Spanish Talavera Tile: Future Source of Inspiration with Centuries of Unique History

Spanish Talavera Tile

For many years, artisans in Mexico and elsewhere have made tiles by hand and painted them with unique Mexican tile designs handed down in families from generation to generation.

The process of making these tiles takes a lot of time and effort, but their cost is comparable to machine-made products that do not have the rich beauty of these handmade creations.

Talavera tile from Mexico is the most popular decor material right now, from Talavera patios to bathroom, kitchen, and stairwells. You can make entirely Mexican kitchen tiles or bathrooms, or you can use these glazed tiles to add a little extravagance to the design. 

Mexican Pottery History and Origin

Mexican Pottery History and Origin

What is Talavera and what does Talavera mean? The technology of manufacturing high-quality majolica was brought to Mexico from faraway Spain during the first colonial conquests, i.e. at the end of the 16th century (1580). There are several speculations on how exactly Spanish majolica from Seville and Toledo (Talavera de la Reina) got to the New World. The most probable version is that it was brought by Dominican friars from Talavera de la Reina who was familiar with this craft in their homeland and, having got to Mexico, applied their knowledge for decorating churches and monasteries. Fortunately, the state of Puebla had an abundance of excellent white clay suitable for the production of majolica (pottery) of the highest quality.

As the demand for ceramic old Spanish tiles increased and their use grew, the monks began to teach this skill to Mexican artisans and even Indians, and in later years the ranks of potters were also greatly enlarged by artisans who came from Talavera de la Reina and Seville. Diego Gaytan made a special contribution to the local style of Talavera (Spain) Poblana pottery.

From the end of the XVI to the beginning of the XVII century, the number of artisans with their own style and design increased so much that in 1653 the government was forced to introduce clear requirements for the skill level of the artisan, as well as the quality and standards of decoration of true Talavera pottery. For example, the use of costly cobalt for decoration and the signature of finished works was mandated to protect against counterfeiting. The period from 1650 to 1750 is considered the golden age of the development of local ceramics.

Puebla became the main pottery center of New Spain and its products were exported to various parts of Latin America. This period also includes the appearance of the term that defines Talavera poblana (Talavera of Puebla), by which local pottery was officially separated from its Spanish ancestor from Talavera de la Reina.

The nineteenth century was a disastrous period for local crafts. It was a long and difficult period of the wars of independence, which led to the complete decline of the workshops in the area of Puebla, whose number was reduced to 7.

Only at the cost of incredible efforts, enthusiasts, collectors, and artisans of the old school from the New and Old World, the tradition of making Talavera poblana pottery was preserved and multiplied in the XX century. Now collections of these ceramics are on display in museums in Puebla, Mexico City, and New York. 

Using Mexican Tile in Design

Using Mexican Tile in Design

How to paint Talavera style? Talavera is great for any room in the house, although some uses are more popular than others.  Countertops and backsplashes are great places to install this ceramic Talavera tile, primarily because they provide a nice, elevated scene in which to showcase the Spain tiles design. The second place is bathrooms, including showers, tubs, and walls. Finally, traditional Mexican tile patterns on wall murals are a great addition to any area of the home that boasts southwestern or frontier motifs.

Distinguishing Features of Authentic Mexican Talavera

  1. Authentic Mexican tile is made from natural local white clay mined in the state of Puebla
  2. Each piece is handmade on a potter's wheel and glazed with a composition containing tin and lead in a safe concentration for the human body, using 16th-century technology.
  3. The glaze must be almost white, slightly porous with a craquelure effect.
  4. Dyes of only 6 colors (blue, yellow, black, green, orange, purple), independently produced in an old-fashioned way from natural pigments. Use of cobalt.
  5. The manufacturer's logo, artist's initials, and Puebla factory index should be marked on the back.
  6. The base coat is always white.
  7. Typical Talavera designs are flowers, geometric Mexican tile patterns, animals, people, and religious subjects.
  8. Fine manual processing, glazing, and painting the clay, which is about three times the cost of the product, compared to the rough peasant authentic Talavera pottery. 

It consists of the following technological stages of 3 to 6 months:

  • Preparation and mixing of 2 grades of clay. Removal of impurities (the volume of mass is reduced by 50%). Kneading with feet;
  • Working on a potter's wheel (product formation) and drying for 8 -12 weeks;
  • The first firing at 850° C. The process of turning the gray clay into "juguete" (brick color);
  • Glazing;
  • Painting (by hand with natural brushes from fur and feathers);
  • The second firing is at 1050 ° C.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tiles

Advantages and Disadvantages of mexican Tiles

Looking at all the varieties of Talavera Mexican tile available, the biggest drawback is that there is too much choice. Some types of Mexican-style tile can be found from different manufacturers with a long history. Other types are more recent innovations. One of the best features of this design option, however, is the ability to create your own work of Mexican tile art by combining Mexican ceramic tiles in your own design. 

Pros 

  • A unique style, one-of-a-kind. Handmade.
  • Environmentally friendly processing
  • Heterogeneity of traditional Spanish tiles makes defects less noticeable
  • Can usually be ordered online from a Spanish style tile specialist  
  • Can be laid as accents on the floor or with other tiles
  • Easy to clean with soap and water, black grout hides dirt

Cons

  • Best suited for Latin or Mediterranean homes
  • Not easy to find in large home improvement stores
  • Hand-painted Mexican tiles can crack
  • Some hand-painted tiles are made to order and may take time to produce in large quantities 
  • Requires a professional who knows how to work with hand-painted blue and white Mexican tile
  • Care must be taken when using chemicals that can damage tiles

Tips for Installing Tiles

This handmade mexico ceramic tile requires skilled installation. And if you bring in a professional with experience, he or she can also help you choose the right design.

A Spanish Talavera tile professional has a lot of experience with Talavera painting patterns, so they can see the Talavera tile design that works best for your situation. Our specialists have helped us on several occasions to correct

Variety of Mexican Decorative Tile

Variety of Mexican Decorative Tile

Talavera tiles come in Talavera kitchen in both solid colors and traditional spanish patterns. You can use one color for the background and choose another color for details. The main options are blue, white, yellow, green, and brown (terracotta).

Along with the color choice, you have to decide whether to use watercolor mexican mosaic tiles, which have a light glaze and colored veins, or solid color tiles, which are bold and solid. Watercolor tiles have a more modern look, while monochrome tiles have a more classic style.

Many people have granite, marble, and other Spanish-Mexican tile surfaces. These are all very beautiful, but nothing compares in beauty and originality to Talavera.

Every day you can see something new in the Talavera tile pattern and enjoy contemplating this practical art.

Handmade traditional Mexican tile is just beautiful, no matter what design you choose. Each one is so individual that you'll just end up loving looking at them.

Enjoy your own unique colorful Spanish tile!

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