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Posts Tagged ‘handmade ceramic pottery’

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.

The most recent addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection, Poterie Ravel has been around since 1837. A fifth-generation family-run business, this French ceramics studio was founded in Aubugne, France, and made tiles and other terracotta products for the home. When Gilbert Ravel took over the studio from his father in 1935, he changed the direction of the company to make planters that had more modern designs. The focus moved to high-end interior and landscape designers; the result is a world-class workshop full of ceramic artists that handle 8 tons of product a day, most of it creating their famous large-scale pots. The next time you see a giant terracotta planter at a major hotel, airport, or other public place, look and see if you can find the Poterie Ravel logo – chances are you’ll find one.

Today two sisters, Marion and Julie Ravel, run Poterie Ravel. Their ceramics are definitely art, a process that begins with the clay itself, which is extracted from their own quarries. Small pots are thrown entirely by hand (including all the French ceramics in my collection), while the massive planters are molded by a ceramic artist using a plaster mold and a piece of wood. All the pieces big and small are finished by hand for a smooth surface and the terracotta pieces left unglazed. Other pieces, like the unique pitcher vases, platters, and serving bowls, are hand painted in vibrant natural glazes before being fired in one of their four gas ovens.

About 20 ceramic artists work at Poterie Ravel, including Etienne (pictured below) and Gil, who I met on my last buying trip to France.

One of my favorite parts about Ravel’s French ceramics is that every piece is stamped with the Ravel logo, date, and initials of the artist. After I had made my selections of these French ceramics, I found out that Etienne had made some of the platters, Gil some of the pitchers. I love how each piece tells a story; this kind of personal connection is definitely one of my favorite parts of working with local ceramic artists.

Poterie Ravel is one of the oldest ceramic studios in France, and the attention to detail is truly incredible. Anyone looking for centerpiece ideas needs look no further than one of their unique bowls or statement-making pitchers and vases. It took me four years to be able to offer their French ceramics as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection and I think it was certainly worth the wait!

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I’m excited to announce the opening of our Palo Alto pop-up shop this Saturday, November 10th. This will be our fourth year with a physical shop for the holidays… and I’d venture to say, it is our best shop yet! The last week has been a flurry of painting, unpacking, and putting the final touches on our new space at Town & Country Village. We’ve already had a number of curious passers-by come in, look around, and tell us they’re anxious for our actual opening day. Personally, I’m looking forward to having everything set up well before Thanksgiving and getting to talk with customers about handmade and handpainted ceramics as they discover the perfect gift for loved ones and themselves.

This year the shop is once again at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto, but we’re now in the beautiful Suite 10, located between Cold Stone Creamery and the UPS Store, across from LuLu’s Mexican Restaurant and Kara’s Cupcakes. I am already enjoying the many delicious offerings of my neighbors! Here’s a map so you can find us.

Starting this weekend, the shop will be open Monday-Saturday, from 10 am to 7 pm and Sunday, from 11 am to 6 pm. Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to the newsletter to find out about upcoming events (we’ll be having a few wine tastings and at least one holiday bash), flash sales, and other fun (like new pieces debuting from Mexico) in the coming weeks. Hope to see you soon!

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It’s almost Halloween and once that’s over, the holiday shopping season seems to officially begin. I’ll be opening the Emilia Ceramics pop-up shop soon (stay tuned to the blog and Facebook for more details) and am always amazed at how early people start to buy ceramics for their holiday gifting. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or another special celebration for family and friends, this is definitely the season of giving.

Looking to buy ceramics & pottery as gifts this year? Here are my top tips to ensure the best experience possible.

  1. Avoid the possibility of duplicates. No one likes to give or get a repeat gift. One easy solution is to buy ceramics online that are handmade or one of a kind. Because no two pieces are exactly the same (unlike mass-produced ceramics), you guarantee originality.
  2. Check out sizes. Photos are great, but double check the dimensions when you buy ceramics online. That vase might be 6 inches or 18 inches tall, making for a very different type of gift! When in doubt, pull out a ruler and double check that the ceramics & pottery you’re buying are actually the size you think they are.
  3. Remember that good things come in small packages. Unsure about what to get someone? Stick to practical pieces that can be used often. Coffee mugs, salt and pepper shakers, spoon rests, and multipurpose wine bottle holders are all popular ceramics to buy as gifts for this reason. I have many customers that buy these ceramics for neighbors, coworkers, and relatives on their lists. With the wide range of colors and designs, you’re sure to find appealing ceramics for any personality.
  4. Investigate shipping before you buy. When you buy ceramics online, make sure to look at the shipping policy as you shop around. What’s the policy on breakage? Is there a cut off time date for guaranteed holiday delivery? If you buy ceramics early enough you should be able to save on shipping costs and avoid express fees.
  5. Know the gift policy. Many places will gift wrap and send your gifts directly when you buy ceramics online, which can be a big time saver come the shopping crunch of November. Find out too about how returns are handled (refund, store credit, or exchange?) before placing your order to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  6. Find out how durable the piece is. Fine china teacups looks gorgeous, but seem like they will chip if you breathe too hard on them. Thicker, more sturdy ceramics & pottery are better for everyday use, especially if children or pets are anywhere in the picture. When you buy ceramics, think about who will use them and let that help your decision-making process.
  7. Think about collections. If you are figuring out the ceramics to buy for a collector, find out the focus of their collection. Do they collect by type (plates, pitchers), motif (roosters, polka dots), or color (blue and white, yellow)? Knowing where to start will ensure you select the best ceramics & pottery possible.

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When we arrived in Dolores Hidalgo, the streets were bustling with activity — it was 1:30 and everyone was out eating lunch and shopping. I was grateful that my driver knew exactly where we were going because even though this was my third visit to Talavera Vazquez, I never would have found it on my own. Every block, corner, and street in Dolores Hidalgo looks just about identical. But when we pulled up out front I recognized it immediately and Roberto Vazquez met me at the door with a handshake and a hug. The overflowing abundance of colorful and creative ceramic artwork inside were just as amazing as I remembered.

Roberto’s father Juan was also there to greet me — he is the 4th generation of the Vazquez family to run the business and Roberto is well-groomed to be the 5th. He ushered me into the studio out back to meet the three artists still hard at work (the others were already on their lunch break). One specialized in the design stage of the glazing process — he was using a pencil and ruler to carefully measure stripes onto a wine bottle holder destined for the Emilia Ceramics collection. Another, pictured here, was a painter — applying what will become cobalt blue glaze to an intricately designed planter. And the third (pictured below) was giving tibores their “bath” in the base glaze, which after firing, becomes the white color we see in the background of our Talavera Vazquez ceramic pieces. It was so fun to see pieces being made that I knew I’d soon be unpacking in California.

After watching the artists work, Roberto introduced me to a few other members of the small Talavera Vazquez team. Francisco (pictured below with me, Roberto, and a giant ginger jar) is in charge of all the artwork and responsible for being sure my requests are clearly communicated to the designers and painters. I asked if he was “a Vazquez” and Roberto replied “almost.” Francisco has been working for the family for over 20 years and is definitely considered an important part of the team.

I then spent an hour or so wondering through the various rooms selecting new pieces for the Emilia Ceramics collection. While I know that black and white zigzag ginger jars and blue and white striped vases are always popular, I was drawn to some new and fun shapes, color combinations, and designs… So excited to add these to the collection!

Everyone at Talavera Vazquez was so warm, welcoming, and friendly! This is definitely a family-run business that I am proud to support and who’s handcrafted artwork I am honored to offer my customers. Stay tuned for the new additions to the collection, probably arriving sometime in July!

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I admit it… I forgot just how much I love Gorky Gonzalez’s pottery. I first visited Gorky over four years ago and have been importing more and more of his ceramics ever since. I sell a ton of Gorky’s work, I blog about it often, am surrounded by it on a daily basis, and when I’m at my parents’ house, I even eat off it! But still, I forgot the excitement of visiting Gorky’s workshop in Guanajuato and seeing all the creative and colorful genius spread in piles around me. I forgot the pure joy of looking through those piles and discovering the gems: A perfectly painted rooster or fish, a serving dish begging to be filled with fresh guacamole, a new shape or design that I know my customers (not to mention my mom) will love.

Mrs. Gorky Gonzalez met me at the door and brought me upstairs to the showroom. We exchanged pleasantries and I reminded her that we had met about 2 years ago (the last time I was here in Mexico). I asked about Gorky Sr., her husband who founded the business and is renowned for reviving the majolica tradition in Mexico. Gorky Jr. (or Gogo), who runs the business now, joined us a few minutes later. He took me on a tour, visiting about 6 artists, either working on the wheel or painting. I spent a few minutes talking with one young man who said he’s been painting for Gorky for 9 years and still loves it. I was slightly disappointed to learn that he does not use Gorky pottery in his own home!

Then is was back to work… I spent more than an hour digging through each stack in every corner of Gorky’s showroom, selecting on the best plates, bowls, pitchers, and even a few gravy boats I could find.

All I can say is this: Get excited, get very excited! I’m pretty sure these new pieces will remind you just how much you love Gorky Gonzalez pottery. That is, in case you had forgotten.

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What does springtime and Easter mean to you? Among other things, for me they signify longer days, tulips, and daffodils, all three of which seem to bring a general feeling of optimism into my life. Growing up, I loved that April brought tulips and daffodils to my mom’s garden. They appeared like magic, announcing spring with instant color and cheer. There’s just something about the sharp contrast of bright yellow and orange petals against green stems and leaves — so fresh, so alive, so promising of all that’s to come.

I recently came across these photos from an event that I went to last spring. My good friend had volunteered to do the floral arrangements for the dinner and she asked me to bring vases from the Emilia Ceramics collection to display the flowers. There were about 20 tables to decorate, plus the reception and bar area, so I brought a wide variety of vases and pitchers from France, Italy and Mexico. We used colorful, yet small Italian pitchers, large Italian vases with handles, rustic French pitchers, and striped vases from Mexico. A wild, yet beautiful mix of tulip varieties brought all these vases and pitchers together.  Everyone loved the centerpieces! Using hand-painted ceramic vases instead of plain glass looked bohemian and rustic — bringing an authentic and homey vibe to the otherwise staid decor.

Here I am, sitting with all our arrangements. I especially love using these Italian pitchers for displaying tulips — they are the perfect size and shape.

Hope you have a great Easter weekend, filled with spring hopefulness, loved ones, and lots of tulips!

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Italian style seems so effortless, from a relaxed afternoon sipping espresso in the piazza to zipping around town on a Vespa. I know that life in Italy isn’t all what we see in the movies, but there’s still an enviable charm about “la dolce vita.” It’s one of the reasons that Italian ceramics are consistently top sellers – people long for a way to incorporate some of this laid-back style into their own homes.

So how can you add a little Italian style into your home? Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years when it comes to Italian ceramics:

1. Matchy matchy. Italian style dinnerware comes in many textures, colors, and sizes. Some people have a favorite Deruta pattern and only buy pieces from a particular artist or manufacturer (much like what my grandmother’s generation did with china patterns). I encourage mixing and matching various styles instead of becoming dependent on one specific Deruta pattern, which could stop being produced before your collection is complete or as soon as you break a few dinner plates. Ceramics that are painted by hand will always vary anyway, so why not embrace the variety!

2. Start small. All transformations take time, so gradually introducing Italian ceramics into your home with a piece or two is a smart way to go. An Italian earthenware utensil holder adds color and personality to your counter while keeping ladles, wooden spoons, whisks, and all your other kitchen tools in easy reach. Other options are perhaps an Italian ceramic centerpiece platter for your kitchen or dining room table, a spoon rest for your stovetop, or a handmade Italian ceramic vase in your living room.

3. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Sometimes a price tag can be informative… “made in Italy” on a platter that costs $19.99 for instance, probably means it was signed in Italy. However, that doesn’t mean you can always equate expense with quality. I think this assumption is one reason people spend so much money on Vietri dinnerware. While well-known for emulating Tuscan style, I think that Vietri ceramic fails to capture a truly handmade spirit. While quality is definitely worth paying for, a large price tag doesn’t guarantee quality. Skip Vietri dinnerware and find Italian ceramics that showcase the artist’s personality and match your aesthetic.

4. Color counts. Instead of trying to get the patterns of your Tuscan style dinnerware to all match, chose a few colors and build a collection around those. The variety will add depth and interest to your table, particularly when it comes to layering pieces. From Deruta patterns to Italian majolica pottery, you’re sure to find colors that work with your style. Warm yellows, soft greens, vivid blues, and rich reds are just the beginning.

5. Pack a design punch. Statement pieces are another quick way to transform a room or entire home. Instead of an entirely new collection of Italian style dinnerware, incorporate some stylish serving platters. Italian ceramic planters are another favorite as are wall plates or large Italian earthenware vases. Tuscany here you come!

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