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How Ceramics from Toledo, Spain are Made

Spain is famous for it’s handmade ceramics, mostly for the pieces that come from Toledo such as the ones that we offer here on our website, fromspain.com.  We are happy to share with you the true artisan process that takes place just to create one single plate, bowl, mug or decorative item….

First the clay is extracted from the shoreline of the Tajo River.  It is taken back to the artists workshop where it is cleaned of impurities and then mixed with water to make the clay suitable for ceramic making.

Clay retrieved from the Tajo river shoreline

With the artisans bare hands and the help of a potter’s wheel, the clay is molded until it has the desired shape… A pitcher, a vase, a plate….

Making Ceramics in Spain

These clay objects require extra care during the drying process. The clay is left to air dry. If the weather is good, the ceramic dries more quickly. If it is damp, the drying process is exceptionally slow. Either way, the process needs to be done slowly to avoid cracks in the ceramic.

Ceramics Drying in the Spanish Sun

When the ceramic is sufficiently dried, it is placed in an 1100 degrees Celsius oven for the first of several kiln firings.

First Firing in Kiln

This first cooking results in a ceramic that is hard enough to easily handle. The ceramic has passed from a raw piece of ceramic to what is called “bizcochada” or bisque ceramic.  At this point the ceramic can receive it’s first glazing by placing it into a large bath which varies depending on the finish that is desired. Some bathes are white, some cream colored, etc..

First Ceramic Glazing

When this glaze is dry to the touch, the artists are able to being decorating it, completely by hand, using paint brushes and lead-free metallic oxide glazes. Here is where the painter can be creative and make each piece of ceramic completely unique.

Hand-Painting the Ceramics

The next step is to fire the decorated ceramic at a temperature of 1000 degrees Celsius, more or less, depending upon the type of glaze used.

Painted Ceramics in the Kiln

After the firing, we can see that the colors have changed. Lilac becomes blue, brown is now green…

Final Product Spanish Ceramics

The result is a beautiful piece of ceramic that can be enjoyed in our home, equally as decoration as on a table.

 

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Suggestions When Visiting Madrid

There are so many wonderful things about Spain that make it an exciting and worthwhile place to visit. Spain has an extensive history that can been appreciated through it’s art, architecture and culture and. I am not an expert on all the places to see, but I am happy to give a general idea of where I suggest one visit.  I spend most of my year living in a suburb of Madrid, so this is the area that I am most familiar with and where I feel comfortable enough to comment on.

I always recommend making Madrid your first stop and home base. You can find reasonably priced flights to Madrid from most major cities, depending on the time of year you decide to visit. Madrid is a sophisticated city with excellent museums such as the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen (my particular favorite). Make sure not to miss the parque del Retiro, a beautiful park in the center of the city that is a perfect spot to take a break from Madrid’s hustle and bustle. There is sophisticated shopping and superb restaurants, one of my preferred is Oter Restaurant in calle Claudio Coello. Spain has some of the best quality food I’ve tried. The variety of fish available is impressive and not to be missed. If you’re a foodie, you may enjoy eating tapas in the Mercado de San Miguel, walking distance from the Plaza Mayor. Another fun place to get a feeling of how fresh the food is in Spain is by visiting the supermarket at Spain’s largest department store, The Corte Ingles. This is an ideal place to shop for clothes and gifts and the supermarket, the Hipercor, is fantastic.

After spending a couple of days in Madrid I would suggest renting a car and driving to Toledo for a day trip. Toledo is only about an hour’s drive from Madrid and it is a beautiful city full of Christian, Muslim and especially Jewish heritage. A great place to lunch is at the Parador de Toledo. The food is quality, but the best part about the hotel is that it has a patio with a superb view of the city. You can easily walk the city.

Segovia is another great place for a day trip and an easy one hour drive from Madrid. Segovia is famous for it’s Roman aqueduct that remains intact and can be viewed from all angles of the city. You may enjoy taking a walk through the Alcazar, Segovia’s royal palace, and then taking a break to have lunch. Segovia is known for having incredible suckling pig. I recommend two restaurants for this, Candido or Restaurante Jose Maria. Both are excellent choices for eating suckling pig.

Another interesting place to visit close to Madrid (a little more than 35 minutes outside the city) is Alcala de Henares, the city where Cervantes was born. You can take a walk through the center of town, visit the Alcala de Henares university and take a tour of Cervantes natal home. An excellent place to have lunch is Restaurante El Casino. The food is beautifully prepared and delicious.

An easy drive from Madrid’s center is El Escorial, famous for the Monasterio de San Lorenzo. Take a tour of the Monastery and then have lunch at Charloles. Definitely order the Rabo de Toro, oxtail that is perfectly prepared and is a typical dish from Spain.

There are other wonderful places outside of Madrid that are close enough to drive and worth a visit. Such as Salamanca, about a two hour drive from Madrid and famous as being one of the biggest university cities in Spain.

Madrid is full of culture and creativity. Definitely check the internet before you go to see what concerts are offered at the Teatro Real (Royal Theater) and do a search for temporary art exhibits. On Sunday mornings it is fun to walk through El Rastro, Madrid’s flea market, that is full of unusual finds. While Madrid as a whole is very safe, make sure to watch your wallet and handbag from pickpockets when you go to any crowded spaces, such as the Rastro market.

Please keep in mind that I am basing my suggestions off my own experiences. Please share your own Madrid experiences with me and with others who read this blog.