Where it's at
Puebla, about 80 miles from Mexico City, is a beautiful colonial
city, populated with well preserved churches, ex-convents
and monasteries. Declared a Patrimony of Humanities site by
the United Nations for its fabulous architecture, Puebla is
famous for its gastronomy and for the hand-wrought, tin-glazed
Talavera pottery and tiles that are made here.
What's in store
There are fifteen Talavera workshops in the town which have
been awarded a 'Denominacio de Origen' by the Regulatory Talavera
Council. This certifies that they use clay that comes from
Puebla and it is moulded using the authentic methods.
Authentic Talavera pottery is hand-painted with intricate
designs using dyes derived only from natural minerals (ie
blue, black, yellow, green and reddish pink). The originally
Moorish technique was brought to Puebla by 16th century Dominican
monks from Talavera de la Reina in Spain, but 17th century
Italians introduced new colours, namely yellow, green and
black, and Chinese imports inspired new designs depicting
animals or floral scenes.
Uriarte Talavera is the biggest workshop in Puebla,
and visitors can take a tour to witness the production process:
from the purifying of the clay to its shaping into tiles,
urns, tableware, flowerpots, Christmas ornaments and all manner
of decorative items, then the painting, firing and final glazing
of the piece.
Bag a bargain
Original Talavera doesn't come cheap but is considered superior
to the version produced in nearby Dolores Hidalgo. Although
potters there are up in arms that since the award of the Denominacio
de Origen they can no longer call their wares 'Talavera',
experts can tell the difference immediately - in the colour
of the glaze (Talavera is white while cheap ceramics are white),
the brightness of the colours (minerals are brighter than
chemicals), the glassy sheen and overall texture of the piece.
If in doubt, the amateur can always check the place of origin
inscribed on the bottom of the pot.