Art + Design + Scavenging

Vintage terracotta nesting bowls.



I picked up this set of four terracotta nesting bowls yesterday at Newburgh Vintage Emporium, a vintage and antique marketplace that just opened a couple of weeks ago. I’m amazed I made it out of there with just one purchase. So much great stuff! I have a feeling I’ll be going back there every weekend.

The vendor tag on the bowls said they’re South American, but after doing a little research, I think they’re actually Mexican. More specifically, they look like they could either be Talavera pottery (the glaze and terracotta reminds me so much of a set of Talavera plates from Spain that I inherited from my grandmother, but the pattern reminds me of Mexican pottery…though it’s also possible I have no idea what I’m talking about) or like designs I’ve found from Tlaquepaque.

I’m really curious to know more about where these bowls might come from or how old they are, so if you have any knowledge about them, please share!! There are no markings anywhere on them as far as I can see.


The largest bowl in the set is about 9″ in diameter, and the smallest is 5.5″. The base glaze is a milky off-white, and the design appears to be black—though in areas where it’s bled a bit, it does seem like it could be a very deep cobalt.

They’re so pretty in the kitchen. I’m a little scared to use them for anything other than putting fruit or bread on the table, but they look beautiful just displayed as they are. It seems like a shame to nest them, though—I want to look at them all at once!



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  • Reply maggie March 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of knowledge about ceramics, but these are still so so lovely! What a find!

  • Reply Chris March 16, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Right away I thought Mexican as well. Part of the pattern detail looks like whale fin to me. There are a lot of black glazes used in Oaxacan ceramics but not like this. Hmmmm. Looking forward to more comments!

  • Reply Chris March 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Check eBay for “art deco cobalt redware terracotta Mexican Tlaquepaque nesting bowls.”
    My phone wouldn’t let me copy the link here but they look very similar in style.

    • Anna @ D16 March 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Yeah, I saw those! Beautiful. I don’t know if the seller knows what they’re taking about either, though. The name “Tlaquepaque” seems to be thrown around like “Eames” on eBay…

  • Reply Chris March 16, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Oh man!! Good to know, haha.

  • Reply Chris March 16, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Oh…whoops. Now I see you’ve already mentioned this! I blame reading on my phone! :::blush

    • Anna @ D16 March 16, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Haha, no worries!

  • Reply Laura March 16, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I found this image after poking around a bit online. Seems to be very similar to your set, but having a hard time following the image to the etsy page….

    Also looks like a whale tail motif or something similar on your bowls, very similar to the image found here:

    I’m an architect, not an expert in pottery! But the imagery looks similar here. Hope it helps!

    • Anna @ D16 March 16, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Hi Laura, yeah, those are the some of the things I found while I was poking around, too. (The Etsy item is long-gone, which is why you can’t link to the product page—I fixed your link to display just the image, though.)

      Hopefully someone who knows what to look for Antique Roadshow-style will see my post. 😉

  • Reply Teresa March 16, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I live in Texas and I’ve seen bowls and pottery like this my whole life. I’m sure they’re Mexican. I’ve never seen one in the colors of yours though. I have a similarly patterned pot with handle but it’s green and white. It says ‘Mexico’ on the bottom of the lid. (I’ll try to email you a picture.) I got mine from my grandmother who probably got it in the 1930s or 1940s.

    • Anna @ D16 March 16, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Yeah, the color is what seems so unusual! Aside from this ebay auction, I can’t seem to find any examples of Tlaquepaque pottery that’s quite so dark. I wonder if it’s an indicator of the age or of a specific artisan. I’m so surprised there are no markings!

  • Reply Maria @ sustainable aesthetics March 16, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    I don’t have in-depth knowledge on these but if I’d were to guess I would agree with you that they look Mexican.

  • Reply Cristina March 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    I am SO EXCITED that you linked to this place! My boyfriend and I are making plans to head up to Newburgh to visit (and to check out the Newburgh brewery). The bowls are lovely and I’m thrilled see all of the items they have in the shop!

    • Anna @ D16 March 18, 2014 at 12:15 am

      Have fun, Cristina! The brewery is very cool, and this new shop (more of a warehouse, really!) is excellent. I’m so excited to have it in Newburgh. 🙂

  • Reply Karlie March 16, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    These are a different colour to yours but the style is correct –

    might be worth contacting them and asking if they have any additional knowledge on them?

  • Reply Heather P. March 16, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    I have no idea where those bowls are from, but they look like they were made for your kitchen! Hope you figure out their history!

  • Reply Heather March 16, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    They are beautiful. I am sure you saw this link already, but this set seems pretty similar. I much prefer the black.

    • Anna @ D16 March 17, 2014 at 9:57 am

      Yes, I did! So similar. The black/dark cobalt seems to be quite rare, at least as far as what I’m finding for sale online.

  • Reply Cate March 16, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Gorgeous. Yeah, probably not food-safe, probably have lead in the glaze. But fabulous.

    • Anna @ D16 March 16, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Hi Cate, yeah, I only use my vintage ceramics for serving dry foods like fruit/bread/cookies for the table, not for serving anything hot or liquid. I’m careful about not using the pieces that have flaking glaze on the top, too.

  • Reply mommy March 16, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    What a great find!

  • Reply L March 16, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Whatever the provenance, they are beautiful! I’m guessing your instincts are good though, not to use them for actual cooking. They are so perfect in your kitchen.

  • Reply Katie Trinkle Legge March 17, 2014 at 4:13 am

    I bought those bowls about 20 years ago in Austin Texas. I was attracted to the beautiful pattern and the patina on the paint. I am an artist and used them for some of my still life paintings. I thought they were old but could never figure out the age because there were no markings I could see.

    • Anna @ D16 March 17, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Katie, are yours the same color? They are so beautiful!

  • Reply wendy skinner March 17, 2014 at 11:21 am

    They could be from anywhere in the centre of Mexico, I remember having this type of bowls at home when we were kids, my parents got them from a small town close to Guadalajara named “Tonala” they produce all different types of handcrafts for a great deal ( and then you can see the exact same pieces with a higher price tag inside of the galleries in Tlaquepaque, Good luck with the hunt, by the way they are beautiful.

    • Anna @ D16 March 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

      Thank you for these links, Wendy! 🙂

  • Reply Anna March 17, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Those bowls are stunning! I have to check out the emporium sometime this week, website looks like it’s a great time just to browse if not to shop.

    • Anna @ D16 March 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Oh, you definitely should! It’s right by the exit to get on the Newburgh-Beacon bridge, so it’s very easy to find. SO worth a trip!!

  • Reply Troy Ford March 17, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Hi Anna….Thank you for coming into NVE on Saturday. I talked to the dealer who had those bowls and she bought them from a dealer over 20 years ago in Texas….not sure where they were before that. Hope you enjoy them and see you soon…..

    • Anna @ D16 March 17, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks so much, Troy! Half the fun of buying the bowls is trying to figure out where they come from. 🙂

      See you again soon—I have no doubt we’ll be in often. Congratulations on the opening!

  • Reply socal sister March 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Hi Anna,

    These are definitely Mexican and very beautiful in black and white, but please test for lead before you eat out of them. My husband and his brothers tested high for lead as kids when they were eating cereal every morning out of very similar bowls.

    Love reading your blog.


    • leslie March 17, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      Ditto on that thought. I’ve often heard that the glazes on terra cotta wares from Mexico, particularly older ones, are lead-based. Apart from that, the chipping means these are not wet-food-safe — bacteria can live in the areas that no longer have glaze. As a couple of others have suggested, they would probably be okay for dry stuff — i.e., a fruit bowl, or lined w/ a towel, for bread, or crackers.

      Anyway, not to be negative; they -are- absolutely beautiful, I’d have bought them too.

    • Anna @ D16 March 17, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      Haha, that was ME who said I don’t use them for wet foods and only use them for dry stuff/display—both in the post and in my reply to Cate above. I’m definitely not eating cereal out of them or using them to mix cake batter, I promise!

      Don’t worry, I have lots of vintage ceramics and I’m very conscious about lead and flaking glaze. It comes with the territory when you live in and are renovating an old house. 😉

      (It’s not just Mexican ceramics, by the way. And it’s not just dishes, either—even older porcelain tubs and sinks often contain lead!)

    • leslie March 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Doink! (blush, forehead slap)
      Missed that it was you. After a long day, sometimes I’m not so swift.

    • Anna @ D16 March 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Haha, if it makes you feel better, I actually had to check to see if it WAS me who said that! 😛

  • Reply Anna @ D16 March 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

    A very helpful comment from @cecihanover on Instagram:

    “Yes, Mexican Talavera from Puebla. The technique is from the 16th century and it’s influenced from Arabic and Spanish cultures. It’s usually blue or has multiple colors, yours seems to be a very dark blue? I’ve never seen them black. (I’m Mexican, btw!)”

  • Reply Anne May 13, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    As a Mexican folk art collector and a shop owner of Mexican folk art, I can say definitively, that they are Mexican! They were most likely made in Tonalá, a suburb of Guadalajara which is right next door to another suburb, Tlaquepaque. That is why people will often say that ceramics like these are from Tlaquepaque–they are from that vicinity. And honestly there are so many potters in those 2 towns that it could have been made in Tlaquepaque. The glaze likely contains lead, as all glazes did in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, so you are right to not eat out of or store food in them–especially anything with citric acid, like tomatoes.

    Just to be picky, they are not talavera. Talavera is a type of ceramic that is fired multiple times at a very high temperature making it a much higher quality ceramic. These bowls, while lovely, were made of clay and then fired over a wood-burning fire or oven at a MUCH lower temperature and thus they are much more fragile, chip easily and are not nearly the quality of talavera.

    I’m guessing of course, but these bowls were probably purchased at a market in the Guadalajara area by an American visiting Tlaquepaque–that is a destination that many Americans used to visit during that time period because many of the goods from around the country were sold and shipped abroad from there. And they still are!

    Cheers or Saludos…

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