A HISTORY OF TALAVERA POTTERY

TALAVERA BEGINNINGS

We chose to call our restaurant TALAVERA because we believe that Talavera is the most beautiful and refined pottery in Mexico. Not only that, it also represents our Mexican roots. Mexico has a long tradition of potters whose skill has amazed the world beginning with the arrival of the Spaniards in the XVI century. During this time the Dominican monks from the city of Puebla invited master potters from Spain to teach the indigenous people of the region techniques of majolica. These techniques were used to decorate convents and monasteries throughout Puebla and eventually the same techniques started to be used on day to day items such as tableware and storage containers for sundries. Since then the city of Puebla has become and remains the center of Talavera in the New World (the name comes from Talavera de la Reina in Spain).

TALAVERA CLAYS

The process of creating Talavera begins with the two types of clay that are found in the region: black clay and white clay. The black clay gives Talavera sturdiness and durability, while the white clay gives it versatility and flexibility. The two clays are then worked on, meshed together and combined. They are then diluted in water, left to dry for about 15 to 20 days and then reworked on again to achieve a perfect blend of the two.

TALAVERA SHAPING AND BAKING

Traditionally the process of combining and working the clays was done by stomping on the actual clay with bare feet. After this, the clay is shaped and the shaped pieces are left to dry for a time period ranging from two weeks to up to six months depending on size. This drying period helps ensure there are no air bubbles that can expand and potentially make the art piece explode inside the kiln. After the drying process is completed, the piece enters the kiln for the first time at 850⁰C for about eight hours and when the baking process is over the piece has transformed to an orange terracotta color. At this stage in the process the pieces are known as “jahuete” a word that comes from the Aztec word for cooked or as “sancocho” which is an old Spanish word used to indicate a partial cooking. The next step consists of the pieces being dipped in a special glaze.

TALAVERA GLAZING AND PAINTING

The glaze is a defining factor in making Talavera unique, it gives the piece a sheen brightness exclusive to authentic Talavera. Once this process is finished the piece is ready to be either stenciled or painted freehand. The colors used are mineral based and made on site using the same techniques as nearly 200 years ago. The minerals are grinded down into a fine powder, then water is slowly added and blended in until the right consistency is achieved. It usually takes about a week to make a single batch. The painters then use a traditional mule hair brush, which are capable of handling the dense paint and are best for keeping dripping under control. After the paint has been applied the piece is ready for a second trip into the kiln, although this time it spends ten to twelve hours at 1,150⁰C. During this process the dull oranges become regal yellows, greys become stately greens and cobalt becomes a rich and unique deep blue. All of this reflects the magical alchemy of Talavera where the artist lets the combination of natural elements of earth, minerals and fire have the final say in the outcome of each piece.

TALAVERA STANDARDS

If Talavera is not from four specific municipalities in Puebla, it cannot be called Talavera. Currently only nine workshops are certified to call themselves Talavera makers. A DO4 marker will appear on the piece signifying it is authentic. Each of these certified workshops undergoes rigorous inspections in order to ensure their manufacturing process is up to standard. The pieces are subject to sixteen tests developed by internationally certified laboratories. Only six color pigments and combinations are authorized: deep blue (cobalt), light blue (cobalt), green (copper), yellow (antimony), orange (amatita), and black (iron).

Talavera © 2016