Soon after its foundation, Puebla was well known for its fine ceramics, especially for the style that would be called Talavera. This has been due to the abundance of quality clay in the region, drawing some of the best artisans.
Between 1550 and 1570, Spanish potters from Talavera de la Reina in Spain came to Puebla to teach the locals European techniques of using the potter’s wheel and tin-glazing. These new methods were mixed with native designs to give rise to what became known as Poblano Talavera.
The glazing technique was first used for the tiles that still decorate many of the buildings in this city. Later, it was used to make pots, plates, jars, religious figures, and other items.
By the mid-17th century, the industry here had become well-established. Guilds were formed and ordinances passed to ensure quality. Blue was used only on the most expensive pieces due to the cost of the mineral used to produce it.
The period between 1650 and 1750 was known as the Golden Age.
In 1813, the constitution eradicated the potter’s guild and revoked the ordinances established in 1653 to standardize production. Now anybody could use this ceramic method in any style they wanted, and the lack of regulations led to a decline in technique and artistic quality. The Talavera market crashed.
Out of the 46 workshops in production since the 18th century, only seven remained. When Enrique Luis Ventosa, a 29-year-old Catalan, arrived in Puebla in 1897, there were just six workshops left. Ventosa was fascinated by the history and fine craftwork that had distinguished Puebla from the rest of Mexico. He became the leading force behind a renaissance in Talavera ware.
Another impetus to the rebirth of the Puebla tile was that collectors found out about it. In 1904 an American named Emily Johnston de Forest traveled to Mexico with her husband and discovered Talavera. She established contact with scholars, collectors, and dealers who assisted her in building her collection.
Eventually, her collection was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Other museums, like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, built their own collections. The Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City has the largest collection of 726 pieces.