Posts Tagged ‘talavera’


Tonantzintla Shop Sells Cholula-Style ‘Talavera’

Monday, March 17th, 2014

AAP-TalaveraTonantzintla2014dThe tiny town of Santa María Tonantzintla, which lies just south of Cholula off the old federal highway to Atlixco, is probably best known to outsiders for its magnificent church. The architectural gem is said to be the rural community’s version of the ostentatious Capilla del Rosario in Puebla, which centuries ago was heralded as the eighth wonder of the world.

Tonantzintla’s 17th-century edifice beckons parishioners and tourists alike with dueling tower bells and intricately laid white and cobalt blue talavera tiles on its facade. Inside, the nave is literally plastered from floor to ceiling with colorful religious symbols, both European and indigenous, that seem to bring the walls to life. It is, in a word, spectacular.

Visitors may not take pictures of the church’s interior without special permission (or a wedding invitation), but they may purchase locally made talavera at a nearby shop. In fact, one of our favorite producers in the entire region is Talavera Tonantzintla. Although its wares aren’t certified by the government, in part because its pottery is lead- and cadmium-free, the craftsmanship of the artists who painstakingly throw and paint every piece by hand is, at its best, exquisite.

Yet the real treasures turned out by this family-run operation are made of cotto, a type of pottery named after the “baked” porcelain and ceramic tiles of Italy. (We suspect that neighboring Chipilo may have had some influence here.) The pieces produced by Talavera Tonantzintla celebrate the area’s pre-Hispanic culture by flaunting one or more of 55 designs from a Cholultecan codex [PDF]. The images, such as the native turkey (pictured below, far right) are chronicled alongside many others in the book Diseño Gráfico en Cerámica Prehispanica Cholulteca. Their reproduction is approved by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

AAP-TalaveraTonantzintla2014aAAP-TalaveraTonantzintla2014cAAP-TalaveraTonantzintla2014bShoppers may visit the small factory, which is located inside an unassuming, graffiti-covered building near kilometer 11.5 on the highway. It’s open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays until 3 p.m. However, according to the owners, the best selection of the shop’s work can be found at Tonantzin, Avenida Hidalgo #33 (at Iturbide), in Santa María Tonantzintla. The store is open Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. —Rebecca Smith Hurd

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Where to Buy Handmade Artisanal Goods in Puebla

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

“Typical Mexican flea market.” “Mostly touristy merchandise.” “The same stuff over and over.” The average reviews of El Parián on TripAdvisor are fairly apt. Although it’s possible to find lovely, regionally made artisanal goods at the popular open-air market, cheap knick-knacks abound. Some of its 112 “local” vendors even sell products from countries other than Mexico. “It’s a pretty place, but you have to be observant because there are Chinese wares mixed in and it’s easy to get confused.”

So, where can visitors buy authentic, high-quality artisanías in the city’s center? Below is a list of our favorite craftspeople. At their workshops and stores, you can find clay pots and talavera, glass and silver, and textiles and cigars — all lovingly made in Puebla.

Mix colors and paint each piece by hand in Talavera Armando's workshop.Hand-sculpted mole pots in the making.Glasswares

Certified Talavera

You can hardly walk a block in the city’s historic center without seeing a building façade adorned with talavera tiles. The art of making the now-signature ceramics was introduced to Puebla in the 16th century by emigrants from Talavera de la Reina, Spain. Many colorful dishes, decorations, and fixtures are still made the old-fashioned way by a handful of certified producers in town, including Talavera Armando and Uriarte Talavera. (Tip: To know whether a piece is certified, look for “D04” painted on the bottom.) Both sites offer tours in Spanish of their factory floors, where visitors can learn more about talavera and see how the process of making it unfolds.
Talavera Armando, 6 Norte #402, Col. Centro (222-232-6468). Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Tour fee: 25 MXP per person.
Talavera Uriarte, 4 Poniente #911, Col. Centro (222-232-1598). Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday; closes at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tours: weekdays only, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 50 MXP per person.

Clay Pots

The Centro Alfarero del Barrio de la Luz is the only traditional factory still operating in what was once a neighorhood overflowing with pottery makers. Its collective today comprises 15 families, including the Lopez-García clan, which has been working clay into pots, jugs, candlesticks, and other items on the premises for seven generations. People come here from around the state to buy handmade cazuelas for mole — the largest, a campana entera, holds enough to feed 800 people — and other wares made daily from barro. Visitors may also get a glimpse of the giant brick oven in back, where many of the pots are still fired. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza #1403, Barrio de la Luz (222-294-2752). Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday; closes at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Handblown Glass

Antigua Fábrica de Vidrio “La Luz” is a retail store and museum dedicated to hand-blown and molded glass. The business was founded in 1935 by Victor Martínez Filoteo, an apprentice of Camilo Ávalos Razo, the Poblano who was once considered to be the master of the craft in Mexico. Although it isn’t the site of the original factory, which was located a few blocks away, it is a wonderful place to learn the history of the trade in Mexico — and to buy glasswares, including traditional items made of vidrio verde colonial, or “Colonial green glass.” 3 Oriente #1018, Barrio de Analco (222-242-5338). Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday to Friday; closes at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

SilversmithTextiles at IquitiHand-rolled cigars

Hand-Rolled Cigars

Although its tobacco and cigar-makers hail from the neighboring state of Veracruz, the smokes churned out by Fábrica de Puros Legendaria are assembled in Puebla. You can watch its artisans in action at its tiny store, located in front of Villa Rosa restaurant. Choose from three types of cigars — regular, Cuban seeds cultivated in Tuxtla, or rum-soaked — in varying lengths and widths. The house recommends the torpedo-sized mulato maduro. 5 Oriente #207, Col. Centro (222-232-5067). Hours: 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Silver Jewelry

Manos de la Tierra houses the workshop and flagship store of Giovanni Rangel, a Puebla native who makes jewelry from silver, talavera, fossils, and semiprecious stones like amber, jade, turquoise, and obsidian. His exquisite rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and cuff links are all one-of-a-kind pieces, which he carefully sketches out on paper before forging them in different grades of Mexican silver (925, 950 or 999). Gift purchases are wrapped in colored tissue paper and a cloth bag with literature about the artist and his materials. 6 Sur #4, Col. Centro (222-213-7052), with a second location inside the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.


Weaving has played an important role in Puebla’s history since the city’s earliest days. Although many of handmade items now come from other parts of the state, such as the Sierra Norte and the Mixteca regions, you’ll often find for sale here in the state capital. We recently purchased a beautiful wool shawl decorated with intricate woven patterns at Iquiti, a small boutique that also sells pillows, table runners, dolls, and clothing made by indigenous women and girls from Puebla and elsewhere in Mexico. It’s located next door to a cute café (owned by the same family) that brews Oaxacan coffee.
Iquiti, 5 Sur at 7 Poniente, Col. Centro (222-232-0275). Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday.

Of course, the city of Puebla offers many other places to buy artisanal wares. For arts and crafts, visit the pedestrian area next to the Carolino building (3 Oriente between 4 and 6 Sur). For antiques and flea market items, try Los Sapos plaza (6 Sur at 5 Oriente). For household wares, check out the tianguis in Analco park (5 Oriente between 8 and 10 Sur). Do you have a favorite place to share? Leave a reply with your tips below!

—Rebecca Smith Hurd

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The Centuries-Old Art of Making Talavera Pottery

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

A veteran painter puts her personal touch on a series of titles.Since its introduction by Spanish settlers in the 16th century, talavera pottery has become synonymous with Puebla. The beautifully hand-crafted ceramics, which take the form of everything from garden tiles to dinnerware, adorn building fronts in the historic center, replace china sets in Mexican households, and travel home with visitors as souvenirs. Talavera is so revered that President Calderón ordered a special bicentennial pattern last year for his Independence Day state dinner; Governor Rafael Moreno Valle buys centerpieces to give as personal gifts; and collectors worldwide seek out new and historical pieces to display as fine art.

The local tradition of making talavera started shortly after the city of Puebla was founded in 1531. “The Spanish feverishly began building churches, monasteries, and convents,” notes “To decorate these buildings, craftsman from Talavera de la Reina … were commissioned to come to the New World to produce fine tiles as well as other ceramic ware. In addition, these same craftsman were to teach the indigenous artisans their technique of Majolica pottery, in order to increase production levels.”

Orders in progress at the Uriarte Talavera Factory.Nearly 500 years later, artisans continue to produce talavera in Puebla. In fact, the capital city is home to the longest continuously operating factory in Mexico and perhaps the world: Uriarte Talavera. Uriarte is one of the oldest businesses in the country, ranking in the top 10 behind José Cuervo’s tequila distillery in Jalisco and several other well-known enterprises.

Located in Puebla’s historic city center, Uriarte Talavera has been turning out handcrafted pottery since 1824. The factory is one of seven or so certified producers in the region; its competitors include Talavera de la Reyna, Ansar Talavera, and La Concepción. Certified ceramics — which bear the mark “DO4” on the bottom — are made from a 50-50 mix of black and white clays from the Sierra Negra. They must include only mineral-based paints, have a glaze that contains a minimum amount of lead, and meet various other government standards. “Lead makes it shine,” co-owner Michael Paulhus explained during a recent visit. “Mexican authorities are stricter than their U.S. counterparts, so our lead content is below the FDA rules for food service.” (Paulhus, for the record, is Canadian; the four other partners in the business are poblanos.)

The central courtyard features the original “Coke bottle” furnace (no longer in use).The entire process is labor- and time-intensive. Depending on its size, a single piece of talavera takes weeks, if not months, to produce. The clay is shaped, dried, fired, glazed, hand-painted, and fired again before it’s finished — and then nearly a third of the pottery produced gets smashed because it doesn’t meet quality standards, Paulhus says.

Although Uriarte Talavera dabbles in new shapes and original designs — look for Mayan-themed items in 2012 — some of its licensed patterns date to 1724. Back in the day, talavera from Puebla became highly sought-after as a symbol of prestige in part due to its signature blue decoration. The vivid paint color is derived from cobalt, which comes from Africa and for a long time was difficult to acquire. “Now there’s FedEx,” Paulhus noted, “but before it came over on a ship.” About 80 percent of Uriarte’s work is made to order, but visitors can shop for sets and one-offs at the company store on-site, on its website, and in selected boutiques.

The Uriarte Talavera factory and store is located at 4 Poniente #911 in Puebla’s historic center. Tours are offered Monday through Friday, 10am to 2pm (one per hour), in English and Spanish.

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