The weekend of 12 & 13 November 2016 had been blocked in my agenda for months due to the annual Delft Blue Days at Royal Delft. Since I am currently working on my ‘Delft Blue (flora & fauna) coloring book‘ for my publisher BBNC uitgevers this was perfect timing. This event allowed me to visit the museum, see master painters at work, visit the factory, attend the walk-in workshop ‘Delft Blue painting‘ and check out the warehouse sale. No better way to do my research on the history of this craft and get more inspiration for my illustrations!
Delft Blue (‘Delfts blauw’ in Dutch), also known as Delftware or Delft pottery, is blue and white pottery made in and around Delft in Holland and has been active for more than 350 years. ‘De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles‘ (nowadays known as ‘Royal Delft’) is the only remaining factory of the 32 earthenware factories that were established in Delft during the 17th century.
I arrived at Royal Delft at 9:15 am to make sure I would be on time for the workshop which would start at 10:00 am. After a stroll through the shop & showroom I enjoyed a cappuccino in the lovely cafe and went upstairs to the workshop area. About 30 people were already in line which was fine since it was quite difficult to choose what I wanted to paint: a tile, different plates and platters, a saucer and other small items… I decided on a small platter to serve stroopwafels on. My white clay platter was given a number (needed at pick up) and I received a pencil. People could choose from a range of illustrations to transfer onto their own piece but I decided to copy part of my Delft Blue coloring book cover illustration.
The tables were set with bowls of water, a few shards of white clay ceramics, a small platter with cobalt dry paint + 2 brushes. With the pencil I drew my illustration on the platter (this was the easy part) and next up one of the workshop teachers stopped by to explain how to wetten and use the cobalt paint. Tricky! I decided to try the paint with both brushes on a shard after which it was time to start painting my platter. Scary! It took me a good hour to paint my platter, starting off with the dark thin outlines and finishing with filling in the illustration with different shades of grey (from light to dark). After I was done I handed in my platter which would go down to the factory next. My black-and-gray platter will be ready to be picked up as a true Delft Blue piece end of this month!
The white clay ceramic pieces allow the painter to create a sharp painting executed with cobalt paint. Once painted the product is sprayed or dipped in a new glaze and in unfired state is now opaque which results in the black-gray painting to completely disappear. Next up the product goes into the oven for the second time. During the firing process the glaze melts at a temperature of 1200°C into a transparent layer of glass. The decoration resurfaces at that stage. The chemical and physical reaction between clay, engobe, paint and glaze at that high temperature is what creates the typical Delft Blue color.
After a nice lunch in the restaurant with a view towards the inner courtyard I visited the museum together with my audio tour. The museum offers 2 introductory movies, the painters workplace, a Vermeer and Dutch royal family room, a castle-like room with antique display cabinets which show old pieces of Delftware plus the whole Night Watch depicted in 480 tiles of 18 x 18 cm plus additional sections with more history and variations of Delft earthenware*. Attached to the museum is the bright factory. The tour ends in the showroom & shop which is attached to the lovely cafe where I started my day.
*Did you know Delft Blue also exists in a lot of different color variations? Delft Polychrome (blue, red, yellow & green), Delft Black, Delft Pijnacker (blue, red & gold) just to name a few…
Needless to say, I had a wonderful day out all by myself. And I will get to return for a full workshop together with my mom since that was my birthday gift this year! I am already excited to make a 2nd Delft Blue piece and that will be a plate.
UPDATE 13.01.2017: mid december my husband picked up my baked & glazed Delft Blue platter in Delft. Here’s a picture of the end result which I am very happy with:…