Talavera ceramics originate in Puebla, Mexico and are a type of Maiolica pottery distinguishable by the milky-white glaze that coat them. Only Talavera ceramics from Puebla and its surrounding communities are considered authentic. Places such as Atlixco, Cholula, and Tecali also produce authentic Talavera ceramics. This is because of the particular quality of the natural clay that is only found in this area. The production of this pottery goes back to the 16th century when it was, originally, decorated only in blue, but as time marched on piece in yellow, black, green, orange and mauve began to appear. Maiolica pottery itself was brought to Mexico by the Spanish during the first century of the colonial period.
Production of Talavera ceramics became highly popular and developed in this area because of the high calibre of clays found in the area as well as the demand for tiles for the newly established churches and monasteries in the area. By the mid-17th century guilds and standards were in place to improve the already high quality of the pottery and usher Puebla into what has been called the “golden age” of Talavera ceramics and pottery. This golden age lasted roughly from 1650 to 1750. The local name for the potter us Talavera Poblana which is used to distinguish the Mexican pottery from Spanish Talavera.
What was it used for?
Talavera ceramic is most commonly made into pragmatic items like plates, bowls, jars, flower pots and even sinks! A significant amount of the ceramic is also used to make tiles for the interior and exterior of Mexican buildings alike. The Puebla kitchen is a very distinct style of kitchen that is the home of Talavera ceramics. In such kitchens you’ll find that everything from the tiles to the sink and plates are made of authentic Talavera Poblana ceramics.
How is it made?
Since colonial times the process of making Talavera ceramics in Mexico has been largely unchanged; all pieces are created by hand on a potter’s wheel and are covered with a glaze that contains tin and lead. The glaze itself is very distinctive; it’s porous, milky white (not pure white) and covers only the visible surface, not the base. The designs themselves are slightly blurred, not having sharp edges, and blend into the glaze a little. They can be blue, yellow, black, green, orange and mauve, but all the pigments must be natural.
Tradition regulates the designs quite strictly. The paint is slightly raised over the base, only natural clays can be used (treated clays are non-authentic), and all pieces must be made by hand. The process can take up to three or four months, and the pieces can break at any given point which means authentic Talavera pottery is costly and fairly hard to come by. Because of this Talavera pottery makers have come under pressure from bigger and more productive markets which make imitation pieces.
In the early days only cobalt blue was used as this was the most precious pigment available. Then, as today, authentic Talavera Poblana ceramics and pottery were highly sought after as status symbols. Though others have petitioned for the right to produce official Talavera Poblana ceramics these claims were rejected in 1997. As a result other potteries are called Maiolica potteries.
How to tell if it’s genuine?
If you want to be sure that you’re buying genuine Talavera Poblana ceramics there are a few things you can check for. Authentic Talavera Ceramics should have an inscription on the bottom, in fact it’s required to. You’ll find the initials of the manufacturer, the initials of the artist and the location of the manufacturer in Puebla. Today only certified workshops may call their pieces Talavera ceramics due to certification issued by the Consejo Regulador de la Talavera. A piece that meets authenticity requirements will have the signature of the potter, the logo of the workshop and a special hologram unique to Talavera ceramics.