-glaze their pottery, which is one of the main characteristics of the majolica ceramic.

Other versions state that the Dominican friars were the ones that knew how to produce this type of ceramic and that they were the ones that taught the Indians how to do it.

The truth is there are documents that record the presence of several craftsmen from Talavera de la Reina in Puebla during the 16th Century, which established their workshops to produce tiles and ceramic wares. It was a very profitable business since there were so many churches and monasteries being built.

In time, a potter’s gild was formed and Ordinances were laid down, that all of the potters that wished to produce Talavera had to follow. This was done so that the quality of the ceramics called Talavera was uniform and that this earthenware had a distinctive style and excellence.

Some of the rules established by the Ordinances were:

  • The color blue was to be used on the finest ceramic. This was so because the mineral pigments needed to produce this color were very expensive.  The customer could then easily distinguish the quality of fine ceramic from one of lesser quality.

  • To avoid falsifications each master potter had to sign or mark his products.

How to Treat Authentic Talavera

Talavera Pottery Plates CareHow to properly treat your new authentic Talavera –  Since Talavera is fired at very high temperatures it makes 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!

Most of the Talavera pottery offered by La Fuente Imports, including all plates, platters, and place settings, is made by hand in Puebla, Mexico, and is 100% lead-free as well as microwave, oven, and dishwasher safe. The detail is outstanding, and due to the kiln’s high firing temperature all our Talavera dishware is also crack and chip resistant.

The Origins of Mexican Talavera Pottery

Talavera plates made in Pueblo, MexicoFrom 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.

Authentic Mexican Talavera

Talavera Ginger Jar by Maximo HuertaSince 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!