About Talavera Pottery

Talavera products are true works of art. Being handmade, no original Talavera piece is the same as another; the colors may vary and the size of the pieces may be slightly different.

Preserving the traditional method for more than 128 years, Talavera pieces are a symbol of Mexican tradition. Neither the passage of time nor the progress of technology have affected the preservation of the meticulous process of making Talavera, one of Mexico’s most beautiful crafts and of the most valuable traditions.

We proudly sell Talavera from URIARTE TALAVERA, the largest producer in Latin America and one of the world’s leading exporters. Founded in 1824 in the City of Puebla, URIARTE TALAVERA has a rich catalogue of designs spanning from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century, in a variety of products with a myriad of styles, shapes and colors.

Unfortunately, there are many imitations that with industrial processes achieve very low prices even if they are of low quality. All authentic Talavera pieces must bear an anagram on the base that is represented by the symbol D04, which means the authorization of the producer to make use of the denomination of origin, as well as the identification of the workshop that made it and the place.

When you invest in a URIARTE TALAVERA piece you are not only investing in an authentic and meticulously crafted piece of art, but also in the preservation a centuries old tradition that is deeply rooted in the Puebla identity and sharing this cultural heritage.

What is it

It’s a kind of pottery made using the technique of tin-enameled earthenware, commonly known in Europe as maiolica or faience. This technique produces a hard and opaque white glaze, which serves as a background for colorful, enamel-painted designs.

Origins

From its foundation in 1532, until the beginning of the 20th century, Puebla was the second most important city in New Spain due to its excellent geographic location and population settlement. This allowed it to satisfy a large part of the colonial demand for manufacturing.

The XVII Century was the golden age of Puebla. Its religious establishments prospered and people and capital flowed from Mexico City. Different religious orders -Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Jesuits- established themselves within the city limits. It is generally accepted that it was the Dominicans who prompted artisans to come to Puebla from the Spanish cities of Puente del Arzobispo and 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 their monastery and church with tiles and religious sculptures. 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 potter’s wheel or tin-glaze their pottery, which is one of the main characteristics of the maiolica ceramic. There are documents that record the presence of several craftsmen from Talavera de la Reina in Puebla during the XVI 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.

The ease with which the earthenware was reproduced in the city of Puebla had to do with the skill of the Indians of the region. They were skilled artisans for the manufacture of ceramics, who had made well-crafted artifacts to eat with since earlier times, among which we find: pots, pans, plates, cups etc. Although the pieces had color, it was opaque and was only highlighted through the use of the glazing technique that they quickly learned from the first artisans who came from Spain

In the XVII Century, the Viceroy authorized the creation of a potter’s guild to protect the interests of artisans while preserving the beauty, quality and originality of the pieces. Ordinances were laid down, that all of the potters who 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.
  • Three types of earthenware were to be produced depending on the quality of the pieces: Fine, Semi fine, and for Daily use.
  • Yearly there were to be examinations that the craftsmen had to pass in order to be considered master potters

It is believed that the use of the name Talavera to designate this ceramic produced in Puebla is due to the fact that the artisans who brought knowledge of this technique came from the town of Talavera de la Reina in Spain or because it was originally a true copy of the one made in the town of the same name, whose products were imitated from the beginning of the 16th century in the pottery of Seville, Triana and other places in Spain, which were the direct inspiration. It is also considered that the term “Talavera” began to be used in Puebla after several additions to the Viceroy's pottery ordinances in 1682. One of that stipulated that “fine china” should have the same qualities and characteristics as that from Talavera de la Reina.

In 1993 the producers, in coordination with the government and the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) obtained the fourth denomination of origin (DO4) in Mexico, which specifies and regulates the process that the production of Talavera must have. In that year, only workshops and artisans located in the State of Puebla were included in the protection. In 1997 those located in the neighboring state of Tlaxcala were added, forming what is called the “Talavera Zone”.

The appellation of origin designates the name of a geographical region and of a product originating in said area, whose quality or characteristics are mainly due to the geographical environment. The denomination of origin in turn represents the culture, tradition and specialization of a certain art or trade that differentiates one society from another.

In 1998, the Mexican Government published the Mexican Official Norm with the specifications that every product (tiles, food and beverage containers and ornaments) should meet to be legally denominated “Talavera”. These regulations include the kind of clay to be used and its preparation, the obligation to do the molding and painting process completely manually, the type and number of times of firing of the pieces, the identification requirement in each piece with an anagram and the other characteristics like resistance and appearance.

How is it made

The process of making the Talavera is very rigorous to ensure the quality of the pieces and is the same used since the seventeenth century.

The first step is the preparation of the clay. For this, two classes of clays are used (white and black) that are extracted from mines located only within a certain area. The clays are mixed in equal parts, they are purified of foreign bodies and later they are exposed to the sun in large deposits of water so that they decompose and obtain the necessary plasticity to be molded.

The second step is molding. Once the clay is ready, it goes to the workshops where the craftsman will shape the piece by hand, using a lathe or the help of a plaster mold, but in no case can the liquid casting be used. Once the piece is formed, it is allowed to dry before being put into the oven.

The third step is the first baking in the oven. The pieces are placed in the heat at a minimum of 1472 degrees Fahrenheit, for 6 or 7 hours. Once they come out of the oven, they are checked for cracks or breaks.

The fourth step is the enamelling of the pieces, which is generally done by immersion and which provides the basis for the subsequent decoration.

The fifth step is the decoration. This is always done by hand on the raw varnish (that is, on the unfused varnish) and, in the case of complex designs, the craftsman can help himself with the stencil. Only six mineral pigments and their possible combinations are used, whose formulations are traditional.

The sixth step is the second baking in the oven. Once the pieces have been decorated, they are placed in the oven for a second cooking that can last up to 40 hours at a temperature between 1832 and 2012 Fahrenheit degrees. It is after this second firing that the characteristic Crackle of Talavera appears, which are small fissures that the enameling presents in the finished piece and that are seen as fine lines in the enamel layer, the result of a higher coefficient of thermal expansion of the enamel with respect to the ceramic body.

From the preparation of the clay to the completion of the piece, depending on the size and complexity of the design, it can take up to 6 or 7 months.

Influences

Different influences can be found in Talavera pottery: Moorish-Andalusian, Spanish from Talavera de la Reina, Chinese, Italian and Mexican.

The Moorish-Andalusian comes from the eight centuries of Muslim presence in the Spanish province of Andalusia. It is characterized by geometric decorations with symmetrical, equidistant lines that form stars or polygons, and by its symmetrical profiles in a strong, opaque blue and intense black.

Talavera de la Reina styles were the first ones used for Puebla potters who imitated their colors and designs.

Chinese influence arrived from Manila through the Nao de China, which was a trade route that started from the Philippines, reached the port of Acapulco, Mexico, to be taken by land to the port of Veracruz and from there to be shipped to Spain. Of course, much merchandise remained for trade in Mexico and from there the Puebla artisans knew and used the porcelain designs of the Ming dynasty in their decorations and especially the blue and white colors.

Maiolica pottery from Genoa and Savona, via Andalusia, bought the Italian influence with imitation of its styles and use of the multiple colors of the Renaissance, that made constant use of greens and yellows tooled in black.

In the XIX Century the artisans started to use Nationalist themes, such as images of the country founding fathers and heroes, local fauna and flora (royal eagles, cactus., magueys, etc.), and in the XX century there was a renewed taste for the legacy of the past.

Legacy

In 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed the Artisanal Talavera of Puebla and Tlaxcala (Mexico) and ceramics of Talavera de la Reina and El Puente del Arzobispo (Spain) making process on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The UNESCO’S Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage defines the “intangible cultural heritage” as the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of the Convention, considerations are given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.

In the Talavera ceramic decision, the UNESCO took in consideration, among others, the following reasons that satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

  • The artisanal Talavera ceramic-making processes have maintained a historical continuity that has turned the production of this type of ceramics into an identity symbol for Puebla and Tlaxcala in Mexico, and for Talavera de la Reina and El Puente del Arzobispo in Spain. As a result, the lexicon related to the production of the ceramics has developed and become prevalent, acting as a bond between the two countries. Nowadays, in each territory, the element helps foster a sense of unity and strengthens ties to the community.
  • The inscription of the element would raise awareness of the value of intangible heritage at the local levels, increase artisans’ sense of pride, bring about a reassessment of their ancestral knowledge within their communities and increase younger generations’ interest in intangible cultural heritage. Moreover, the inscription would help create a new space for dialogue and dynamics of international cooperation around intangible cultural heritage in which other nations could participate. The inscription would also serve as a reminder to the international community of the importance and survival of artisanal knowledge and help increase its visibility.
  • Bearer communities in both countries have actively participated in the safeguarding of the traditional artisanal practice through different kind of measures with the support of local and national government authorities. Among them, the experience shown in the file regarding the linkage established between intangible cultural heritage and industrial property, may provide elements that could contribute to a better safeguarding of these artisan practices worldwide and to avoid the improper cultural appropriation by external actors. Mexico and Spain have underlined the importance of this tradition for both countries, and have created experience exchange spaces to enhance the joint work which could lead in the future towards common safeguarding measures.

The processes of making the artisanal Talavera of Puebla and Tlaxcala (Mexico) and ceramics of Talavera de la Reina and El Puente del Arzobispo (Spain) are identified with two communities in both Mexico and Spain. The ceramics have domestic, decorative and architectural uses. Despite changes over time and the developments ceramics have undergone in both countries – including due to the use of electric potter’s wheels nowadays – the artisanal making processes, including making techniques, enameling and decoration, retain the same pattern as in the sixteenth century. Related knowledge and skills include preparing the clay, making the earthenware using a potter’s wheel or cast, decorating, preparing enamels and pigments and managing the kiln, which requires great expertise. Some ceramists carry out the whole process, while others specialize in specific tasks. Related knowledge – including raw material extraction, material processing, decoration and firing techniques – is mostly borne by master earthenware artisans and ceramists, who have developed their skills over time and transmit them to the next generations through oral transmission in their artisanal workshops or in the family setting. Every workshop has its own identity, as reflected in the detail of the shapes, decorations, colors and enamels of the pieces, and the production of ceramics remains a key identity symbol in both countries.