Kin

From Hand to Hand

A ceramicist embracing family tradition in a Mallorcan mountain town.

Good’s practice keeps the ancient traditions of crafting alive, flourishing, and experimental — through reliance on her grandmother’s recipes for proportions.

“I TRIED LIVING in cities for a while,” says ceramicist Dora Alzamora Good, “and it didn’t feel quite right, so I went back home.” For Good, the decision to return to Deià, on the Spanish island of Mallorca, was natural. The pastoral, bohemian enclave has long been a haven for creative types: Andrew Lloyd Webber, British poet Robert Graves, members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson have all spent time on the craggy coastline, turning out some of their best work here. Though Good had been establishing roots in London, the sight of a potter at the wheel emboldened her to rejoin the community that raised her.

With no formal training aside from a week-long course with English ceramicist Clive Bowen, Good relies on generational wisdom to guide her. “Most of it is from my grandmother; she was a sculptor, working with stone and wood. She started working with clay when she got older, and eventually began working with my mom and my aunt. I grew up around that. All of her children were artists, and all of her grandchildren are now artists.” She laughs, “My training started very young.” In Deià, the family runs a gallery space named Gres, which is connected to the fourteenth-century former-monastery-turned-studio that Good and her mother, Grace (Gracia) Alzamora, split.

Given this family lineage, it seems inevitable that mother and daughter create in harmony. “Since my mom and I work together quite a bit, our look has a similar aesthetic feel; whereas my aunt [Mariana Alzamora], who lives 15 minutes away, doesn’t really use the same glazes [for her ceramics].” Good’s practice keeps the ancient traditions of crafting alive, flourishing, and experimental — through reliance on her grandmother’s recipes for proportions when creating mediums and materials; conversion of an electric kiln into a vintage-style gas-burning one; sourcing of stoneware clays; and finishing with primitive glazing methods, such as high-fire or black firing.

Although her grandmother handmade every dish in the family home, Good’s recent vessels are less functional. “There’s always this idea that a vase should hold flowers, but more and more, I see the openings in my vessels are getting smaller and smaller. They’re becoming more decorative; some of the glazes that we use are not even watertight. I’m attracted to the ceramic as an object. I love the line between what makes something utilitarian or a work of art.”


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Good’s biggest inspiration, however, is always her immediate surroundings. In fact, mother and daughter’s compound overlooks the endless, serene Balearic Sea. “The sea is super important to me. A lot of our clients say that our pieces feel like they came out of the ocean or from a rock.” Her quiet, hand-thrown forms are minimally adorned, if at all, but their heavily textured, rough surfaces alternate between sun-bleached and sandy, sooty and volcanic, or slicked and slimy. The seaside town’s romantic wilderness inspires many of Good’s primitive finishing techniques as well: She works with smoke and rocks pulled straight from the water, grinding each one down for their minerals and incorporating them into glazes, while the beach’s seaweed is used to make an ash glaze.

And as much as the Alzamoras co-conceive of their creations indoors, the exquisite environment that starts just outside is as much a collaborator on their style and, ultimately, their artworks. The clan’s openness combines easily with their resourcefulness. “In a city, you just don’t have access to those kinds of materials,” says Good. “We go down to our local beach for these things. A lot of the ash in our glazes comes from our fireplace. My mom and I like to experiment with different types of ashes from burning different types [of wood], such as some almond trees that were trimmed down around us this past winter. You’re going to get a different effect from burning an almond tree or a carob tree, or pine, or olive. Pine gives a more bluey color, whereas the leaves of a linden tree give a more speckled ash, a more speckled glaze.”

Inevitably, the intense nature all around works itself into Good’s singular process. “It’s more organic now. Before, I would have a determined image in my head and try to make that, and now there’s a lot of muscle memory involved, so I kind of see where the piece takes itself. I’m also interested in pushing the material to its limits. It’s nice to see the clay kind of collapse, so the rim becomes a little bit wonkier and wobblier, the spherical shape becomes a little bit more lopsided. I kind of lay my hands into the clay as well.”

Drawing inspiration from a wide range of Asian ceramic traditions, she produces her own version of the Korean dalhangari, or moon jar, an imperial white-porcelain vase with a wide mouth, smooth yet organic spherical shape, and milky glaze. “I was very interested in the word “moon,” and glazes that are textured. I took it a little bit more literally here; the pieces are like moon jars but more because of the texture of the moon rather than the shape.”

After exhibiting extensively throughout Spain and creating both commissions and design collaborations throughout Europe, her upcoming exhibition, “Beautifully Flawed: Wabi-sabi in Contemporary Craft,” opens next spring at Maud & Mabel in London. It showcases her work in the Japanese art of kintsugi, that is, repairing broken pottery by binding shards with lacquer mixed with gold dust. The technique celebrates imperfections, embracing flaws and cracks as inherent to the beauty of the object. Wabi-sabi is another Japanese artistic approach that centers on the incomplete, imperfect elegance within nature. Fittingly, the aesthetic is informed by Zen Buddhism in the traditional tea ceremony, in which the tea is served in irregular, hand-molded cracked cups that are unfinished or unevenly glazed. They are the kind of objects that can quiet the mind when held in your hand, opening up a sliver of silent escape from our own noise — a handy alternative when you’re away from Deià.

Where to Stay, Eat, and Shop in and around Deià, Mallorca

The founder of Dora Ceramics shares some favorite spots on the island.

Stay

  • La Residencia

    Deià’s best-known luxury hotel is nestled in the mountains amid olive trees, with a view of the sparkling ocean.

  • Hotel Convent de la Missió

    This stunning boutique hotel features an art-themed bar, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and gorgeous exclusive beachfront.

  • La Residencia

    Deià’s best-known luxury hotel is nestled in the mountains amid olive trees, with a view of the sparkling ocean.

  • Hotel Convent de la Missió

    This stunning boutique hotel features an art-themed bar, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and gorgeous exclusive beachfront.

Eat

  • Nama Restaurant

    This vegan-friendly Asian restaurant in the heart of the village of Deià has a luxurious lapis-blue bar designed by interiors king Matthew Williamson.

  • Cafe Sa Fonda

    This bar and restaurant has live music and good food, including the best sweet potato French fries.

  • Adrian Quetglas

    This Michelin-starred restaurant is the brainchild of chef Adrian Quetglas, who blends influences from his native Argentina and Russia, where he worked for a decade.

  • Finca Son Mico

    This hillside cafe is run by two French sisters serving up coffee, fresh juices, cakes, and tarts.

  • Cala Deià

    This tiny cove beach is good for a swim, and the beachside restaurant is great for fresh fish. Reservations are a must, as it gets busy.

  • Nama Restaurant

    This vegan-friendly Asian restaurant in the heart of the village of Deià has a luxurious lapis-blue bar designed by interiors king Matthew Williamson.

  • Finca Son Mico

    This hillside cafe is run by two French sisters serving up coffee, fresh juices, cakes, and tarts.

  • Cafe Sa Fonda

    This bar and restaurant has live music and good food, including the best sweet potato French fries.

  • Cala Deià

    This tiny cove beach is good for a swim, and the beachside restaurant is great for fresh fish. Reservations are a must, as it gets busy.

  • Adrian Quetglas

    This Michelin-starred restaurant is the brainchild of chef Adrian Quetglas, who blends influences from his native Argentina and Russia, where he worked for a decade.

Shop

  • Joy

    A shop with lovely, curated products: great bags, flowy dresses, casual or elegant sandals, and nice soaps and candles.

  • Rialto Living

    This gorgeous shop has a beautiful facade and a brightly lit, airy cafe.

  • Joy

    A shop with lovely, curated products: great bags, flowy dresses, casual or elegant sandals, and nice soaps and candles.

  • Rialto Living

    This gorgeous shop has a beautiful facade and a brightly lit, airy cafe.

Explore More
Our Contributors

Jennifer Piejko Writer

Jennifer Piejko is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She writes about visual arts and culture.

Iris Humm Photographer

Based in Barcelona, Iris Humm was born and raised in Milan before moving to Spain to focus on photography. Humm began taking photographs at 15 years old and now applies her intimate and intuitive aesthetic to an impressive portfolio of brands and assignments. Humm describes her practice as communicating the emotional quality of a moment.

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