The beauty and quality of Spanish ceramics have always been known across the world. The ceramics of Talavera and El Puente del Arzobispo are Intangible Cultural Heritage, but there is much more to discover. The following cities boast artisan tradition from the hands of great artists, who produce unique pieces and decorate streets, buildings and houses. You can even watch the craftspeople work in their workshops.
Madrid's urban ceramics
Did you know that the technique used in the Royal Porcelain Factory of Buen Retiro was a state secret? The excellence of its pieces was envied throughout the world, and no one knew how to reproduce it. The fabulous porcelain cabinets of theRoyal Palaces of Aranjuez and Madrid were created in its workshops. Beyond the palaces, the art of ceramics was also a common feature of the city's architecture. For example, in Casa de Tomás Allende, the ABC Serrano building and the Velázquez Palaca in El Retiro (all by Daniel Zuloaga), or the decoration in the former home of painter Joaquín Sorolla, now the Sorolla Museum. It was also a very important advertising element, as attested by the large ceramic mosaics in the old Chamberí metro station.Some of most central neighbourhoods of Madrid still feature some of the artistic tiled facades of shops and taverns; and if you look up to find out where you are, it is possible that you will come across an interesting ceramic plaque bearing the history of the street's name. If you would like a piece for yourself, Antigua Casa Talavera sells traditional pieces from many areas of Spain. You can also buy original handmade gifts by visiting the workshops of the new artisans.
Barcelona: Gaudí and the “trencadis”
Fascinating! This is the best word to describe the colourful mosaics in Park Güell. They are made with “trencadis”: an artistic technique widely used during modernism that was invented by Gaudí. It consists of using irregular pieces of ceramic, glass or marble that are given the appropriate shape so that they fit perfectly. In addition to Park Güell, in Barcelona, you can see more original examples of Gaudí's work in some of his other iconic creations, such as the Casa Batlló, the Pedrera and Sagrada Familia.The concept devised by Gaudí is still very much alive. For example, the “trencadís” were the inspiration for the spectacular multicolour ceramic mosaic that decorates the new undulating roof of the Santa Caterina market, finished in 2004. And of course, you will find it in the city's craft shops and workshops, such as those located in the famous space of the Poble Espanyol. You can even make your own creations by taking the courses and workshops available for all ages.
Valencia, history of Spanish ceramics
When it comes to ceramics, Valencia is a must-stop destination. Quality and design are hallmarks of its craftsmanship and the reason for the international prestige it has acquired over time. In the National Museum of Ceramics and Sumptuary Arts “González Martí”, you can see authentic works of art and traditional pieces characteristic of Manises, Paterna and Alcora. The collection features a set of plates and jugs signed by the great Pablo Picasso.If you visit the shops in the old town, you can buy Valencian ceramics to take home with you. Or you can go to the establishments opened by ceramicists with a more contemporary style. The ADN Cerámico project has created a map of ceramic artists. And if you visit the city in May and June, you can also enjoy the famous L'Escuraeta artisan market at the Plaza de la Catedral.
Clay tradition in Malaga
Pottery has been an art in Malaga for a very long time. During the Andalusian period, the city was a prominent producer of the so-called golden earthenware. In the halls of Malaga Museum and of the citadel, you can find examples of this Nasrid ceramic with metallic reflections. The “barros” from Malaga are equally famous: small figures and sculptures of typical popular characters such as bandits, bullfighters, musicians and dancers. At the Unicaja Museum of Arts and Popular Customs, you can admire a good collection of these ceramic representations.Pots, flowerpots, tiles or ceramic plates are common in the patios and inner courtyards of the neighbourhoods in Malaga. In June, you can visit them and see their decorations to compete in the Week of the Corralones of la Trinidad and El Perchel. The festival also includes activities such as tastings of traditional dishes, guided walks and musical shows. When it's time to go shopping, don't forget to stop by the craft market at Plaza de la Merced on the first Sunday of the month, or by the Soho Urban Market, which usually takes place on the fourth Sunday of the month.
A Coruña, Galician crafts
The ceramics by Sargadelos, with their characteristic combination of white and cobalt blue, are an icon of Galician crafts. In A Coruña, you can see a sample of their quality and designs in their gallery on Calle Real and, about 20 kilometres from the city, you can also visit their workshop in Sada. In addition to Sargadelos, you will find other brands and craft studios where tradition and the technique learned over the years are combined with creativity, producing unique and surprising pieces. If you stop by their workshops, you will enjoy seeing how they work and discovering an original catalogue of gift options.And if you travel in August don't miss the craft fair Mostrart, one of the most important fairs in Spain, which is held in the Méndez Núñez gardens, in the city centre.