Talavera decorative tiles: the second skin of Mexicans

Decorative tiles of blue and white: the beginnings of Talavera

Among Talavera ceramics, traditional decorative tiles are the most prevalent. These are applied in a rich and tasteful way in all areas of Mexican interior design, and they also embellish all kinds of public places. The writer, Alberto Ruy Sanchez Lacy summed up the significance of the tiles when he called these the second, “chosen skin” of Mexican people. The first two centuries of Talavera brought about the dominance of the color white and blue, mainly because the mineral pigments needed to produce the color blue were the most expensive to procure. Therefore, this color was also used to indicate the high quality and exclusivity of the given products. The fact that the blue-white “azulejo” ceramic tiles were regarded as status symbol is well-described by a popular saying from that time in New Spain (NB: this is Mexico!). According to this, those who wouldn’t amount to anything in life would never have a “Casa de Azulejos”, i.e. a house of decorative tiles.

Bright colours, rich patterns: the Mexican (r)evolution of decorative tiles

Starting from the 1800s, bright colors and a great variety of forms were introduced in the production of Talavera, evolving it to the style known even today. Apart from maintaining the highest possible quality, these changes added another fundamental element to Mexican folk art and culture. Some of the most prevalent figures used in the decoration of Talavera products are snakes and frogs, whereas peacock feathers, sunflowers, sun and moon motifs and Calla lilies are also used in abundance.

Find your original Mexican decorative tile at La Tienda!

If you have a chance to go to Mexico, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Puebla, the center of Talavera production, where you can admire the colorful products of this centuries old tradition, as well as the masterpieces of Spanish colonial architecture. Nevertheless, should you decide to postpone your visit Mexico, we are glad to be of your service with our webstore that offers – among others – a large selection of original Mexican decorative tiles made by pottery masters from Puebla.


Talavera: the origins of Mexican decorative tiles and ceramics

The word Talavera refers to hand-made and hand-painted pottery (decorative tiles, vases, bathroom sinks, interior accessories) that has centuries-old-tradition in Mexico, and also describes the process of making these pottery products characterized by bright colors and rich patterns.

The word itself is derived from the name of a center for Spanish pottery art, the city of Talavera de la Reina. In the mid 1500s, the first pottery artisans arrived from this city to Nueva España, as Mexico was referred to by the Spanish colonizers. Legend has it that the Dominican monks of the ever beautiful city of Puebla in Central Mexico, resettled Spanish artisans there so they could participate in the decoration works of the Santo Domingo cathedral.

The Secret of Talavera’s Beauty and Excellence

The good monks probably never imagined the kind of success this lead to. The indigenous population, already skilled in the art of pottery, soon mastered the new techniques. Thus, Talavera, with its fusion of several Mediterranean, Moorish and Central-American Indian styles, started its world-conquering tour that is going strong even today. Talavera’s rise to global fame is not only due to the exceptionally rich colors and the unique, hand-made pieces, but also the regulations established in the late 1500s. The creation of such standards was at that time unique. It is only in the “Reinheitsgebot”, the standards for Bavarian beer brewing, that we find similar elements.

Strict Quality Control over Talavera production

Talavera regulations defined the raw materials and techniques to be used during the production, as well as the specific features of the finished products. The artisans were obliged to mark each finished product with their own brand symbol or initials in order to filter out imitations. They had to undergo an exam each year, and could only receive and/or maintain their title as Talavera pottery master if they passed. The finished products were categorized according to quality; these categories had to be indicated for the customers (fro example, on the backs of the decorative tiles).