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How to Identify and Decorate With Talavera Pottery and Tile

Learn about this Mexican version of majolica pottery, which fuses the Old World and New World into a distinctive decorative art form that's a colorful accent for any space.

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Talavera Pottery: Old World Meets New World

Colorful and highly detailed, talavera pottery has been bringing a touch of Mexico to interior and exterior spaces alike for centuries. With its intricate, hand-painted designs set against a bright, white background, talavera pieces are a fusion of Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Mexican indigenous influences.

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Talavera Comes From Puebla, Mexico

The tin-enameled earthenware gets its name from the Spanish city of Talavera de la Reina, a major producer of colorful majolica from the 16th century to the mid-18th century. The Spanish majolica pottery was introduced to Mexico after the Conquest, when immigrants imported it to the Mexican city of Puebla in the 16th century. Puebla and its surrounding region became a center for the arts in the New World due to the presence of the Catholic church. "Military power was in Mexico City, but the church administration was in Puebla," says Marc Galante, owner of Mediterraniá, a talavera import store in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Those priests and bishops employed an army of craftsmen and artists to build and adorn churches and the households of the elite. That included potters who made talavera ceramics. This water pitcher was made in Puebla by Uriarte, one of the oldest talavera makers in Mexico.

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Talavera Blends Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Indigenous Influences

Puebla got serious about talavera in 1653, when the first potters’ guild was formed in the city. The guild set standards for the materials, colors, techniques and patterns that could be used in talavera pottery that are in effect to this day. The guild was made up of Spanish potters from the old country and indigenous potters from local tribes who added their own stylistic influences. The fusion of cultures resulted in the creation of an entirely new style of pottery than what had been made in Spain — one that blended Italian, Spanish, Chinese and indigenous styles and techniques.

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Blue And White Are Essential Talavera Colors

Much of the talavera made in 17th-century Puebla had a blue and white palette, influenced by the Chinese porcelain that was brought to Mexico from Manilla by Spanish galleons. The galleons are long gone, but blue and white talavera remains. To this day, blue and white is one of the canonical color schemes in talavera pieces ranging from wall tile to bowls to dinner plates. This courtyard fountain is made of classic blue-and-white talavera tile.

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