Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's Talavera Lesson Day!

NOTE: today's post is a companion piece to today's chapter in Explore Mexico with Me.

I fell in love with the pottery style known as Talavera years ago. But what is it?

The term "Talavera" comes from the town in Spain named Talavera de la Reina. It is here where this unique style of glazing came to be. There are way too many styles of Talavera to even begin to show them here. And the rip offs, the Talavera types, have just as many. It's the Talavera type pottery that we most often see being sold by the side of the road and at tourist stalls.

The first area of difference is in the actual workmanship. These type pieces are massed produced and it shows. The real Talavera is painstakingly painted one piece at a time. The entire process for one piece of pottery, start to finish, is six weeks. This is part of the reason it is so expensive. I have several examples of the Talavera type around my home. If you remember back to my house tour, I have Talavera type tiles in my bathroom. I could just as easily gold leaf my car as to be able to afford enough real Talavera to tile a bathroom.

This flower/plant pot is a classic example of the Talavera type. It's nice, it mimics the style but it just doesn't have the uumph that a real piece has. Or maybe it's just because I know it's not real.

A bigger version showing again the typical patterns. The fat swirls are very common as is the cross hatching. Flowers with elongated petals are also prevalent.

Not all Talavera type looks like that above. Take this piece.

It is a copy of the Burro pattern and shows a sleepy little desert village. I should have turned it around for the picture. The other side has stylized huts and donkeys. There is even the eternally stereotypical depiction of the Mexican sleeping with the Sombrero pulled down over his face.

Now on to the good stuff! These are three pieces that we bought when we visited the Uriarte Talavera Factory in Puebla. The House of Uriarte is only one of four truly licensed factories in Mexican to produce Talavera. Kids, don't fool yourself. This stuff is expensive and it behooves you to recognize the real thing when pricing Talavera. Notice that I only have three pieces to my name and they are very dear to me.

This is the Poppy pattern. This pattern rang with us as soon as we saw it in the showroom.

The proof is in the pudding. Turn any piece over and you better see something like this:

Let's look at the plate. From the top, what you see is the company logo, the name of the factory and where it was produced, the lot and order number, the date it was produced and how many were done of this pattern in that firing. Also over to the right you will see the initials of the artist who applied the glaze. Pretty cool. Interesting, because they are produced so quickly, tiles are not labeled the same. They are given the shortened version of just the company logo, date produced and artist initials. Also, this stuff must be handwritten, not stamped, and it is written before the firing process and baked on.

We were extremely fortunate when we took a tour of the factory. There was only one English speaking guide the day we were there. A bright-eyed 86 year old Senor Uriarte himself! The son of the original founder of this factory. We got to go places the public normally does not see. His first hand accounts, along with personal memories of the factory, made for a delightful and educational tour. We felt very special.

When not leading tours, Sr Uriarte still likes to dabble in handpainting a few items. I think he mostly likes to sit in the rooms where the woman are all working so he can be around them! They all greeted him with genuine fondness when he entered the room with us.

We were fortunate enough to be able to buy one of the few items he still creates every year. It's a "simple" tile design. Remembering that this man is 86, I think he did a remarkable job on it.

This tile even has his signature on it.

Finally, just to show you how much I love Talavera (and dragonfly stuff), I painted these on the balcony landing of the outside staircase. They are getting a bit weather worn now but I love them so much, I can't bear the thought of painting over them.


Andee said...

What a great post. I love that style too and have some really nice (to me) knock-off cheapie pieces from Tonala.

Very interesting, the whole post. It's interesting to me that many men in Mexico seem to keep their interested in women long after most gringo men seem to have lost interest. Just my opinion, or course.

but your onwer/tour guide seems to reflect that nice spirit.

Billie said...

I love Uriarte talavera too. I've been collecting it for years and have a lot of serving pieces and about 16 plates and some soup bowls. I collect random patterns and mix and match. Because my storage space is limited here, I didn't bring my Uriarte down with me. I sure do miss it. I may have to find some more storage space somewhere. Can you imagine living in Mexico and not using the Uriarte pieces that I have? Crazy.

Anonymous said...

i haven't read all your old posts. could you please tell me where i could find the one with the house tour? i would love to see your place.

how lucky you were to meet mr. uriarte himself. your special pieces of talavera are beautiful, as are the pots.

you were smart to indulge yourselves by staying at the holiday inn-after what you'd just gone through, you definitely deserved it.

have a great weekend!


wayne said...

teresa: the post was published Sept 1, 2007 and is called A Peek Inside, I think.

Andee: even the "knock off" pieces can be a thing of beauty. I prefer to call them Talavera type though!

Billie: was again you have succeeded in making me jealous! I wish I had discovered Talavera long ago also. You can bet I would have more than three pieces!

CancunCanuck said...

Wayne, great post! My hubby is from Puebla so Talavera has a soft spot for me as well. My one and only trip to Puebla two years ago included quite a few stops in Talavera stores, I wish we had got ourselves a tour such as yours. What an honour to get the tour from SeƱor Uriarte himself! Thanks for sharing your lovely pics too.

Now, a post about the candy of Puebla please. :)