Postcard from Puebla, Mexico: Uriarte ensures talavera traditions endure

Deep blue and light blue from cobalt, green from copper, yellow from antimony, orange from amatita (?) and black from iron. These are the only mineral-based colors permitted to create authentic talavera pottery in Mexico, and the special glazing helps them last and last and last.

Dominican friars arrived in Mexico from Spain centuries ago to teach Native Americans their techniques, and a potters’ guild formulated regulatory ordinances in 1682. The colors of the ancient tiles adorning churches and public spaces throughout Puebla remain brilliant, testimonies to the enduring quality of their craftsmanship.

There are only nine workshops currently authorized to produce the now even more stringently regulated form of art. To many, the leading workshop is in the heart of downtown Puebla, the tile on the façade of the building advertising its presence – Uriarte Talavera.

Many of the tiles around Puebla predate the workshop because it is relatively new by colonial standards. Don Ygnacio Uriarte did not found his workshop until 1824. Today, Uriarte Talavera is recognized as the eighth oldest company of any kind in all of Mexico.

Years ago, when we made our way into Uriarte, every single inch was lined claustrophobically with tall shelves of pottery of every shape and size in varying degrees of completion with layers of powdery pottery dust covering it all. We wandered around among the hundreds of offerings crowding the shelves and finally settled on a very fine, classic talavera pot to bring home with us.

Now the presentation one encounters upon entering is artful, not overwhelming. The company was purchased recently by new investors whose love of the caring craftsmanship and talavera traditions is clearly evident. The entire interior has been renovated.

Alas, as we were not driving this trip but flying and we have both downsized and modernized our décor to better suit our loft, no major purchases were made. But I did end up with some blue Uriarte earrings that were easily transported and that I love. And we still have our very fine pot.

Sometimes I still find myself lusting for a set of talavera dishes or, better yet, a house with walls completely covered with azulejos azules….

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