Authentic Mexican Crafts: Talavera Pottery

In Culture by Belen Molina

You may not know its name or the history behind its origin, but if you have traveled to Mexico, then you have probably been exposed to the beauty and uniqueness of talavera pottery. Talavera is a type of maiolica pottery, which is distinguished by its white glaze and dates back to the Renaissance period. Talavera was introduced to Mexico by the Spanish during the Colonial Period. Its production became highly concentrated in the state of Puebla due to the availability of high quality clays and the demand for tiles from the newly established churches and monasteries in the region. A mixture of Italian, Spanish, and indigenous ceramic techniques gave birth to what is now known as Talavera Poblana. In fact, Puebla has denominación de origen status as the source of authentic talavera, which means that for Mexican talavera pottery to be deemed authentic, it must come from the city of Puebla or from the neighboring communities of Atlixco, Cholula and Tecali. Furthermore, authentic Mexican talavera can only be painted in the following colors: blue, yellow, black, green, orange, or mauve, all of which must be made of natural mineral pigments.

The colorful ceramics and its intricate designs are displayed in the form of dinnerware, flower pots, vases, and other decorative items that can be found in Mexican kitchens, homes, churches, hotels, restaurants, and buildings all across Mexico. Beautiful handcrafted talavera tiles, known as azulejos, are often used to accent kitchens or baths, create murals, or adorn the walls of traditional Mexican buildings. Such is the case of Mexico City’s iconic Casa de los Azulejos, or House of Tiles, an 18th century masterpiece whose tile work make it one of the most beautiful baroque structures in the country.

Casa de los Azulejos

Talavera de la Luz is a certified talavera workshop located in the Barrio de La Luz, a traditional potters’ neighborhood in the city of Puebla. Due to its high quality and cultural value, some of their pieces have been exhibited in multiple locations in Mexico and abroad, including the Franz Mayer Museum, the Museum of Popular Art, and the former Convent of Santo Domingo, among others. If you are traveling through Mexico and have the opportunity of visiting the City of Puebla or Mexico City, you might want to stop by one of their sale points to purchase some authentic talavera pieces.

Buyer Tip: The Mexican Talavera Regulatory Council oversees the denominación de origen designation through a rigorous certification process. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop uncertified producers from selling and marketing their product as talavera. To ensure that you only purchase authentic talavera pieces, look for a “DO4” stamped on the bottom of the piece as well as a hologram sticker.

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