We wanted to do something very special with our New Zealand friends when they visited a few years ago so bought them to the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles (The Royal Porcelain Bottle) pottery in Delft for a unique experience.
In this establishment, where the famous Delfts Blauw (Delft Blue) has been in continuous production for more than 350 years it’s possible to paint your very own blue and white tile or small earthenware piece.
Since we are not experienced pottery artists we opted for the safer option of the flat surface of a tile rather than the possible Christmas bauble.
The workshops (reservations necessary in advance) take two and a half hours and the brushes, the paint and the earthenware item to be painted are provided. Our tiles are 13 x 13 cm in size ( 5 x 5 inches) square and cost € 37,50 per person.
The staff provide papers with various popular patterns of things like windmills and flowers pinpricked into it and then they dust it with some sort of coloured dust that goes through the holes and leaves a join-the-dots type of pattern on the tile to give you a starting image to fill in and embellish, or you can simply make your own image free-hand.
I’d made a tile here before with American friends who we also bought here in 2007 for a visit, and after learning from the first trip that there was an option to design your own tile, I took inspiration from my favourite plate: also a small Royal Delft and designed my own tile ( or “ode to Delft ” since it’s a poor imitation of the professional version), preparing it with a zillion tiny pin pricks before I went and luckily it all worked fine when they dusted it with the coloured powder: the image transferred correctly.
You paint your tile in what looks like thin black paint which turns into the beautiful blue once the tile is fired.
The lighter your paint layer the lighter the colour blue and I now know that if you want really intense dark blue that you need to make several layers of paint because some sections of my tile still weren’t as dark in colour as I intended to them be.
The paint substance kind of soaks instantly into the tile, there is no second-chance for error and no rubbing out so a steady hand is needed and you get a very short practice on some small shards of earthenware before you start your tile design.
A few points worth noting: If you have a complex piece like my second tile you’ll be under real pressure to finish on time, the time zooms by and there are no extensions of time in the workshop possible.
You tend to try and hold your breath a lot as you attempt to keep a steady hand so it’s intense work!
There’s an age limit so Little Mr. who was too young on our first trip here, went to a playground with Himself instead. Also if I go here to make a tile again I will ask if it’s at all possible to skip the tour of the factory that’s included in the price and use the extra time to paint instead.
After you’ve painted your tile they will take it away to be fired and you can pick it up in person at a later date or pay extra to have it posted to you worldwide. The others got their tiles posted to their home address overseas since they were busy touring Europe so I didn’t see them finished, but I have “before and after” photos of our tiles so that you can see get an idea of what they look like after firing. (I’ve edited the photos to remove some identifying name information).
Different interpretations of the same patterns: the butterflies were very popular with the kids, windmills with the adults.
I chose the above pattern as well for my first tile: before, after photo follows…
Little Mr. was old enough to take part the second time and went for a free-hand design of his own making (incorporating several names)
Turned out brilliantly!
My little plate is my beautiful inspiration…
My second tile…