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Posts Tagged ‘hand made ceramics’

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

amor plateOther 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.

handmade 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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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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How do you make delicious food even more appealing? Serve it in something gorgeous. Unique dishware, like a handmade blue and white bowl or serving platter, adds flair to any table. Whether it’s a family dinner, cocktail party or casual barbecue… any get-together is made more festive when decorative details are included – how do you think Martha Stewart built her empire?

When it comes to serving and eating from ceramics, I am especially drawn to unique bowls. Maybe it’s the round shape, so lovingly thrown by hand on a potter’s wheel. Or maybe its the various uses for bowls, which differ from one culture to the next. Mexican ceramic bowls, French coffee bowls, Italian pasta bowls, really bowls of all shapes, sizes, and origins cry out to be brought home and enjoyed. And because I believe it is important to really use these beautiful vessels, here are some creative ways to get the most of your ceramic bowl collection.

  • Drinks. French coffee bowls are an obvious choice for a large café crème or a chocolat chaud. Nothing beats dipping a fresh croissant into your favorite warm beverage of choice. Then again, I know kids who love having their chocolate milk served in a bowl – it always seems bigger that way.

  • Fruit. I love the complimentary beauty of citrus fruit displayed in blue and white bowls. Whether its a rustic blue bowl from the south of France or a blue and white floral pattern from Mexico, ceramic bowls are perfect for highlighting the natural beauty of oranges, lemons, and limes.
  • Jewelry. Use mini bowls to keep rings, earrings, or even necklaces. One of my customers told me she uses Mexican ceramic bowls like these by Gorky for her cocktail ring collection.
  • Snacks. If healthy food is readily accessible, you’re more likely to eat it. So why not load up Italian bowls with fresh fruits or nuts for an afternoon pick-me-up? A series of small Mexican ceramic bowls can also be great for serving dips for crunchy vegetables or a trio of salsas for your taco dinner.

  • Salad. A large green or fruit salad really comes to life when you serve it out of a big and beautiful Italian bowl. Traditional pasta dishes are also an obvious way to get the most of a large ceramic bowl. 
  • Dessert. While some may actually use their French coffee bowls for coffee, I am much more apt to use them for ice cream sundaes. Whether Greek yogurt with honey, nuts, and fresh figs, or piping hot cobbler à la mode, an assortment of ceramic bowls compliment a delicious finish to any meal.

Coffee bowl image courtesy of St0rmz.

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While the beauty and function of a ceramic piece is important, its origin has equal value in my mind. That is why I get to know artists personally, visiting their workshops in small towns, watching them work and discussing the techniques, glazes, and firing styles they employ. For me, there is no substitute for the knowledge that a bowl or plate I’m using was lovingly crafted and painted by human hands.

But what is the real difference between handpainted ceramics and their mass-produced counterparts? When Italian authorities began investigations to fight against fake handmade and handpainted ceramics several years ago, they obviously thought it a difference worth noting. In 2010 they ended up seizing over 2000 pieces bearing the “Handpainted in Deruta” signature that was in fact a decal transfer, not handpainted at all, says That’s Arte. These ceramics were being sold to tourists as well as exported as authentic Italian handpainted ceramics. Clearly there is money to be made here.

Art fraud or really any replication of a luxury good is becoming even more popular. From paintings to watches to handbags, it’s important to know the signs of the genuine article before making a purchase. Here’s what to look for when it comes to ceramic hand painting:

  • Brushstrokes. Ceramic hand painting will always show its true colors with brushstrokes, even if they are small. Often these come in a series in areas of solid color, but look carefully for the slightly darker areas that show overlap. (Can you see them in the image below?) Sometimes fakes will have a hand-painted rim on a plate or cup, so inspect multiple areas. Manufactured printed pieces often have a pixelated look instead of the even brushstrokes created by a human hand.
  • Crazing. With majolica pottery, this is a sure sign of authenticity. Crazing is the effect by which little hairlines appear over time (like in this photo blow); it’s a natural part of the aging process, which means it is only apparent in older ceramics. Pieces with bright white backgrounds and no texture should be suspect; authentic majolica made with ceramic hand painting will have more of a creamy white color instead.
  • Texture. The complex firing process of majolica produces slightly raised lines where the ceramic hand painting occurs. This “fat glaze” gives it such a wonderful hand feel; something mass-produced will have a flat surface. Another test is to scratch the piece with a coin; the glaze shouldn’t be affected at all.

Of course, the surest way to confirm a piece’s authenticity is to get to know the artist. This guarantees that you are buying handpainted ceramics. I visit my artists’ studios as often as possible, seeing the entire process in motion. That way, I know that my collection represents high quality and one-hundred percent handcrafted work.

Crazing image courtesy of Steve Snodgrass.

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Many of my customers worry about how to take care of their Majolica ceramics. It’s not complicated, I promise. Yes, your hand painted ceramics need a little TLC, but nothing too excessive.

Here are 5 top tips for keeping your hand made ceramics in top shape:

1. Don’t overheat. While the Majolica ceramics that I carry are all dishwasher and microwave safe, excess heat can lead to premature wear and potential breakage through weakening. If you must put them in the dishwasher or microwave, use low settings. But I recommend avoiding these heat sources as much as possible.

2. Avoid shocks. Have you ever accidentally put a hot glass dish into a sink with cold water? If it wasn’t Pyrex I’ll bet that it cracked or perhaps shattered spectacularly. Thankfully hand painted ceramics won’t explode if quickly moved from cold to hot, but again, they don’t like it and small cracks can occur. Never transfer a dish straight from the refrigerator to the microwave – make temperature changes as gradual as possible.

3. Crazing isn’t breakage. Over time Majolica ceramics may develop tiny lines or cracks in the glaze. This is a natural part of the aging process for these wonderful hand painted ceramics, not breakage. In fact, some people believe that it adds an antique charm to a piece’s look. If you want to minimize this effect, follow rule #2 assiduously. Run warm water over a plate or bowl before filling it with hot food or liquid, or use a metal spoon as a heat conductor when filling mugs.

4. Beware the drying rack. Hand made ceramics prefer hand washing – but you still need to be careful when it comes to drying. Breakage is easy when you pile plates and mugs or are clumsy with a dishtowel. Minimize stacking and placing pieces where they can be easily knocked over.

5. Use them! Sure the easiest way to keep your Majolica safe is to keep it hidden away… but where’s the fun in that? I believe that part of caring for these fabulous hand made ceramics is using them frequently.  After all, they were created with the intention of being used and loved. So have your morning coffee in that great mug, eat dinner off that beautiful plate, and keep that vase filled with flowers on the dining table. No sense in having Majolica or any other ceramics if you don’t enjoy them!

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As you all know, I’m slightly obsessed with handmade ceramics. The texture and feel are completely different than a manufactured piece as well as the knowledge that what you’re holding is truly one of a kind.

Reading about the Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago I was struck by the prominent role of the Pottery Place. Collin Rosebrook, the owner of Paseo Pottery studio, offers people the chance to do the final steps of Raku pottery themselves, reports BAM’s Blog. He, along with students and apprentices, throw and fire thousands of pots in different sizes for months in preparation for the weekend’s festivities. Festival attendees young and old can buy these handmade ceramics, glaze them, and have them fired using the traditional Japanese Raku process.

Raku is similar to Majolica in that it uses mineral glazes and a multi-step firing process. In this case, the Pottery Place offered cobalt blue, dark green, and copper glazes, all of which change with the firing process. Something else that sets Raku apart is the removal of pieces when they’re red hot from the kiln to a reduction chamber (where oxygen reduction gives the glaze its sheen) and then plunged into water for the final cooling step.

With all handmade ceramics, there’s uncertainty and the fear that something might go wrong. But there’s also the joy when it all goes right. Kids especially love the artistic opportunity: “it’s fun seeing their faces. They’re in awe that they created something. I heard one kid say today, ‘I did that!’” said Tom Taylor, who was the area’s volunteer co-chairman.

Families make visiting the booth a yearly tradition. I love that it allows everyone from a toddler to a grandparent to make something so unique and beautiful. I’m sure there are now many new pots on display in these homes and artists (both kids and adults) who are proud of their new handmade ceramics. What a great way to start your own handmade ceramics collection – why not give it a shot?

Photo of raku firing courtesy of Martin Cathrae.

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