Interview with ceramicist Maria De Haan on relocating to Deiá3rd February 2017

Deiá resident and ceramicist Maria De Haan, grew up in the Kent English countryside in a large family with five brothers. She moved to London aged 19, lived in the West Indies and has travelled the globe extensively before relocating to Deiá two years ago. Maria loves village life and is often spotted striding around Deiá with her dog Monty. I catch up with her for a cup of tea to find out why she feels so inspired by Mallorca.

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What would your dream home in Deiá be? I love the town house I’m living in now which overlooks the mountains. I have been quite surprised at how powerful the Tramuntana have been for me, now I really know I’m a mountain person! Before I thought it was the sea and the beach but I love the energy of them and their presence. If I was to pick a home overlooking the sea then I really love Son Reboll, a farmhouse you are selling, to me it is the perfect blend of traditional and modern.

When did you first visit Deiá? In August 2012 I booked a holiday in Deiá and stayed for two weeks in Hotel D’es Puig, a very pretty traditional hotel in the village. I spent almost the entire time in Alconasser having picnics on the rocks and swimming, It’s a very romantic place. Little did I know I’d be leaving London and living here some 4 years later.

What was it about Deiá that attracted you to living here? I was thinking of leaving London and moving to France but my cousin who grew up here (Maria is half Spanish) suggested relocating to Deia. I had lived on a tiny island called Bequia in the West Indies before so she thought it might suit me here as I enjoy island life. I then spent three weeks driving round Mallorca and had an idea that wherever I found a workshop available to rent then that would be my new home. On the last day of the trip I came to Deiá and met Joanna another ceramicist from Chicago and that was it! It was a perfect meeting – she had a space that she was moving out of that I could rent. It just felt right and a short while later I found my townhouse in Deiá.  For me there is enough balance between Mallorquin culture and expats.

img_1143When did you start working with clay/ceramics? My first career was in recruitment in London, i then became an English language teacher, but really wanted a career change after five years. I decided to go travelling for a while and when I got back I randomly decided to sign up to evening classes in ceramics at Westminster Council and after just one lesson I just knew that was it. It changed my life and I knew that was what i wanted to do. That was back in 2004. I then spent two years in London on a ceramics diploma, working in apprenticeships, various courses; kiln building, Japanese ceramics etc. I was also taught by Simon Leach for a time in Castellon in Valencia. I then went to the West Indies to a tiny island called Bequia in 2007 to rent a studio space alongside an English potter called Mike Goddard in an 18th Century sugar mill. After two years I came back to London to set up a studio in North West London. When I came to live in Deiá I had been working with clay for over 10 years.

 

Tell me about your beautiful pots? I make sculptural ceramics and functional wares and my signature is smoke firing. There is a simplicity and elegance to my pots. My work is very soulful and all thrown on the wheel.

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Tell me about your signature smoke firing technique? I had a book lying around my house for years about it and one day picked it up read it from cover to cover and started to experiment. My first attempt was a pit firing in a forest in Sweden whilst visiting a friend, then in Kent in a friend’s garden. It’s where the clay is fired in a barrel, you pack the pots surrounded by sawdust, wood and organic materials such as fruits, wood, leaves, seaweed, salt and build a fire on top. As the fire burns down whatever is burning around the pot is absorbed into the clay surface leaving beautiful markings. It is the oldest form of firing and very exciting. Here I use anything from banana skins, avocados, seaweed from the Cala de Deiá, compost, salt, dried leaves and moss.

You’re doing workshops at your home in Deiá? Yes we built a beautiful outdoor studio at my house in April last year and had the first course in June. I hold taster days, weekend and week-long courses. We have three wheels in the studio. I’m looking forward to teaching again this year and am in the process of organising the 2017 schedule.

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You had a show at Obsolete in Valldemossa in November, do you have any shows coming up this year? I have a group show in Pepnot Galeria, Artá (pepnotgaleria.com ) from May to June and then a two week exhibition in Sa Tanca (in Deiá) in July. I have an online shop now on my website and I have stockists in different places, mainly London.

What are your inspirations?  Nature.. rock formations, under water coral forms, textures, the sea, rugged natural beauty and open spaces. That’s why I love Deiá, it has all of those things in abundance.

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What are your dreams for the future of Maria De Haan Ceramics? Just to be able to carry on making pots, teach and exhibit my work. I really love what i do. One day I’d like to build a wood kiln. I’d like to create a place where people can come and learn about ceramics. I’m getting emails daily now asking about my 2017 courses which is exciting.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to move to Deiá? Honestly, I would say just do it! Since I moved here friends back at home say they see my photos of Deiá and how lucky I am (she has over 12k Instagram followers). I say it isn’t about luck it is about just doing it and it is such a welcoming place. You can either be part of village life or step back. I have my quiet time daily walking on the coast with my dog Monty or there’s always something going on in the Village.

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What are your favourite things to do in Deiá? My number one is Llulcalcari where I walk Monty and swim. I love paddle boarding (Soller SUP) around Soller or from Cala Deiá . To eat, I love Restaurant Xellini in the village because I often come home late from swimming and it is open late. I love the art in there and the relaxed vibe, their tapas are excellent. And I love going to the organic market in Valldemossa on a Sunday and cooking Sunday roasts for my friends. I’m keeping a little bit of English tradition in Deiá!

Where else do you love to go on the island? I like going to Port de Valldemossa. In colder months it is quite stark and dramatic, a wind swept place that you drive past and forget it is there. You can eat paella there all year round and it’s deeply romantic. It’s beautiful.

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Tell me about your beloved Monty? Monty is my fox terrier rescue dog. It’s so wonderful to have a dog here as it’s very sociable walking him around the village and I’m much happier since getting a dog, I recommend it! He also keeps me warm in the winters. I adore him.

Any thing else to add.. Just that making clay accessible to people really is important to me and I’m excited to be teaching more people this year in such a beautiful part of the world. Learning to make pots on a wheel in front of the mountains is epic!

If you would like to visit Maria and find out about her course you can find out more on her website http://www.mariadehaan.com/ and contact by email at mariadehaan@mac.com.

Interview by Gemma@charlesmarlow.com 

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