I heard murmurings of artisans in Puebla turning lumps of clay into art, so promptly added in a stop during my sourcing trip in Mexico. The city did not disappoint! Streets are lined with the beautifully crafted tiles, they really add a charming feel to the place. They're featured in many museums, churches and colonial houses and are a big part of the cities identity.
I caught up with the talented talavera artisan, Joselito, who shared his passion for the ancient craft. He loves that absolutely everything is 100% handmade and that each artisans leaves a little piece of themselves in every piece they make. He grew up watching his grandparents making talavera pottery and wanted to follow in their footsteps, and feels incredibly lucky to have been able to inherit such a special craft from his grandparents and parents.
I had the pleasure of witnessing the 500-year-old elaborate process of how each piece is made and was left in awe. Artisans begin by mixing two types of mud in equal parts - both the black and white mud are found locally. The mud then goes through a dehydration process and is then kneaded to eliminate excess water and air. This is done by walking on the mud barefoot – I must admit, I did want to whip off my sandals and squelch my toes in too but I left it to the pros.
Once the pieces are made they take between 30-45 days to dry depending on their shape and size. When they have evenly dried they are then baked at more than 650 degrees for approximately 10 hours. This is called jahuete, which means red clay.
Next, the pieces move on to an enamelling process, which is a white liquid that covers the entire piece. This acts as a base for decoration. The pieces are then painted in intricate patterns with brushes made from horse or goat hair. Each workshop makes its own colours using natural pigments. Originally, talavera pieces were only coloured dark blue, light blue, black, yellow, green, red/orange but as talavera has modernised, more colours are now sometimes included. Once the pieces are painted they are then glazed at more than 1200 degrees.
The designs are based on each artisans imagination and creativity, though you may find similar designs, no two pieces will ever be the same. With each piece taking between 3-4 months to complete, I have complete admiration for the love that goes into creating each beautiful piece.
You can see some of the incredible pieces created by the pottery artisans of Puebla in our collection below.