Madrid ceramic shop sells pieces from across Spain

May 24, 2013
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In Madrid, Paco, Eduardo, and their mother Emilia Anta work at Ceramica Cantaro.

The shelves are filled with plates, bowls, wine stoppers, magnets, holy water benditeras, bulls, pots, tile letters and even kitchen sinks.  On a high shelf in the corner is the symbol of the store: the cantaro, a traditional jug that holds water.

Though it is located in Madrid, the pieces in the shop are from all over Spain: Seville, Toldedo, Valencia, etc.

The shop has been around for 40 years, but has been in the family for 20 years.  Emilia, who previously ran a restaurant with her family, loved the shop and regularly bought pieces for her home.  When she found out it was for sale, the family moved from the restaurant to Cantaro.

The selection of ceramics not only represents a variety of different regions in Spain, it also shows diverse styles, from traditional to modern.  One thing every piece has in common?  They are all hand-painted and glazed.

Paco said that about 90 percent of the pieces they buy come from small family factories.

“There is usually just the artisan, his wife, and one son working,” Paco said.

The good relationship between Cantaro and the artisans results in a special perk: customers can request a certain design, and the artisans will copy what the customers want.  For example, some businesses may want their name on tiles, or a family might want a coat of arms painting with their surnames.

Emilia also has control over what ceramic pieces grace her shelves at any given time.

“I ask the artists what I want to sell in my shop, and tell them the colors and designs,” Emilia said.

According to Paco, most of the customers nowadays are from different countries, because of the crisis at home.  About 20 years ago, it was a balance between tourist and local customers.  Now, Paco said about 80 percent of customers are tourists.

“People need food, not plates,” Paco said.

When it comes to a taste of all of Spain, look no further than the little cantaro logo in the ceramic shop in Madrid.

“The shop is special because of the tradition of the shop, and the selection of various parts of Spain,” Emilia said.