This year marks the 365th anniversary of Royal Delft, the Delft Blue earthenware of worldwide acclaim and craftsmanship. This year, Royal Delft is choosing one visitor at random each day to paint a tile for a unique piece that will hang forever on their wall.
Picture yourself patiently waiting in line to tour one of the oldest European companies in continuous operation and last remaining earthenware factory from the 17th century. The Duty Manager walks up, stops, and informs you that you have been chosen at random to be that day’s lucky visitor to help paint a tile that will be part of the Royal Delft 365 Year Anniversary montage. In other words, your artwork will become a part of history for your friends and family to see for years to come. I was one of the lucky visitors in May – my tile was #114.
Started in 1653 by David Anthonisz van der Pieth, Delft Blue’s recognizable blue and white earthenware quickly became renowned. Although the company has been bought and sold over the years and had many others trying to duplicate their classic look, Delft Blue is the only remaining factory of its kind. In 1919, the Dutch Royal Family awarded the “Royal” part of its name to the company in appreciation for their contribution to the country.
During our tour of the facility, we were able to watch the entire process, starting with making the earthenware from 10 different raw materials with the most important being: kaolin, chalk, feldspar, and quartz. A mixture called “casting liquid” is poured into plaster casts and removed from the cast when the product is strong enough to be taken out without causing any deformities. After the clay has dried sufficiently, a thin layer of liquid clay is sprayed on the clay body to achieve the best painting surface. It is then fired for the first time to 1160 degrees C, becoming what is referred to as “biscuit.” We were then able to watch the decorating process and one of the Delftware painters at work. The paint is water-based and the color shades that start out looking black are created by adding more or less water to the paint using special paintbrushes made of marten and squirrel hair. The Delft blue pigment mixture is made to a centuries-old formula of mostly cobalt oxide. After the painting is completed, the piece is sprayed with a opaque white glaze and fired a second time at 1200 degrees C. It is at that point that the black pigment changes to the famous Delft blue color.
We saw some of the other completed tableaus on our tour that took our breath away and helped me understand how the anniversary piece would look when it finished the process.
In addition to choosing one visitor each day to help the company paint the mosaic piece for their 365th Anniversary, many other events are being held throughout 2018, such as the Nouveau Blue temporary exhibition (March to September) and a number of regular and themed High Teas. With the charm and elegance of a time-honored afternoon British tea, the Mother’s Day High Tea that I attended at Royal Delft was a sweetly indulgent respite. The tables adorned with Royal Delft place-settings and fresh Dutch Tulips blended perfectly with the wonderful assortment of teas and special treats at a reasonable price (EUR 30).
Royal Delft offers workshops where two or more persons can paint tiles, plates, or vases, then have them fired and later shipped (for an additional fee) to your hotel or home address. They also host wedding parties or meetings at this unique facility. Information regarding additional Royal Delft calendar of events and activities can be found on their website: https://www.royaldelft.com/. Just about an hour (by car, train, or bus) southwest of Amsterdam, the city of Delft is a delightful Dutch city located between Rotterdam and The Hague. The company receives over 135,000 visitors each year. The high season is in April-May, so your best chance to be chosen to contribute to their tile commemorative piece is in the months ahead!