Visiting the manufacturers of hand painted Spanish pottery in Jaen always turns out to be a productive day, the three hour drive across Andalucia from Orce to the small town of Bailen in the Jaen region is certainly well worth it, a warm welcome is always received from family business owner Juan who is more than accommodating even on the busiest days. The main feature inside one of the three ajoining warehouses is the sixty foot oven where you can witness all manner of pots, jugs, plates and other ceramics enter one end and slowly make their through the one thousand degree heat where at the end they emerge and carefully slide onto rollers ready for cooling and later, a thorough quality inspection.
An oven of this size is of course an impressive piece of machinery, something that blends a modern aspect to a ceramics business with the most impressive part of the whole process - hand painting. A dozen or so skilled painters sit with a selection of colours, brushes and other painting tools in front of them carefully painting their designs on each piece. The speed at which this is done is mindboggling, a skill which is perfected and most certainly a natural talent, nurtured until it becomes almost second nature.
The range of patterns, colours and designs from Juan’s business is also impressive, indeed its hard to keep up with new designs as there are so many. “Which of these two designs do you prefer” he sometimes asks, Juan is a very savvy businessman so takes his opportunity, when one presents itself to aquire an English opinion. One designs that did catch our attention was a new ‘olivo’ style, the ‘olive gold’ range is a lovely mix of deep Spanish yellow and red indicative of the Spanish flag with green rim and olive branch design also detailing a red floral design. The olivo gold is a warming design yet still offering all the vibrance and personality that Spain has tom offer. Ceramic pieces are available in a tableware selection from small hand painted tapas servers to large fruit bowls, olive oil pourers, plates and platters.
Given the speed at which these ceramics are painted it is hard to believe that they incorporate such fine detail but they do, a swirl of white to contrast the two main bold colours, olive leaves perfectly shaped and with each piece being completely unique you are guaranteed to enjoy a piece of real Spain. There is a certain character to hand painted Spanish ceramics such as these, unlike mass produced decorated pottery these pieces tend to shout out at you offering that hand painted touch, place two side by side an although the same design each will be different, they may emerge from a production line with a modern influence but the stages during that production could not be more different compared to mass produced pottery, care is even taken to stamp the base of each piece with ‘Hand made in Spain’.