Talavera is fine handmade Mexican majolica. The term majolica is generally used for all types of tin enameled earthenware of Mediterranean, Spanish or Mexican origin. In Mexico and Spain, majolica is called Talavera after the town of Talavera de la Reina in Spain.
Majolica, and its opaque surface, was first developed in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and became very popular in China where its technique was further developed. It was in use in Spain by the early 13th century and its development was heavily influenced by centuries of Moorish domination.
When the Spanish conquered Mexico in the early 16th century, they brought their ceramic industry with them and by the end of that century, the handcraft was well established in what is now the city of Puebla. In the late 16th century, Spain opened trade with China via the Philippines and Mexico and imports of Chinese porcelain began to influence Talavera design.
Today, Mexican Talavera reflects the diverse cultural heritage through motifs inherited from the Orient, the Italian Renaissance, the Moors, Spain and the New World. Elements from all these sources are combined at will and a sense of freedom and whimsy are often apparent in the compositions.
The Making of Talavera
1. A lump of clay is transformed into a desired shape manually on a potters wheel or with a mold and then left to dry for several days.
2. Once dried is ready for its first firing, what emerges from the kiln is baked terra cotta or "jaguete".
3. The piece is dipped into a chalky liquid glazed, which gives it the unique shine and color.
4. The painter painstakingly freehand decorates the piece. An understanding of the based mineral color complexities is essential, as the colors of the raw glazes used are different from the colors that are finally produced.
5. Finally, the piece is fired again, at temperatures 700°-1000° C. Brilliance and final coloration are determined by te temperature and kiln time.