Shopping for Local Artisan Goods in Madrid

I’m always delighted when I can find an authentic store in another country with items for sale that I would want in my home. I’m not looking for tchotchkes or t-shirt shops. Rather, I want a souvenir that will remind me of our trip, and one that I will still enjoy looking at a year from now, and ten years from now as well. Who am I kidding here? I want bowls. Bowls, bowls, bowls. My family will tell you that I love bowls. They might even say I am obsessed with them, and I can’t deny it. Wherever I am, I am drawn to bowls, of all shapes and sizes.

Thus, when Rick Steves steered us to the Antigua Casa Talavera ceramics shop in Madrid, and I got one look at what we might take home, I was certain I was in the right place. The shop is not easy to find, nor is it open all day and evening like many stores in the US tend to be. When we first found it, it was closed for the afternoon, but once we saw the tiled front and peeked in the window at the hundreds and hundreds (maybe even thousands and thousands) of pottery pieces—many of them bowls—I knew we had to come back.

Antigua Casa Talavera has been in business, in the same location, since 1904. The proprietor is the great-grandson of the founder, and he alone sells the ceramics of local artists. Jose knows the history of each piece he sells too, and let me tell you, there’s lots of history to learn. He told us that he can’t host too many people in his shop at one time, because he is the only employee, and everywhere you turn there are breakable pieces of pottery. There were two other couples in the small narrow store when we were there, and the six of us made it feel crowded.

Jose was delightful, and even though he speaks just a little English, and we speak even less Spanish, we were able to communicate and purchase three items that are now displayed in our home. From start to finish, Jose’s customer service was outstanding. He wrapped our three items for transit home on the airplane incredibly well, and even tied sturdy string around the package to easily carry it. Part of the pleasure of buying an item is also the whole shopping experience, and this shopping experience was indeed outstanding, as are the pottery pieces we purchased. And to top it all off, I bought another bowl to add to my collection.