On Friday, we visited the TU Delft Botanic Gardens and while in Delft, we visited the Royal Delft Experience. The experience takes you through a history of the company – the last surviving ‘pottery’ of the 30+ that existed in the city of Delft in the 17th century. It was founded in 1653 as De Porceleyne Fles [translation: The Porcelain Jar].
Delft Blue started in Netherlands around the 17th century when the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) brought the blue painted porcelain back from China. This resulted in an inspiration for the Dutch ceramists, because this fragile porcelain was not created or seen before.
During your self-guided tour (available in various languages), we started with two short movies, presented in different rooms, with modern sound and other effects about the history and then the firing process. Their website explains the process in-depth and very well. Then you are free to wander through a museum, where we each had an audio guide to explain the 14 different stations. There is also a special audio tour for children and for the younger children (under 10) – for a €1 you can buy a picture hunt which the children learn all about the iconic blue and white earthenware on a picture hunt throughout the museum.
The tour allows visitors to watch one of the artisans, as he paints by hand, pieces of earthenware – very impressive. Notice the black ‘paint’ he’s using, it’s cobalt oxide, a substance that when fired gives Delft Blue its signature color.
The museum has a section dedicated to items made for the Dutch Royal family. You’ll see various commemorative plates, historic pieces, and a unique shaped tulip vases – which is for sale in the gift shop for €17,000!
If that very large tulip vase looks familiar and you are in the Randstad area, you might have seen the giant version along the A13 going towards Rotterdam. I never remember to have my phone ready to take photo so this shutterfly version will have to do for now.
CREATION OF PROUD MARY
In 2019, Proud Mary was launched as a collector’s item as an attempt to create a contemporary look & feel to a very historical and traditional item. She was named after Mary Stuart II, the wife of Lord Lieutenant William III. She was a great admirer and collector of Delft Blue in the Dutch Golden Age and in large collections of Delft Blue were in all her palaces like Hampton Court and Paleis het Loo.
The large ones are hand painted and that is why the cost €1299. and so much more than the smaller ones – which are €75. These are decorated with a transfer. See the entire collection here.
BEHIND THE SCENES INSIDE THE FACTORY
Later in the tour, when you get into the factory, you’ll see workers spraying, molding, drying, painting and firing the pieces.
There is a very large replica of “The Night Watch” by Rembrant on the wall made up of 480 impressively painted tiles.
VISIT THE MUSEUM ONLINE
On their site, they have a nice kids tour which is even great for adults. No worries that it is Dutch, there are English subtitles underneath! Alternatively, you can visit their VR online museum and navigate around the museum yourself.
WORKSHOPS – PAINT YOUR OWN DELFT BLUE
PAINT A TILE AT HOME
You can paint your own Delft Blue tiles at home. While true Royal Delft pieces are painted with black and fired (as explained above), but for this you will receive a blue paint. The DIY home based, self-painting kits are €39.95 and are for two tiles!
PAINT IN THE MUSEUM UNDER PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE
They also offer various workshops from plates, other pieces and tiles. The tiles are done either in the DIY way above or in the traditional workshop – which means they are NOT ready to be taken home immediately as they must first be fired. The products can be collected or shipped after approximately ten working days. I would love to do one of these one day – just not sure what I’d paint on the tile or plate.
You can also give a bespoke gift a tile or plate that is unique and personalized, which would be nice for a special occasion like births, anniversaries or weddings. You can add a name or date, etc
SCHIFFMACHER ROYAL BLUE TATTOO EXHIBITION
Delft Blue pottery and tattoos may not be the most obvious combination, but they have more in common than thought. Henk Schiffmacher is a renowned tattoo artist who has also curated exhibitions, written books and presented TV shows on tattoo art. The exhibition Schiffmacher Royal Blue Tattoo shows the link between tattooing and Delft Blue pottery, the Dutch traditional pottery that is made in Delft since the 17th century. Discover the history of tattooing and see the similarity between tattoos and Delft Blue. Henk Schiffmacher tells you the background stories of his drawings in the audio tour – which is only in Dutch regardless of which language your self-guided audio device is programmed.
Both craftsmanships, in fact, are rich with culture, tradition and symbolism. Henk Schiffmacher has made a number of unique objects with the master painters of Royal Delft, where the two worlds literally touch each other. The exhibition is visible until October 31st.
If you are visiting Delft and have an hour or two to spare it is a unique experience and I think worth it. The gift shop in the end is filled with some very amazing items from magnets to extremely expensive items.
I did, however, but a small little Christmas ornament to put on my tree. I already have a small blue and white porcelain windmill which I bought in the Netherlands many years ago on my tree – but I’m sure that is not “real”. You can always tell if your piece is genuine as it can be recognized by the hand painted signature on the bottom of the vase; the initials JT – Joost Thoof, the apothecary bottle and the word “Delft“with the code to indicate the year and the master painter’s initials.
Adults are €14 and kids (13-18) are €8.75 and kids under 12 with family are FREE! Museumkaart holders receive a small discount. Check out their site for hours and more details about parking and other discounts offered.
2628 AR Delft
If you are interested in visiting Delft, check out my blog post Afternoon in Delft for ideas of what to do in the lovely city of Delft including a visit to the TU Delft Botanic Gardens.