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Talavera Pottery

A HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE

Puebla, the largest colonial city in Mexico, has an art that distinguishes it in the world: the talavera.

However, the talavera poblana is not the traditional talavera.

The history of this ceramic art is, like the objects it produces, an ancient crystallized mosaic formed by conquerors and conquered, by navigators and queens, by wars, regulations, decrees and laws.

It is called "talavera poblana" to the clay pieces with a vitreous finish in ivory white color, on which infinite decorative motifs are reflected. Throughout the centuries this technique has been perfected; from ancient China, to old Italy, Muslim Spain, and eventually in the workshops of Puebla artisans.

Its origin in Mexico begins like that of many other crafts that enjoy current popularity: with the arrival of the Spaniards. The missionaries and builders of buildings and temples introduced the technique for the distinctive finishing of their works. The mosaics were then synonymous with opulence and good taste. The complicated elaboration of the ceramics, and its final beauty, showed refinement and richness. Not everyone could make talavera and not everyone could acquire it.

In the 16th century, the first artisans from Spain arrived to teach the natives how to make it. The characteristics of the land and its abundance in the surroundings of Puebla, led to the installation of the first formal ceramic workshops.

Soon, Puebla became the most important talavera production center in New Spain. From the city it was exported to Guatemala, Colombia, Cuba, Santo Domingo and Peru.

This art reached its peak in 1650 and remained at the top for a century. The size of the industry was such that the Viceroy had to enact regulations, organize the guilds and establish quality standards. In 1653, the laws made clear who could and could not be called artisans, how they had to decorate themselves, what materials to use, what should be considered fakes and what characteristics should have the goods to be of fine quality, moderately fine, or daily use.

This period is known as the "Golden Age of Talavera", despite the fact that the official decree prohibited its manufacture to any "black, mulatto, or other person of troubled color" ... Not only were the decorative elements of the Spanish and Italian tradition, but at this time, new designs and influences were adopted from the Chinese pottery of the Ming Dynasty, which entered the country in galleons from Manila.

Then came the War of Independence and activity collapsed, partly because of the convulsion suffered by the war and partly because of the introduction of English ceramics that, due to their low cost, presented a competition that was difficult to overcome due to Puebla's manufacturing techniques.

Shortly after, a lethargy came to the Poblana tradition. Other states in the country, such as Guanajuato and Jalisco, began producing talavera. The workshops diminished in Puebla and the old art, without innovative elements, without the economic attractiveness that supposed in another time and with less and less rooted among its inhabitants, staggered from its throne.

In 1897, Enrique Luis Ventosa arrived in Puebla, from Catalonia, who with his enthusiasm for the artistic testimonies that the talavera had spread in the Mexican culture, promoted new workshops and techniques that represented a handle for the tradition.

In 1922, Ventosa installed a workshop in association with the young potter Ysauro Martínez Uriarte. Together, they incorporated pre-Columbian and art-nouveau influences into the ancient designs, and promoted the restoration of quality standards.

In 1997 the denomination of origin was established for the product, which restricts its elaboration to the state of Puebla in order to guarantee the elements that provide quality to its pieces. There are 17 workshops accredited for the production of Talavera, according to the tradition of old techniques that have not changed over the centuries, employing 250 people and exporting the goods to the United States, Canada, South America and Europe.

The talavera poblana is one of the cultural traditions that exalt the imagination and creativity of our people, a consequence, like her, of a deep miscegenation of people and cultures of the world.

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