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blue and white zig zag ginger jarUnsurprisingly, I get questions from people looking to buy ceramics online quite frequently. The most requested information about ceramics & pottery deals with ginger jars. Thinking about incorporating these decorating statements into your home? Here are my tips to choose and buy these ceramics online with success.

striped ginger jar• Make a decorating plan. There’s nothing worse than buying ceramics only to discover you don’t have a spot to display them. Before you start looking at ceramics online, have a clear idea of where they’ll go in your home. For example, you might want a pair of ginger jars for the mantle, a bedroom, or to grace a sideboard. When picking spots for your future ceramics also consider how people walk in your home and stability issues. Medium-sized ginger jars next to the fireplace might look great, but for anyone with pets or small children, they’re more likely to get knocked over.

Measure. Measure. Measure. Once you have spots in mind for your future ginger jars, measure the space. This way you’ll have some starting parameters for choosing the ceramics you want to buy. When you find something you like online, check out the size to ensure it will look great in your home. A ginger jar that’s too small or too big always looks a bit out of place, so consider all dimensions.black and white ginger jar

Think about style. Color and style are certainly other important components when you buy ceramics online. Do you need something solid to accent a room? Or will your ginger jars add texture and pattern to the space? Do you want ginger jars with an Asian or Mexican flair? Smaller delicate jars are perfect for high spaces (where they won’t get damaged) while larger ginger jars are an excellent decorating anchor for a living room or even patio.

Go beyond simple pairing. A single large ginger jar quickly turns a side table into a stylish accent or enlivens a shelf. Matched pairs of ginger jars are classic for formal-feeling arrangements (like fireplaces, sideboards, or flanking a bed). Grouping various sized jars together adds interest to a table without looking staid, like in the image below. Think creatively; you’ll be surprised at the results.

living room with ginger jars

Check out shipping before you buy. When you buy ceramics online, make sure to look at the shipping and return policies for the website. Knowing the breakage policy and shipping costs before placing your order can save you heartbreak in the future. Just trust me on this one.ginger jar

black and white ginger jar

Have you bought ceramics & pottery or ginger jars online? Have any advice or suggestions? Leave a comment and let us know!

Ginger jar and orchid image courtesy of Made By Girl.

Living room image courtesy of Jennifer Brouwer (Jennifer Brouwer Design).

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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.rooster salt and pepper shakers

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.

chicken salt pepper shakers

creamer sugar setOne 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.

bunny salt & pepper set

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

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

Looking for a decorative dinner plate that will bring cheer to your table? With Italian hand painted plates, your search is over. From square limoni plates to large serving platters, the lemon motifs by the Bartoloni brothers are a sure winner for kitchens and dining rooms alike.

lemon decorative plate

There are many factors that make these decorative plates so appealing. The rich colors are one; for example, the cobalt blue background contrasts pleasingly with bright yellows and greens on the blu limoni plates. The bright white of the limoni due square plate is more subtle, but just as vibrant with its two lemons (or limoni due) in the center and aquamarine border along the plate’s edge.

white lemon square plate

The unique rounded square shape also adds character to these Italian hand painted plates. They work well for serving appetizers, desserts, or side dishes with causal elegance. I’ve used them for artisanal meats and cheeses at dinner parties as well as delicate French macarons. No matter what they serve, these plates empty quickly – I think it’s because they make food look so delicious!Italian hand painted plates

Of course, hand painted dinner plates also appeal because of the human touch in their creation. Hand painting means that no two plates are exactly alike. The individual brush strokes, incredible detailing, and overall liveliness make for useful and usable works of art. For this reason lots of people like to hang the blu limoni plate as a wall decoration when not using it to serve. It’s just too vibrant to hide away in a cabinet.

Ceramiche Bartoloni’s lemons grace more than just plates, with mugs, pitchers, soap dishes, and spoon rests that continue the theme. Whether used as an accent or a central motif, these lemon plates are the perfect way to brighten a room with a touch of Tuscan charm.

lemon muglemon pitcher

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.

The groundhog said that we’ll have an early spring this year… Given the blizzards and storms across the country, I think it’s about time for some good news! Spring doesn’t just mean warmer temperatures and a lack of snow (admittedly not something we worry much about here in San Francisco); it’s also a time to think about your garden and this year’s planting. Inspired by this article in the New York Times about Tovah Martin’s amazing houseplants (she has over 200 in her home), here are some tips for getting your 2013 garden started early and using fun accents like zig zag planters to banish winter blues in the meantime.

wall planter

  • Italian PlanterGo west! Sunlight exposure for plants can make a huge difference. In the winter, put your ceramic planters where they’ll get western light, not eastern.
  • Stay moisturized. Dry air is another enemy of indoor plants. A humidifier can keep even the most delicate blooms happy and healthy until it’s warm enough to put your favorites outside. Watering frequency is also key – every plant is different. Ferns love moisture while begonias and geraniums like to dry out before a thorough soaking. If leaves start to fall off, chances are you’ve let your plant dry out for too long.
  • Pick the right pots. I agree with Tovah that, “Even the most boring supermarket plant can look great, by giving it a smart pot.” Blue and white planters in a variety of patterns make for stylish arrangements indoors or out. Graphic additions like a zig zag planter or the intricate details of an Italian planter add another splash of color to your greenery or flowering plants, decorating your windows and indoor spaces now. Once things warm up, these ceramic planters move easily to the porch or patio, adding depth to your garden.zig zag planter
  • Acclimate before planting. This time of year you can plant bare root roses, fruit trees, and berry bushes directly in the ground (as long as it’s not frozen). But for other greenhouse-grown plants like a blooming primrose or winter pansy, you’ll need to get your new additions “hardened off” before putting them into their new outdoor homes, explains Marianne Binetti. This means sheltering plants on a porch or other protected area where they can adjust to the cool nights for a week or two. Then fill your window boxes, garden, or outdoor wall planters with some well-deserved color.
  • Be unexpected. If your bathroom gets good natural light, please humidity-loving orchids, aloes, and bromeliads while creating a lush mini-jungle. Colorful Talavera planters that match your décor pull the look together. Another idea? Train plants with vines or tendrils to create a natural curtain in a south-facing window.

Italian planterHow do you use zig zag planters? Have plans for your spring garden or favorite plants for wall planters? Leave a comment and let us know!Italian ceramic planter

Houseplant image courtesy of The Greenery Nursery.

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.

big round vase

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.

large vase

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.

Hawaiian vase

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.

Blue Striped Mexican Vaseblack zigzag vase

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”.