In honor of Cinco de Mayo, and the state of Puebla, Mexico, I thought it would be fun to discuss the wonderfully decorated Talavera Pottery which hails from that region. Talavera is a white-glazed earthenware that evolved from Islamic-influenced majolica ceramic designs that originated in 12th century Spain. Typical patterns on Talavera work include the abstract symmetrical patterns found in Islamic art, as well as motifs from nature such as flowers, fruit, and birds.
Many of the Spanish artisans came from the city of Talavera de la Reina, a city renowned for its tradition of pottery. Thus, it became the namesake of what was then a new style of ceramics in Mexico. More specifically, the name Talavera Poblana was created to indicate the pottery's newer Mexican origins.
Because it was located near an abundance of quality clay and well positioned on a trade route, the state of Puebla soon took over as a hub for the creation of Talavera pottery within the Spanish colonies. Guilds were created, rules were enacted, and annual tests were administered to craftspeople to ensure the highest standards for work that was created in the region.
The colors used on Talavera pottery were strictly limited to mauve, orange, yellow, green, blue, and black, and they were only to be derived from natural pigments. Blue was the most expensive of the colors and therefore the most coveted by wealthy buyers. Craftspeople were also required to use a glaze that crazed, (a process in which very thin cracks cover the surface of a piece) and which resulted in a whitish tint. The bottom of all Talavera pottery was to be unglazed and imprinted with the mark of the artist, manufacturer, and location of production within Puebla.
Over the past 200 years there have been attempts to bring back the craft to its old standards in Mexico. Currently there are over a dozen studios making this special pottery, faithfully following the traditional methods. Mexico has even created a regulatory board to ensure that ceramics bearing the Talavera name live up to the original techniques and quality. For more information about Talavera pottery and its fascinating past, visit some of the references in my list of sources below.