The Pottery and its History in Mallorca

The pottery in Mallorca has a very long history, like in all the cities of the world crafts, such as pottery, are linked to their history. In Mallorca there are pieces of clay found in various archaeological sites of the island showing how primitive man elaborated kitchen utensils and for storage and conservation with an extraordinary sense of form and aesthetics using clay and similar. Are the beginnings of pottery, a term that is often used to designate the primitive ceramic, usually household ceramics.

Pottery in Mallorca dates back to the ancestral Talaiotic Culture, culture of which were found pottery shards that are supposed to be between from 1400 to 700 a.c., usually coming this ceramic from the existing burial talaiotic settlements on the island (eg; Son Real) where different types of ceramic has been found, made a very rudimentary way, sylvan, probably derived from the large amount of quartz that contains the clay used. Certain parts denote a great imagination by the artists who painted the pieces with two colors and geometric, abstract and figurative designs. In some cases the forms were very imaginative without apparent function and in others it is very delicate jars for ointments and cosmetics. They have found several types of vessels, mostly small ones, which have a conical shape, with handle, cups, bowls, pots and vases with two handles. All these indications Assumed is the first sign of Pottery in Mallorca, they found only on the islands of Mallorca and Menorca. From this point there are signs of the evolution of Pottery in Mallorca influenced by different eras and periods of colonization that has lived the island, from the Carthaginians to the Romans and the big influence of the Islamic Era.

The Romans had great admiration for the ceramic and were they who introduced into Mallorca the use of potter’s wheel and different techniques for molding and decoration as the “Terra Sigillata” or the introduction of lead glaze in the pottery, procedure allowing adding metal oxides to obtain different colors. The greatest legacy of this period is the Roman amphorae used to transport in boats food, oil and especially wine. Large amphorae topped tip were placed on metal brackets and used to transport wine and oil.

During Islamic domination is when the splendor of pottery in Mallorca occurs. In the ninth century the caliphs of the Abbasid dynasty encouraged the production of imitations of Tang ceramics and soon the Arab potters developed their own styles by first making a ceramic without glaze, decorated by molding, stamping or application of reliefs to develop then a ceramic with designs under cover and bowls with lead glaze opaque white with flowers and painted inscriptions and, finally, the polished ceramic, with gold reflection or lusterware developing the yellow enamel glaze, and began the use of ceramics in the construction of houses and channels that were part of the complex irrigation system that is still preserved today in Mallorca.

Mallorca was the first place in Europe where was made the Hispanic Moorish pottery which is then exported to the rest of Sicily and Italy with such success that eventually lost its Arab influence to acquire Europeanized aesthetic, resulting in Mayólica pottery. The fame of the quality of Hispanic Moorish pottery made in the potteries of Mallorca extends to different places as they produce finer ceramic and more balanced compositions. Many Hispanic Moorish pieces that are supposed to be from Manises (Valencia) were exported from Mallorca and that was what made the Italian Renaissance potters to denominate it the Mayólica pottery.

In our capital, Palma de Mallorca, the neighborhood now known as “Sa Gerrería” (pottery in Mallorcan language) was one of the focus of increased potter expansion in the sixteenth century whose network of narrow streets of the city center are documented twenty potteries in the cadaster of 1576. Today this area is called the “Passeig de l’Artesania” whose objective is to project and try to keep the tradition of Mallorca with artisan shops and workshops where visitors can watch the artisans at work in their places.

But the development of pottery was not made exclusively in the area of the capital, also in very different locations throughout the island, as was the important pottery village of Santa Eugenia, but in the eighteenth century artisans changed location to move to Pórtol neighboring nuclei and sa Cabaneta, both in term of Marratxi. The “Museu de Fang” in sa Cabaneta (Clay Musseum), and numerous potteries scattered around the town, are proof that today is known as “the land of the clay”. A tradition that has its greater emphasis on the “Fira de Fang” (Clay Demostration) held annually since 1984, usually in early March and which come over one hundred thousand visitors in each edition. To understand this important potter development in Marratxí, just have to look out the large deposits of red earth observed in Pòrtol. Other places that also feature a remarkable ceramist activity are Alaró, Consell, Felanitx, Pollensa and Manacor.

The most characteristic of this type of craft element is undoubtedly the Siurell, a trick performed with fingers and decorated in red and green colors with a whistle at the base, which figure and because of its symbolic importance we will talk to an exclusive article. With “Terrissa” (as referred to the terracotta Mallorcans) is also produced other ceramic object cooking at a temperature of 1000 degrees. The most typical are the pots, the brown dishes , a wine jars called “Pitxers “, painted tiles , nativity scenes and “Greixoneres” a type of pot essential in the development of traditional Mallorcan cuisine. This offer has increased in recent decades with the production of new household and gardening items like pots, plates, boxes, candle holders, coffee sets, cups, pipes, among many others. Especially curious are also called “Gerretes” typical of Manacor and Felanitx. This is a very ornate clay jars that are painted or decorated with embroidery.

There are also on the island many potters dedicated to artistic creation, whose works are sold in own and other stores. They are called Master Craftsmen, whose name can only be granted by the Consell de Mallorca (Mallorca Government) based on a number of requirements that must be met by all who will be granted the title of Master Craftsman, not only for pottery, but for all trades and crafts with some history in our Island.

We hope the article about our custom, history and traditions has been of your interest. If you want to see more photos about Mallorcan Pottery you can see them in our Flickr Channel.

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