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Talavera ceramics in Puebla, Mexico

See that up there? Yeah, the beautiful blue and white ceramic tiles? The ones I WISH I had enough of to tile our being-renovated-as-I-type-this-bathroom (thanks Neil for being there to supervise!)?

Well those seemingly ubiquitous “Mexican tiles” are much more unique than I realised – being Talavera pieces.   Talavera is a distinct type of ceramic only produced in the state of Puebla in the cities of Atlixco, Cholula, Puebla, and Tecali – the only places truly under the Talavera designation.  To receive this special designation, the ceramics must meet specific government requirements in terms of contents (a special mixture of clay, only painted using all-natural paints) and production techniques. Who knew? An “AOC” for ceramics?

As part of my recent trip to Puebla, I was fortunate enough to tour one of the nine workshops in the Puebla area who use the special designation for their ceramics, Talavera Santa Catarina in Cholula, as well as check out some more beautiful pieces at the Uriarte Talavera showroom in Puebla.

Both places were truly stunning in terms of the pieces on show – even the walls decorated with chipped Talavera tiles were gorgeous…

At Talavera Santa Catarina, we were treated to a guided tour through the factory and the process of making the Talavera designated ceramics.  The Talavera process starts with a special mixture of clay that, once combined, are washed, matured and decanted.  Then they are rolled into “tallas” that must be worked with the feet before they are worked on a pottery wheel.

Once transformed into whatever shape they are destined to become, the ceramics must dry and be fired…

Then they are ready for glazing…

Now they are ready for decorating – a painstaking process undertaken by HAND. First stencilled, then painted and coloured, then glazed one final time.

You can see the process of a piece below (from a display at Uriarte Talavera)

The final product can take up to 6 months for the larger pieces and you can be assured that no two pieces are ever the same.  For some, the authentic Talavera pieces are seen as expensive, however, after having seen the process and all that is involved, I feel it’s well worth it. A unique piece of pottery to remind you of your travels long after you return home? There’s no question of whether you “need” it. It’s a must-buy!

Well, apart from very large pieces like this gorgeous table… (sadly, it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase!).

I couldn’t, however, leave without buying a few smaller pieces (or, ahem, a few).  Note to self. When flying through Houston airport, remember how big it is and that ceramics are very heavy. Second note to self: Try to never fly through Houston airport again. But it was worth the hassle because look:

I’m proud to say this picture was featured in the print edition of The National Post’s Gastropost on Saturday June 29th :) They must have liked the plate too!

If you’re in Puebla, see if you can arrange a taxi to visit either Santa Catarina in nearby Cholula or Uriarte Talavera in Puebla

Talavera Santa Catarina
Prolongación 14 oriente 1402,
San Andrés
Cholula, 72810 Puebla,
Mexico
talaverastacatarina.com.
Uriarte Talavera
4 Poniente 911
San Pablo de Los Frailes,
Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza, Puebla
Mexico
uriartetalavera.com.mx

Disclosure: My trip to Puebla, including transportation, accommodation and all meals, was sponsored by the Mexican Tourism Board. I was not required to post about this trip and was not compensated for doing so.  All opinions are my own.

Read my two latest articles on Food Network Canada: Spotlight on Paris markets and Seven must-visit destinations in Burgundy.

Follow my French travels on Flickr this summer with my Summer 2012 set of photos – updated regularly!

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25 Responses to Talavera ceramics in Puebla, Mexico

  1. Raul (@hummingbird604) July 2, 2012 at 03:09 #

    Love your writing, love your photos, love you. Simple as that.

  2. IdaBaker July 2, 2012 at 04:01 #

    Oh, this tile reminds me of a few of places in LA, which are also known for their tile. Such an old and colorful tradition.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  3. penny aka jeroxie July 2, 2012 at 07:41 #

    you know what mardi, we need to meet up in Mexico and you can take me around.

  4. The Mistress of Spices July 2, 2012 at 08:16 #

    So gorgeous! I adore ceramic tiles. These are particularly beautiful!

  5. cat July 2, 2012 at 10:16 #

    thanks for sharing the process – makes me appreciate the various ceramics we’ve picked up on our travels even more (remember the enormous bowl i had steve carry back from tunisia?)! what a lot of work goes into them – as you said, it makes the prices paid seem more than fair. glad you were able to bring a few pieces back home!

  6. Mr. Neil July 2, 2012 at 15:20 #

    I’m still a bit bummed Mardi DIDN’T bring home that chipped-ceramic table. I’ve seen how much she can cram in her carry-on. :-)

    And I AM dealing with the afore-mentioned renovation. Which at the moment is in the positively scary “demolition” mode, revealing much ebhind the walls that is positively scary.

  7. Geoff July 2, 2012 at 19:35 #

    This defeatist note from you, Mardi is disappointing… can’t get it into your luggage. I have a picture of you somewhere as you tried to stuff an entire lounge chair into a bag… you may have been, ahem, a little tired and emotional at the time.
    Really interesting post today….

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 4, 2012 at 14:41 #

      Right well I do believe I was just pretending. The table was just too much!

      • Mr. Neil July 6, 2012 at 07:24 #

        I’m with Geoff on this one…

  8. AmyRuth July 3, 2012 at 01:06 #

    Dear Mardi, My husband and I have traveled to MX several times, specifically Playa del Carmen. A Talavera shop on 1st street sells the beautiful pottery from Puebla and is owned/operated by a very lovely Mexican woman who has been in the business I suspect for sometime.
    I have started collecting, and yes, only a few at a time. They are heavy little dudes. I loved your article and the wonderful photos depicting the creative process. They are made with love. Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip. Off again you are to Paris? Exciting!!

  9. K A B L O O E Y July 3, 2012 at 11:23 #

    Beautiful photos and another terrific post. I loved the step-by-step pictures of the entire process. They really do show how (skilled) labor intensive the pottery is. Fabulous; thank you for taking us all along.

  10. Paula July 3, 2012 at 16:49 #

    Congratulations on having your photo featured in the National Post! I can’t imagine touring one of these workshops and not purchasing! I just love the vibrant colours the artisans use. Enjoyed your photo tweets of your time in Mexico and now, your time in France. Keep them coming!

  11. idiosyncratic eye July 5, 2012 at 16:52 #

    I love ceramics and these Mexican designs remind me very much of the Andalus style of Iberia and the Mahgreb, beautiful. I don’t love the joys of trying to get it back home in a roughly handled suitcase though. ;)

  12. Mr. Neil July 6, 2012 at 07:25 #

    Postscript:

    Cleo LOVES her new Talavera food dish.

  13. Jen Laceda @ Tartine and Apron Strings July 10, 2012 at 20:51 #

    ahhhhhh….i would have loved shopping for ceramic plates for props!!!! these are gorgeous!!!

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