Pottery and ceramics of Spain: the beauty between the modern and the ancient

Popular ceramics in Spain

The popular ceramics in Spain are still manufactured following a procedure that in general is very traditional and rudimentary; and that although it is quite common to most of the still existing centers, it has some particularities of its own that are made different from one place to another.

In the popular jargon of the clay craftsmen it is said that “a painter paints and there it is; but a ceramist creates, waits, reviews, waits again, bakes, waits, begs that the piece does not break and, in the end, probably becomes something that is not what you imagined”. The industry of the ceramics in Spain has more than 6,000 years of antiquity, from the Neolithic Hispanic of the Mediterranean region and in the mouth of the Tajo, according to the historian Jacinto Alcántara documented.

A legacy that advanced over the centuries sowing the seeds of clay craftsmanship throughout the peninsula, from the ceramics of Granada, which now triumphs in Paris, with its original metallic luster of the 14th century to the illustrated cobalt blue of Talavera de la Reina (Toledo), cited by Cervantes, Lope de Vega or Tirso de Molina.

Spanish ceramics are experiencing a moment of success thanks to exhibitions such as the one dedicated in 2017 by the Cerralbo Museum in Madrid or the integration of contemporary interior designers into their projects. One example is Erico Navazo (Burgos, 1971), a decorator whose work has been recognized for the inclusion of traditional values and craftsmanship in our country. He, a great collector of Spanish ceramics, lists his chosen pieces by geographical area of Spain.

Pottery and ceramic kilns in Spain


Pottery and ceramic kilns in Spain are structures or factories of varying complexity, size and appearance, intended for firing clay pieces. The traditional model is an enclosure with a vaulted ceiling with a chimney and one or more openings for loading fuel, usually wood, and the objects to be fired.

The function of the oven, the firing or baking of ceramic material, is one of the fundamental steps in the pottery process, the one with the most magical sense and the most decisive in obtaining the final product.

There are many different types of kilns and ovens in Spain, from the simple bonfire or “pit oven” for open-air firing (one of the primitive methods that have almost disappeared), to pottery ovens by definition, with two separate spaces: the hearth or boiler for combustion and the firing chamber where the pottery is baked. Between the two there are transition structures of simpler manufacture, such as the traditional bread oven. Likewise, between the double chamber ovens several types can be differentiated (for example, “top-draft”, and “vaulted and top-draft”), and independently of such typology, there are the reducing ovens and the oxidizing ovens.

An elementary list of pottery and ceramic kilns, their precedents and others of an evolved type, would include those of bottle, inverted current, bread (or baker), tunnel, intermittent, or the more sophisticated kiln type. Other more popular nomenclatures than techniques would cite the Arab, Moorish or Moorish ovens, the “flamberas or flameras” ovens (with the dome pierced by many chimneys), the electric ones in general, etc.

Pottery and superstition in Spain

Botijo de Pasión, a typical piece of traditional pottery from Astudillo (Palencia, Spain) Honeyed glass in its upper and central part, with prefabricated decoration in molds and superimposed in relief with several models of religious figures, “the Crucified”, “the Virgin and the Child”, “the Sacred Heart”, “the angels”, and diverse saints. Elaborated in the second half of the 20th century. Exhibition of Pilar Belmonte Useros in the Museum of ceramics of Chinchilla de Montearagón.

Pottery and superstition in Spain is the set of traditional ceramic pieces that over the centuries have been produced in connection with “rites and popular beliefs” in the Spanish cultural environment. Halfway between religious fetish, esotericism and anthropological analysis as a heritage of universal ceramic culture, the gallery of pottery pieces catalogued by specialists is as varied as it is suggestive, and as part of the ethnographic wealth of peoples and societies. As opposed to the sumptuous and sumptuous style usual in religious production, Spanish ceremonial pottery is characterized by its ingenuity, its rudeness and its modest typology.

The catalog, very synthesized, would include pottery of courtship, engagement and wedding; blessed batteries; amulets and spell pots; the belarmines of German origin; very diverse zoomorphic pieces (from ewer to various funeral objects); ritual pots like the one of Passion; the jars of the brotherhoods (more or less conventual); or the ‘terrible’ vases.

Of all the cities in Spain, we are going to focus especially on Andalusia, to enter its culture with the art of ceramics.

Andalusian Ceramics


Hispano-Moorish ceramics or Andalusian ceramics. The production of ceramics made in Al-Andalus during the Arab period and a certain period after that in which Arab influences are still observed is known by this name. Its main distinctive feature is found in the elegant forms of the vessels, in the glazing of the same, of the tiles and in the use of glazes, due to their metallic reflections and dry rope, which introduces us to one of its most innovative characteristics, the use of ceramic materials as an architectural use unknown until then.


Sevillian Ceramics

The Sevillian ceramics had an important influence in the 16th century in the commercial relations of Seville with the West Indies and with the rest of Europe, especially with Italy, having established in Seville offices of the Genoese bank. The immense wealth that came from overseas trade attracted Flemish, German, Genoese, Venetian, etc., increasing the demand for works of art and decorative elements, including high quality ceramics.

Museum of Popular Arts and Customs (Seville)

The Museum of Arts and Popular Customs of the city of Seville (Andalusia, Spain) is located in the Plaza de América of the Maria Luisa Park. On the other side of the square is the Archaeological Museum. It was the pavilion of Ancient Art of the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929.


In 1990 it was considered to make new arrangements in the building, this time was the main floor the beneficiary, was enabled as an area for temporary exhibitions organized by the museum itself, using a third of the space for this and installing, in 1994, permanently, the collection Diaz Velazquez, this collection is the largest number of pieces added to the museum, from a private donation made in 1979, is the best batch of embroidery and lace known in Europe, its nearly 6000 pieces makes it possible to make a thematic museum unique in the world.

While the Díaz Velázquez collection was being catalogued, inventoried and studied, research projects were being carried out, including one on popular Andalusian ceramics. Considering the great importance of this research, the interest increased and the proposal to compile, in addition to the data, pieces manufactured by the more than one hundred Andalusian potters who were part of the study was set in motion. This way the collection of Andalusian popular ceramics that the museum possesses was extended, becoming the most complete existing collection in Europe together with the existing one in the Museum of Hamburg.

One of the first sources of contribution that served to increase the funds of the museum was the purchase of pieces between the years 1974 and 1980, the same was done in antique stores directly or through the Board of Qualification, Valuation and Export of Works of Art (Ministry of Education and Science), or exercising the right of first refusal or retraction, or also at the suggestion of the museum. The first director of the museum,3 Salvador de Sancha, made a fundamental acquisitive management in his time, acquiring many of the first collections and objects that allowed to establish the permanent exhibition of the recently inaugurated museum.

In its early days as a museum it housed a large number of collections, mainly from the Museo de Bellas Artes in Seville, the most important of which were in terms of both quality and quantity.

Among these funds stand out:

There are also minor contributions from various Andalusian museums, among them:

The citizens of Seville also put their grain of sand contributing to increase the collections, mainly in their first years and following along the times, these collaborations served to fill gaps that were missing. Among these shortcomings were

The section concerning the deposit was completed when the Seville City Council decided that the museum should keep its collection of original posters of Seville’s Spring Festival, which, since its exhibition in the museum’s rooms, has travelled to different places in Europe and Japan, and its catalog is completely sold out.

Likewise, the Ministry of Culture has acquired the Mencos collection, to be deposited in the museum as well. This collection includes the most complete repertoire of lithographs and photochromes of posters of the Fair and Easter.

The Loty collection is also acquired by the Ministry of Culture, this collection is composed of more than 2000 antique glass plates where many details of cities and Andalusian life from the beginning of the 20th century to 1936 are registered, becoming an important historical archive of images.

In 2001 the General Directorate of Cultural Assets of the Ministry of Culture acquired the Apelluz ethnographic collection, composed of 168 pieces of different materials and ethnographic character.

Another source of supply for the funds was a series of field works that were developed in that sense, giving rise to the following list of donations:

Alcazaba of Malaga

With the arrival of the Arab people, in the lands of Al-Andalus, the mixture of the previous late Roman styles, (Tartessian, Phoenician) with the Berbers themselves and even Oriental ones such as Iraqis, Persians or Chinese. It can be called the Paleo-Andalusian period, and is comprised between the Umayyad emirate, between the 8th and the end of the 9th century. We find an enrichment especially in forms and techniques.

The workshops become professionals by displacing the more homemade production, and according to geographical areas the type of production varies. The use of straight forms in kitchenware is observed in the Mediterranean area, compared to the production of the north of the peninsula, which continues with “S” forms. The use of specific pastes is progressively introduced according to the function of the container. Thus, those of direct fire appear with numerous degreasing inclusions, and the most refined pastes for other uses.

The first important innovation occurs at the end of the S X, the dry rope, consists of delimiting the enamels with a separating “cord”, with the consequence of not allowing the enamels to mix.

In Andalusia, a large and diverse region, the production of ceramics is very varied and rich in shapes and shades.

In the province of Granada there are several important centers, among which Guadix stands out, with very elaborate traditional pieces. But perhaps the most important center is in the capital itself, Granada, with its peculiar Fajalauza ceramic, a glazed ceramic that only uses the color blue in its decoration, on a white background, with ornamental themes that represent the fruit of the pomegranate or the bird. His pieces are mainly dishes and plates or tiles.

In the province of Huelva there have existed until almost the end of the 20th century several populations with ceramic production, mainly unglazed, where pitchers, pots and jars predominate. Campofrío, Trigueros, El Campillo, Beas or Cortegana are the most representative centers. In Trigueros, jugs and pots are made; jugs, darts, jars or basins. And in Cortegana, along with traditional unglazed pieces, others appear with a type of decoration made with a spoon, with colors in green and yellowish white with the reddish tone of the earth.

The province of Cádiz kept its pottery center in Castellar de la Frontera active, where it produced traditional elements such as pitchers or jugs, in ancient and unglazed shapes.

In Seville the best known production is that of Triana, in the capital itself; a glazed and colorful ceramic of great showiness that encompasses a multitude of traditional forms such as plates and vessels in general. Its production can be seen throughout the city especially in the classic pinnacles with which the facades are finished and in the ceramic altarpieces of tiles painted with popular or religious motifs that appear on its facades. An exceptional display of this ceramic is the Plaza de España, lined and adorned with a multitude of these elements.

Popular pottery from Lucena

The province of Córdoba keeps the tradition alive in several important centers, among which Lucena stands out, which is characterized by its glazed ceramics in cream color, in which circular lines appear in green, brown and black, with small drawings that represent twigs of olive. The production of the town of La Rambla is also important, from where some of the whitest pieces of all Spain produce come out, in an unglazed ceramic that especially represents vessels in the form of wide-mouthed glasses. In the capital Córdoba, the forms and decorative themes of the ancient Caliphal ceramics, glazed, with their characteristic geometric drawings of Arabic descent and colors in white, green and black, have been successfully recovered.

Popular pottery from Úbeda

The province of Jaén is rich in ceramic production. Bailén, in addition to being a great producer of bricks for construction, offers in its vicinity stalls and exhibitions for the sale of its pottery where pots, lids or pitchers predominate. Mancha Real produces finer pieces, similar to those of Andújar, one of the most interesting centers, whose top piece is the so-called “grotesque jug”, formed by a series of pieces with handles mounted one on top of the other, with a height of up to a meter and medium and decorations based on figurines and pinnacles, in white and blue. Úbeda is another important center, which maintains the old traditional forms with a great repertoire of highly attractive pieces, always in their peculiar dark and bright green color, with shades of brown and black.

At the end of the 20th century, the province of Almería maintained several centers, among which Vera stood out, with fine unglazed pottery in elegant shapes, with wide-mouthed glasses lobed in four arches, like the corolla of a flower, or jugs with a foot. glass, blond, very pale. Other centers are Sorbas, with its peculiar botijo-gallo, Albox, with pieces in brown decorated in ocher or green tones, or Níjar, which has evolved into more modern and commercial forms such as its colorful cups and coffee sets.

FEATURED ART: La Cartuja de Sevilla. The international hit


There is no Spanish family that does not have tableware from La Cartuja de Sevilla. House founded in 1841 by an English family, it became an official supplier of the Royal Household in 1871. Exotic designs on earthenware, hand painted, also come out of its ovens, also fashionable scenes from a hundred years ago. “I adore the models of Charles Pickaman (its founder) from the 19th century”, the interior designer emphasizes. His models with the fleur de Lys in blue have been exported all over the world, and he has recently launched a collection together with the designer Isaac Piñeiro.

Do you want to know where to buy ceramic decoration items for your home both online and in Andalusia?

Artefactum (Seville)

Those looking for new and original things on each visit should have Artefactum among their favorite places, since the owners do not stop bringing what they see at international fairs and playing with those pieces in the store environments. Contemporary art, icons and furniture occur in its spaces.

Plaza Cristo de Burgos, 21. Seville. artefactum.es

Wabi Sabi (Seville)

This space in the center of Seville is one of the ones that has gathered more art, culture and exhibitions in recent years in the capital of Seville, and thanks to its online store it is also possible to rescue those bits of interior design, furniture, antiques and more. objects that have been exhibiting in their corners.

Francos, 9. Seville. wabisabigallery.com

Josephine House (online)

A design and interior design studio in Madrid and a boutique bed & breakfast in La Rioja result in a unique online decoration store. The one at Casa Josephine allows you to buy all kinds of antiques, but also art, prints, textiles… The Bauhaus design coexists with that of the 80s, and much more.


Ocott (online)

It is the online store of the designer Laura Granados, who created in 2012 to be able to share his home textiles, in which geometric prints stand out. In addition to fabrics, it is possible to find wallpaper, mirrors, rugs, lamps … As well as covers for cushions and curtains.


Belen Domecq Store (online)

This online store summarizes the objects that interior architect Belén Domecq falls in love with in her different trips through Europe. Her own creations are also not lacking, in which, as in those of other firms, natural and minimalist lines stand out, with a rustic and Scandinavian cut.


Guille García-Hoz (online)

Guille García-Hoz studied Mathematics, but quickly focused on what he liked: decoration. Her objects, and more, are sold in her own online store, highlighting the ceramic ones. In addition, other firms such as Abe the Ape or the Centro Cerámica Talavera. They have flash sales and discounts via Instagram.


Really Nice Things (online)

A catalog full of beautiful things is what they promise from this online decoration store. They present themselves as strong defenders of local and artisanal production and all the products are made in Spain. Their social networks are also very inspiring, showing all kinds of trends.


Lua Nord (online)

Simplicity is the keynote of the proposals of this online store that adds to the slow philosophy with functional but charming objects. They believe that “walls are the new canvases” and they throw themselves at them with ‘slow deco’, that is, Scandinavian minimalism that meets expectations.