History of Talavera

Talavera in Australia

The word Talavera isn't well known here in Australia, it hasn't quiet made it's name, but we are hopeful that we can contribute to make this precious art-form known.

Talavera is a very old Mexican pottery tradition. Talavera is completely made by hand, an extraordinary, time consuming art-form which is very important to Mexican culture. 

Mexico is so far away from us here in Australia and our awareness of most things Mexican are unfortunately via American movies. If you have watched American sitcoms, you are likely to have seen Talavera in kitchens and lounge rooms without realising that they were Mexican or Mexican inspired (e.g Two and a Half Men). Mexican Talavera is very popular and highly sought after in the United States, particularly the high quality products.

The authentic Mexico is starting to make it's way here which is fantastic! If you have been lucky enough to have spent time in Mexico or America then you may know Talavera well, yet like most Australians, you may not be aware that there are different qualities of Talavera and it's history is incredibly interesting and diverse.  

In Australia we would liken it to stoneware, earthenware, pottery or ceramics yet the artwork is very different to what we would normally see here. 

 

Talavera's History

The documentation and theories on Talavera's history is extensive and still under much debate. We have put together a very brief summary of our research that we hope you find helpful.

Talavera is a type of Majolica ceramic. What is Majolica we hear you say? Majolica is thought to have come from the word "Majorca", an Island just off mainland Spain and is today ruled by the Spanish. In Majorca's past however, the island was invaded by the Moorish in 707. Over many centuries Islamic Pottery made in Muslim Spain introduced white oxide glazing and metallic effects of which Hispano-Moresque wares used both of these processes.  The Majolica ceramics were thought to have been shipped to Italy as Majorca was in the ships path from Velantia to Italy. Velantia became the centre of Hispano-Moresque wares during the 1500s and was widely exported for the Christian market. This is where it is believed the earliest influences of the white glazing used on Talavera was derived from.

Time Graph of Talaveras influences

1575-1700 - Moorish 

1600 - 1790 - Spanish

1600 - 1790 - Italian

1650 - 1790 - Chinese 

1800-1860 - Hispanic Puebla (Ignacia Uriate formed a factory in Puebla)

 

Talavera was first introduced to Mexico back in the 1500s when Spain invaded Mexico and brought with them the art form of metal oxide glazing, a ceramic production from the Spanish city “Talavera de le Reina”. The Spanish chose Puebla for it's high quality fine clay, so good infact that Mexican Talavera in the 1600s was thought to have been more refined that Spanish Talavera and could compete with ceramics of China in quality. Puebla eventually was named Talavera de Puebla after the Spanish city "Talavera de le Reina". Puebla became and still is the most important city for the development of Talavera in Mexico. 

There are many theories about how Talavera became popular within Mexico and one of the theories is that The Spanish had originally tried to keep the glazing a secret from the indigenous who were already masters in earthenware, although after time the indigenous learnt how to use the glazing and Talavera became a pivotal and important part of Mexican culture and it is an art form that they are very proud of today.  Puebla is now well renowned as the production centre of authentic Talavera in Mexico. Talavera is shipped around the world, particularly America and Europe where the art form is highly respected.

Talavera has found to have had many cultural influences including the Moorish who introduced it to the Spanish in the 12th Century.  The blue and white designs which are the most highly prized were influenced by the Chinese due to the increasing Chinese Imports to Mexico. There were also influences from Italy and of course the wonderful indigenous people of Mexico who were already producing earthenware when Spain invaded Mexico.

 

How is Talavera made and why is it so expensive?

Talavera is made completely by hand, beginning to end, similar to how it was made hundreds of years ago. The task to complete one piece is enormous to say the least and the talent and skill required to make it is exceptional. Please see our page on “Artisans making Talavera” for a more extensive overview of how our supplier Tobias Huerta makes his Talavera.

In Australia you would purchase the clay and likely be unaware of where it was from and immediately begin to mould the clay on a pottery wheel, however in Mexico, the process isn’t that simple or luxurious. The artisan would receive the clay in its raw form which needs to be from Puebla itself and the artisan would need to go through multiple steps before even being able to use it. To start they would receive the clay in bags and air it for a while, mix it with water to make it pliable and to eliminate lumps, place it in big blocks for absorption of water, elimination of air and settling and then it would be kneaded.  Once the clay is ready, only then can the beginning of the structure be formed and not to mention the weeks of drying, double firing, glazing and hours of detailed painting. All of this is still done by hand and the enormity of the task is huge! 

 

Are there different qualities of Talavera?

YES!! You can pick up some very cheap Talavera throughout Mexico which are made from moulds. It looks wonderful however the quality and tradition isn’t there and this is why it’s cheap. You will tend to know it’s from a mould if it’s perfectly painted and where the design is highly raised. High quality Talavera has a blurred type appearance and any slight imperfect variation in fact adds to the pieces authenticism.

Certified Talavera can only be called authentic Talavera. If the product is certified it is likely to be extremely expensive. Mould structures are a very cheap form of Talavera and can be found everywhere in Mexico and then there are the artisans within Puebla who have tremendous talent and knowledge however don't as yet have the funds to purchase the certification. 

There are only around nine companies that are certified in Puebla that can call their Talavera authentic, however these products are expensive and unfortunately not all artisans can afford to pay the certification each year.  The companies that have certification have to pass twice yearly tests to ensure that the quality is there and that they follow the traditional methods.

 We only buy from artisans who spend quality time with us showing their art form and who are guaranteed to provide us with excellent quality and service. Tobias Huerta ticks most of the certification list requirements (exception of the traditional colours) so we are confident and proud to sell his products. In fact we chose Huerta Talavera due to the stunning paint work and quality, we thought he stood out from multiple suppliers we visited.

We may look at importing certified Talavera in the future depending on how Australia embraces Talavera, however prices will certainly be higher.  If you are interested in us importing certified Talavera, please contact us to discuss as we are happy to work with the suppliers in Puebla for you.  

 

*references from Talaveras De Puebla Ceramica Colonial Mexicana and Wikipedia