Getting Back to Our Origins: El Carmen de Viboral

Old kiln in El Carmen de Viboral

As you all probably know, Azulina's ceramic dinnerware is made in Colombia (which I lovingly call home). What you may not know is that it is made in just one place in the entire country, El Carmen de Viboral,  a town with a 100+ year-old ceramics-making tradition.

Here is a little history lesson on our beloved Carmen: 

El Carmen de Viboral (or "Carmen" for short) is a rural town outside of Medellín, Colombia, in the department known as Antioquia. It started out as a hacienda and then grew into a small agricultural-based economy.

The ceramics-making tradition started in the late 1800s when a fellow named Eliseo Pareja discovered quartz and feldspar in the nearby hills, the primary materials needed to make clay pottery. Eliseo had worked in ceramics factories elsewhere in Colombia, but decided to venture out on his own. And so he founded Carmen's first factory, thus starting a 100+ year-old tradition.

By 1987 the industry grew to a peak of 27 ceramics-making establishments. And with peaks come valleys. Much of the industry's fall at that time was attributed trade policies. In the early 1980s imports were heavily regulated and restricted. When these protectionist policies lifted in the late 1980s many local industries that once flourished, like dinnerware, took a big hit as consumers shifted their interests to foreign-made products. As expected, the industry nearly came to a screeching halt. All but a couple factories closed down.

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Today the ceramics industry is back on the up-turn thanks to the hard work and perseverance of a great few 'Carmelitanos', as the Carmen locals are called. In the late 1990s and early 2000s credit facilities were developed to help small business owners gain access to much-needed capital and artists like José Ignacio Vélez innovated the once dated designs to bring a fresh, modern feel to the pottery.

More recently, the government of Colombia bestowed upon the town the Denomination of Origin, protecting the ceramic-painting heritage. Another boost to the local economy is the interest it's earned from the Colombian President: ceramics made in Carmen de Viboral are the go-to gift to foreign dignitaries and leaders, such as Queen Elizabeth II and the First Lady of Turkey, Hayrünnisa Gül. Even President Obama was spotted sipping from a mug made in Carmen de Viboral last year in Cartagena!

And just this year Azulina was the first ever company to import El Carmen de Viboral's beautiful ceramics to the US.

I think I like this trend.


Con Mucho Amor, 


Founder, Azulina Ceramics


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