Arriving in the area of Salzburg, Austria, I recall the crisp autumn air, clear alpine lakes and dramatic mountains. As we strolled through quaint alpine villages, the scent of freshly-cut pine boughs mingled with that of chestnuts roasting on an open flame. Each village celebrates the approaching Holiday season by holding a centuries-old outdoor festival featuring traditional local crafts and delicious hot mulled wines. Beautiful!
As soon as I saw it, I knew my customers would love Austrian pottery. Clean lines, beautiful designs and artistic hunting patterns — a perfect fit for northern climes and the cozy lodge lifestyle we treasure in Wisconsin's beautiful Northwoods.
When we drove up to the factory it seemed like a fairytale. The facade of the old part of the pottery works was like being transported to an elegant mountain retreat. Their quaint shop and gardens were so fitting to the designs of the pottery. We were inspired to enter and see the treasures being made behind the walls.
What we discovered were the friendly and gifted artisans of Gmundner who hone their craft over many years. Using unique Austrian clay-molding, firing and painting processes, they proudly create pottery of unparalleled beauty in Gmundner's famous patterns — Hunt, Deer, Swirl and Floral
My first impressions of the U.K. will always remain with me: overcast skies, cool rainy weather, ancient stone buildings, and the beautiful floral fabric that draped tall windows. We walked and walked. Around every corner I found a new experience. But no matter what we were doing, life stopped at the same time every afternoon: it was tea-time! No matter our location at 4pm, we'd duck into the nearest teahouse — always warm, cozy and inviting. Tea and scones every single afternoon — I was in heaven. Why didn't we celebrate this amazing daily ritual in the U.S.? Every teahouse was filled with happy locals and lively conversation — I recall this as my first full immersion in another culture, and I loved it from the start. Of course, we repeated our daily tea ritual everywhere we went — on the rugged Isle of Skye, through picturesque York, and in bustling London…simply everywhere. I was not only a tea-time convert, but I had found a mission: to bring the cozy warmth of the afternoon tea ritual back to the U.S.
Afternoon tea. So, here's my recipe for the traditional British tea-time lifestyle that makes me so happy. First, its essential to stop whatever I'm doing. Definitely time to take a break. Next, bring out my quaint hand-made British teapot and matching cup or mug. Boil water. Favorite tea in teapot. Freshly baked scone. A splash of milk. Instant happiness!
I've found two beautiful lines of hand-made English pottery that makes me feel as though I'm in in Britain every time I use them. No matter which pattern you choose to collect, you will create beautiful and happy traditions in your home.
Emma Bridgewater pottery reminds me of being in the country, or being in the city. It is that flexible. But the feeling that I get, whether I'm in the country or in the city, is comfort. The best pottery to drink a cup of tea from. The pottery that makes you feel good. The pottery, that if you moved from Nova Scotia to Russia then back to Mexico, it will always suit your lifestyle.
Burleigh The minute I stepped into the Burleigh factory in Stoke on Trent, England I was transported back in time. From start to finish the production was how it had been for the last 100 years and it was quite a production at that! The number of steps in the making of pottery from start to finish is incredible and time consuming. You can see why they price for a hand made and hand decorated pottery piece from Burleigh is quite dear but in my opinion, totally worth having one of their treasured pieces. Right before I had arrived the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, had been there visiting. He has put the factory in the National Trust to rescue and restore it . Without him doing that the factory may have been doomed and Burleigh Pottery- no longer. Thank goodness that England has the foresight to do this with it's natural treasures wether it is buildings or wildflower fields.
Driving through the French countryside is simply enchanting. I love to meander along the narrow country roads lined with ancient plane trees which provide a graceful arch of shade. Passing glorious fields of bright sunflowers and fragrant lavender, we stop to spend the night at an old country inn. As the sun moves toward the horizon and bathes the hills in a golden light, we relax with a glass of local Clairette wine in the garden, overflowing with flowers, herbs and the season's freshest vegetables. As the temperature cools, we step inside the old stone farmhouse to savor the intense flavors of a traditional French country supper.
My husband, Stephan, and I traveled to Provence to visit Pichon Pottery, which I had first seen in Paris. As we drove through the rolling hills covered in sunflowers and lavender, I remember the perfumed air filled with the scent of dried herbs. Every time I open a pot of Herbs du Provence, I'm immediate transported back to charming Provence.
En route to Pichon Pottery Works, we stopped in one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen, the charming stone village of Uzes. It was market day, and I remember the French country food was incredible. Uzes is filled with lovely shops selling characteristic Provencal goods. Such beautiful patterns! Uzes inspired me to expand Ann Marie's product lines to include the colorful linens, papers and accessories I found in Provence. Provence is still a strong influence at Ann Marie's today.
Arriving at Pichon, we were warmly welcomed by Christophe Pichon and his lovely wife Nadege. For over 200 years, the Pichon family has strived to both preserve its traditions as well as develop new lines of its gorgeous faience pottery. The term "faience" refers to traditional earthenware decorated with delicate opaque glazes. As we toured the historic pottery workshop, I fell in love with the beautiful woven pottery baskets.
In Paris I find — sophistication and romance. As soon as I step from my hotel into Rue Saint-Sulpice, I fall in love with the magical City of Light. For centuries, Paris has successfully transported the very best of the French countryside into its urban lifestyle. Parisian artisans capture and refine the essence of pastoral France — flowers, herbs and food — to create perfumes, jewelry, clothing and foods of unparalleled refinement and quality.
Paris holds many secret treasures, so every trip there is filled with new discoveries. Some of my very best Ann Marie finds are gleaned from conversations I have with local Parisians — have I visited their favorite jewelry designer or boutique tucked away in the tiny alley behind the corner bistro? Parisian designers seem to favor delicate floral patterns in muted or pastel tones — elegant scalloped edges appear in the pottery and fine linens which appeal to the chic Parisian sensibility.
I discovered beautiful table linens while traveling to the Paris Trade Show and to the South of France. The linens are made in the Provence region where rich color and beauty abound. My personal favorites are the beautiful acrylic covered tablecloths which are so perfect for a busy family home or even in the garden. The colors and patterns in lavender, sunflower and olive reflect the richness of Provence. I own three, and they are very decorative and easy to care for!
Miles of winding roads are lined with ancient stone walls and lush hedgerows. I have never seen such a brilliant green countryside — truly emerald green. I grew more and more enchanted as we made our way through through the hills of County Wicklow toward Kilkenny, home to some of Ireland's beautiful handmade pottery. We stop for afternoon tea at an ivy-covered stone farmhouse. Pots of bright red flowers soften the gray tones of the stone. We're welcomed inside by smiling faces — the owners clearly take great pride in making others feel at home. The rural Irish lifestyle seems to say “Please stop — take a bit of time to relax and enjoy our simple beauty.” A lovely pot of strong Irish tea and a crumbly, freshly-baked scone are just what we need.
When I traveled to Ireland to visit the pottery works, I became completely captivated by Spongeware — an Irish pottery tradition since the 18th century. Made in simple honest shapes, its decoration is inspired by Ireland's quiet rural surroundings. Images of local animals and plants are painstakingly applied by hand with a cut sponges and reflect the attractions of Irish country life.
Nicholas Mosse Pottery is housed in an old stone mill. The river that runs past the mill is used to generate electricity to fire the kilns. It is here that artists mold and throw the pots and sponge-paint all the pieces of pottery. This sounds simple, but there are many steps before the final product is produced. This complex multi-step process the reason why this pottery will never be mass produced. Each piece is a work of art whose value should only increase with time.
I first became fully immersed in the Italian lifestyle while walking through the colorful narrow streets of Trastevere in Rome. My senses were filled with the deep orange and gold colors of ancient buildings and shop windows filled with beautiful hand-loomed linens. Incredible aromas and Italian voices emanated from open second-story windows as every local mamma prepared her family’s dinner. Sitting in the warm glow of candlelight outside a tiny cafe, we savored the season’s freshest offerings — fried zucchini blossoms with a glass of chilled Frascati wine.
The province of Tuscany probably represents everyone’s perfect dream of Italy. Traveling through the rich landscape of rolling hills dotted with beautiful villas provides all the romance a traveler loves. Florence is not only a center of Tuscan culture, but a wonderful shopper’s destination. I can’t resist the beautiful Florentine papers and leather products. I’m always able to find a little room in my suitcase for the beautiful engraved leather coin purses and little notepads.
I find tremendous inspiration in the rustic charm of rural Italy — the rolling countryside, farms and ancient hilltowns where Italian life continues as it has for centuries. Most inspirational and close to my heart is traveling to Abruzzo, the homeland of my grandmother and grandfather. While not as well known as Tuscany, Abruzzo is an ancient land of national parks, charming hilltowns and beautiful churches. Meeting my relatives in Abruzzo for the first time was one of the most touching and memorable experiences of my life. Through my new-found family, I have been able to experience the richness of Italian family life first hand.
The Italian lifestyle is like no other — true dedication to family and the gifts of the earth. Olive oils, pastas, wines, seasonal fruits and vegetables picked from the family garden — everything that appears on the family dinner table is lovingly prepared by hand.
Each Italian province of has its its own distinct color palette and design influences. Italians live in such close harmony with their natural surroundings, their art comes directly from nature — reflecting the colors of the sun, the flowers, the gentle hills and the sea. In Venice, for example, art is everywhere and is mirrored in the colors and shapes of the beautiful Murano glass.
Ubaldo Grazia. On my latest trip to Umbria, I discovered another source of fabulous Italian artistic talent. The area of Deruta is dedicated to the tradition of majolica, which dates from 1200 AD. The beauty of Deruta pottery defies description. Deruta is the most recognized Italian pottery, especially the amazing Raffeaellesco pattern. Since 1500, the Grazia family has been committed to producing high quality majolica ceramics using time-honored handicraft traditions passed down from generation to generation. The family prides itself on continuing these traditions in the production of modern day masterpieces. Grazia majolica is distinguished by its superior glazing, which enhances the color, and by the high skill of its artists to replicate time-honored designs.
Tessitura Pardi. And just down the road from Deruta, the tradition continues at the factory of Tessitura Pardi. Founded in 1949, all of Pardi's fabrics and finished goods are created by skilled Italian craftsmen who weave on shuttle power looms. It is their fervent desire to hand down the art of weaving to the next generations, thereby preserving both the art-form and the Umbrian region's notoriety for this ancient form of handicraft.
If there were one word to describe Match Pewter, that word would be handsome! Handmade by artisans in the north of Italy, it is food-safe pewter and very functional. Its classic forms harmonize with both traditional and modern settings. Match is dedicated to carrying on ancient traditions that date from 3000 BC. The hallmark on each piece of Match pewter is the signature of the Italian artisan who made it. Lovely Match Pewter warms your room and hails a celebration of the table.
Arte Italica captures the essence of Italy in each of their unique and artistic collections. As one of the leading importers of luxury European décor, they take pride in offering the very best in quality and creative design. Each piece is handcrafted using techniques passed down through generations of skilled Italian artisans. I love their new ceramic collection which brings rustic elegance to the table.
- Traveling the country to discover new U.S. lines for Ann Marie's is always a treat. There is so much creativity happening here at home in the U.S. I can't tell you how happy I am to see the re-emergence of U.S. artistry. Using locally-sourced clays and sands, U.S. artisan are designing and producing offerings of exceptional quality — gorgeous clean lines and bold colors — all hand-made for the discerning U.S. market.
The U.S. artisans I've selected for Ann Marie's find their inspiration in tradition, but go their own way. European influences are taken in new directions; traditional earth tones are heightened and brightened. Truly, each piece is an inspiration, an American work of art. Please join me in celebrating the return of U.S. artistry in my selection of uniquely American glassware and pottery.
Simon Pearce, Vermont- A Legacy of Artisan Design Since the beginning, Simon’s life has centered around functional, sophisticated design. Growing up in Ireland with a family of artisans, attention to detail and aesthetics were part of his everyday experience. At age 16, Simon began his craft as an apprentice at his father’s pottery studio. From there, he went on to work with notable glassmakers all over Europe before opening his namesake studio. Inspired by centuries-old Georgian glassmaking techniques and using the finest natural materials, Simon set out to create designs that bring pleasure and inspiration with every use, every day.