Maria De Haan - Elegant imperfection

Maria De Haan - Elegant imperfection
A ceramicist specialising in elegant, smoke-fired sculptures. Maria De Haan’s beautiful handcrafted works are admired around the globe. Born and raised in the UK and living in the Deià mountains since 2015, she is energised by her travels and her surrounding environment in the Tramuntana mountains. Here, she discusses her creative processes, the eternal place of nature in her work, and why it’s more important than ever to step away from our screens.

What's the main inspiration behind your work? 

Textures, rocks, underwater sea forms. I once saw some incredible sea corals off an island in the French West Indies. We had taken a kayak out and we were just free diving looking at some very large coral forms, they appeared to me as sculptures, and they’ve been the inspiration behind my vessel forms for over 10 years now.

 Why were you drawn to ceramics? What was it about clay that sparked your imagination? 

I was always drawing as a child and always wanted to be an artist, so when I first tried the wheel It was an instant love affair.  The immediate gratification, you can create something quite quickly with clay . Working on the wheel is very addictive and of course very tactile. 

What is it about objects that captures our imaginations?

For me, I love the feel of a well made pot. The distribution of weight, the different surface textures, and its balance and poise.


Can you talk a little bit about the smoke fired technique and what makes it special?

Smoke firing is a process in which pots have been fired once so they are firm but still porous. They are then placed into a barrel or pit with organic materials placed around them, and then a fire is lit on top and left to burn. The materials burn and leave makings on the surface of the pot. It is kind of a ritual for me, I love the whole process, from collecting and foraging natural materials and deciding what to place around the pot, controlling the fire, the oxygen and the heat.

The results can be very dramatic, so its very exciting! You never know how they will come out. Lighting the fire reminds me of bonfires I shared with my father when I was a child, the smell, the smoke, it’s very nostalgic for me.


Is creativity an element that's present in every aspect of your life?

It used to be, but I am a mum now so I lead a double life!


In what ways does Mallorca inspire your work?

My studio is in the mountains, a very special and soulful place and a constant inspiration. The coast line where I live is stunning, very rocky and dramatic. 


What's your ideal 24 hours spent in Mallorca?

A walk along the coast from Deia to our swimming spot, a swim off the rocks and a simple picnic there, then a gorgeous cuddle and story with my daughter at bedtime.


What benefits are there to tactile pastimes like ceramics, especially in today's fast paced world?

Ceramics has become hugely popular in the last few years. When I first started about 20 years ago it was mainly people over 50, I was always the youngest! I think the benefits of working with your hands, learning a new skill and being in the moment are very important now in today's world where screens are everywhere.