A few years back, former U.S. Border Patrol agent Art Loya looked around for a job that would allow him stable hours to spend with his family.

He found that job, opening and running The Garden Center of Tucson in midtown with his wife, Julieta.

The pottery and furniture store focuses on colorful Talavera art that comes out of central Mexico, including the small town of Dolores Hidalgo.

"It's not just pottery, it's art," Art Loya describes the Moorish-style patterns that were brought to the New World by the Spanish. "It makes people happy because it's colorful and lively."

Loya and Julieta started a garden decor store at the urging of his mother, Marta Castanon, who owns The Mexican Garden on North Oracle Road.

But unlike that eclectic store, the Loyas wanted to specialize. "We saw Talavera and immediately fell in love with it," he says.


The store, which the couple opened five years ago after running Tarahumara Imports on Fourth Avenue, carries many familiar Talavera products for outdoor and indoor decorating. Animal figurines and statues ($3 to $95) include frogs, turtles, snails, geese and rabbits.

Mirrors framed in tile and metal run from $59 to $165 and basins for sinks range between $35 and $95.

Some Talavera items aren't often seen in Tucson. Colorfully clad Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) skeletons range from about 11 inches ($36) to 5 feet ($575). A birdbath with three colorful birds standing on the bowl's rim sells for $119.

The store also stocks Talavera kitchenware, dining serving pieces and bathroom accessories.


The Loyas also specialize in sets of concrete table and benches that are made in Baja California, Mexico. A round table and three benches ($575) come with inlaid European-pattern tile, inlaid stone, marble or granite.

A set consisting of a square table and two benches costs $295.


Colorful and artful patio sets in iron and tile include benches, chairs, tables and side tables. A rocking chair costs $295 while the stationary version costs $245. A rocking bench is $445. A bar stool is $185.

Loose tiles in a range of sizes are available at between 80 cents and $45. Solid colors include bright primary hues and softer pastels. Moorish and Southwest patterns abound. Some tiles also form murals.

Clay and ceramic pots from Mexico and Asia are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, patterns and colors.

The Garden Center of Tucson

• Where: 2854 E. Grant Road, 795-4616, morethanjustpottery.com

• Hours: Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.

Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net