Talavera: Breathtaking Art

You might have come across eye-catching Talavera objects with astonishing designs but do you know exactly what makes them so special? The most obvious answer is the impressive art decorations but the process behind these pieces requires knowledge that has been passed through generations.

Pottery Houses

One of the oldest pottery houses is located in the city of Puebla and was established in 1824. Uriarte Talavera is the largest Talavera manufacturer in Latin America whose art can be found in different regions around the globe. Every piece sold by them has gone through a long process of elaboration and is completely unique.

Uniqueness

What makes this form of art so unique is that the elaboration process is based on knowledge passed from generation to generation recorded in particular communities that consider ‘Talavera’ to be part of their heritage and identity. As a result, this form of art is hard to copy. It requires knowledge and experience that machines or factories lack, ultimately making it a product at a low risk of being displaced.

Elaboration Process

  1. Clay Preparation: A combination of black and white clay is made.
  2. Molding: Potters shape the pieces. They’re careful during the drying process to make sure that it’s even and all pieces are the same.
  3. Baking: After drying the pieces, they are baked at 1,200 degrees Celsius for 10 hours. 
  4. Enamel: Pieces are left to dry for 24 to 48 hours; When they begin to turn white, the enamel is put by hand with a mule hair brush.
  5. Stencil: This is a technique used to decorate surfaces that consists of stamping a pattern using a thin sheet of cardboard, plastic, or metal.
  6. Decoration: The final step can consist of using cobalt blue color to decorate without following patterns and the colored decoration that uses pre-established patterns.

Talavera

Have you ever seen or come across beautifully designed pottery like the one shown in the image? This decorative style is known as Talavera and can be found in the Mexican state of Puebla. The technique is so unique that in 2019, UNESCO declared the “Manufacturing Process of Talavera Ceramics” as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Puebla recently and came across local artisans along the roads that are experts in Talavera, who taught me some interesting information about it.

History

According to the locals, Talavera is an ancient technique that was discovered in the year 850 A.C in some Arab countries such as Iraq and from there it spread all the way from India to Spain. It ultimately reached the state of Puebla with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors who not only used it for pottery because of its high-quality, but also used it for religious ceremonies, funerals and extraordinary sculptures.

Style

The technical definition of the Talavera technique, registered under INDAUTOR, is “Typical pottery from the Puebla area, made with clay and made up of a ceramic body covered with tin glaze, decorated with metallic colors and worked manually on site”. In all honesty, this definition is simple compared to what the entire process truly entails. Artisans go through a number of steps in order to be able to finally decorate the ceramics. This long process is all worth it because at the end, you have a high-quality, beautifully decorated product that won’t break easily and will resist extremely high temperatures. 

An Introduction to Product Sourcing in Mexico

Sourcing products in Mexico can open up new opportunities for enterprises and can be a great alternative to China. Here are some key findings we’ve discovered along the way.

Location and Convenience 

Being a US neighboring country, Mexico is usually an attractive country for foreign investment, starting from SMEs to large corporations. Many North American companies are seeking alternatives to China as a result of COVID-19, and usually the first country that’s coming to mind is Mexico due to its proximity to the US and Canada but also because of the ease that the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) provides. Although labor costs may be slightly higher than those offered by China, everything’s usually balanced out at the end when comparing shipping costs and shipping times. For those seeking to improve their logistics and reduce transportation costs, thousands of “maquiladoras” (large factories) can be found in border cities like Tijuana, Baja California.

Industries and Products

The biggest and most mature industries in Mexico are:

  • Automotive
  • Maquiladoras
  • Food
  • Electronics
  • Aerospace
  • Metal mechanics
  • Textiles
  • Furniture
  • Clean Energy 
  • Furniture
  • Medical Devices

This means that manufacturers of almost any product can be found in Mexico and if it’s not being produced yet, many are willing to explore new business opportunities to expand their portfolio. Some industries like the automotive and textile, are more mature than others but every industry listed above is always experiencing constant growth. Larger foreign corporations can have the certainty that there are experienced factories across Mexico ready to produce in larger volumes with the expertise to elaborate high quality products that meet the demanding expectations of their clients. For smaller enterprises or SMEs there are also smaller producers willing to do business without having the pressure of mass production. No matter the size of the project, there are hundreds or even thousands of options for every industry in Mexico that are ready to take on any project.

Finding Suppliers Online

When starting the initial search for providers in Mexico it’s extremely important to take into account that there are thousands of options but they’re not as easy to find due to their weak digital presence. In Mexico, especially in the most industrialized cities, there are a variety of factories and industries to choose from, but their main marketing source is word-of-mouth or recommendation based. This means that when someone starts with the typical Google search, it’s probable that the results will consist of giant corporations. Usually it’s the big players that’ll translate their websites in English to attract foreign business and the smaller ones usually have their content in Spanish only, which can ultimately lead to less options. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to come across different options, but it’s necessary to know the various methods used to attract customers. Many businesses still run 1.0 internet websites and some even use Facebook entirely for business. Sure, this may seem a bit informal but it turns out that Mexican suppliers are very humble and trustworthy.

Cultural Business Communication

In Mexico the business culture is more traditional and antiquated than in more developed nations and direct face-to-face interactions are preferred. Mexico has obviously globalized along with the rest of the world, but faster responses can be expected by phone or even better in person, than via email. Gaining mutual trust is a determining factor and personal relationships tend to lead to better results  It’s also important to note that the concept or sense of time is different in Latin America compared to “Western Countries.” Generally speaking, Mexicans are more flexible with time and a perfect example of this is the acceptability of being up to 30 minutes late to a meeting or not sending a quick response to email requests. Initial processes might take longer overall, but this isn’t usually a limitation, and instead just a different way of working but once trust is established these differences can easily be solved.

Sourcing Agents

Even though it’s possible for foreigners to navigate through Mexican suppliers, the entire experience can be improved through a sourcing agent. Someone who knows the culture and the language can easily eliminate the cultural or language barriers and make processes much quicker. This doesn’t mean that Mexican suppliers don’t speak English or can’t adapt to other cultures. Many actually speak English and the culture as a whole is very welcoming to foreigners. They tend to get very excited about collaborating with foreign companies and easily adapt to their needs. Having someone to help with the entire process simply makes things more efficient and it helps avoid misunderstandings.