Blue and white pottery has always been a favorite of mine since my grandmother gave me a small pitcher from Italy. So, imagine my joy when I discovered Señor Talavera, a local shop operated by Moises Jimenez. His is one of four Talavera shops in Vallarta that I know of. Some sell older pieces which are decidedly more expensive. Moises works with the Hernandez family from Puebla, Mexico whose pieces are newer and thus less expensive. That means Moises moves a lot of pottery through his shop as his prices and shipping policy are the best I have seen.
So, what is Talavera and why is it so popular amongst locals and collectors alike. The name comes from the town of Talavera de la Reina in Spain where, at the end of the 12th century, the original pottery was created based on a combination of Moorish and Islamic designs. It is believed that this style of pottery was brought to Mexico by the conquistadors during the early 1500’s. The Spanish monks who followed wanted to use Talavera tiles to decorate the new monasteries and churches being built in Mexico during this time. The clay around the area of Puebla was ideal thus the monks taught local indigenous people how to produce this pottery. By 1550, the city of Puebla was producing high-quality Talavera wares and, by 1580, it had become the center of Talavera production in Mexico.
The industry has gone through several ups and downs. Today there are about 15 families in Mexico who are producing authentic Talavera. Due to the increase in other countries making cheap replicas, the government in 1997 created the Denominación de Origin de la Talavera which aimed to regulate what pieces could officially be called Talavera. Requirements included the city of production, the clay that was used, the original designs, and the manufacturing methods. These pieces now carry holograms. One of the reasons the federal law was passed was because the remaining Talavera workshops had maintained the high quality and crafting process from the early colonial period and the goal was to protect this old tradition.
Today Moises carries not only the original blue and white patterns, but also multi-colored designs and new this year, black and white for more contemporary tastes. You can see the influences of not only the Spanish artisans, but also some of Italian and Chinese, all of who first began with the ancient cobalt blue glaze from centuries ago.
Visit his shop at: Calle Encino 275 on the Cuale River, Puerto Vallarta.
For more of my stories about the people of Mexico visit www.yourculturalinsider.com.