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).