Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ousted at Royal Delft

The Royal Delft factory was founded in 1653 and is still making really beautiful and expensive porcelain.  It is also open for tours: you get to watch some artists painting the ceramics, see historical Delftware, and tour the factory.  You also get to see the life-size blue-painted tile copy of Rembrandt's the Night Watch.  High quality kitsch at its best.

The visitors' entrance to the factory.

A few small rain clouds and one torrential downpour caught Louise and I on our way to the factory, so we arrived later than intended.  We missed the last tour of the day, but the lady at the reception desk must have taken pity on our sad, damp faces and she gave us free tickets and told us to walk around any way.

The ceramics are slip-cast.  Each type of piece has a mould and slip (a watery clay) is poured in to make the form.  After it is dry, the mould is opened and the object removed.  It is very fragile.  But the mould-marks must be sanded off before the first firing.

These may be greenware (unfired pottery) waiting for the first firing.

These might be waiting for the second firing, maybe a second greenware firing.  I think the decoration has to be fired to turn blue and become permanent.  Probably a change in oxidation state of the coloring metals, reduction of cobalt oxides perhaps, I'm not sure.  Just a guess.  

These vases are crazy and really common in the World of Delftware.  They are a hold-over from the days of when a single tulip bulb could cost more than your entire palatial canal house.  These vases kept each blossom separate, so that they could be admired individually.  Obviously, the more tulips, the more wealthy you were.  This one isn't decorated yet.

Carefully wrapped.

Some of the kilns.  This photograph is for Dad, I know how you like kilns and pictures of control panels.  Production is actually fairly small.  (Hence part of the reason for the high price, I suppose).

The store room, which visitors could peep into.

Delftware cow, in the middle of the factory.  Dutch people are crazy about cows.  But then, Dutch people drink loads of milk and eat butter and cheese all the time.

After the factory tour, mini-museum, and painters-in-action, you are ushered into the showroom.  To Louise and I, it really was a showroom.  We just looked.  Teacups were like 80 euros.  Egg cups about 50 euros.  There was one small, friendly corner in the showroom, where you could sit down and make up your registry.  I can't even imagine registering for ceramics that are as expensive as these were.  Though I think if I were, it would actually be Wedgewood I'd want.

After viewing Things We Couldn't Afford, we went to the little cafe in the visitor's section of the factory.  We got teas, and the waitress said everything would be closing soon, but that we were welcome to sit on the patio and have the teas.  No problem.  Until fifteen minutes later when some sort of higher-up came out and saw us.  "What are you doing here, we're closed!"  We shrugged and finished the tea, then went to leave.  We said goodbye to the waitress counting the day's earnings the realized the front door was locked and all the lights were off.  So we wandered around until we found a door, and exited through what was obviously the actual workers' entrance.  Whoops!

No Smoking, Astublieft.  Friendly reminder sitting on the table.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the description of the making of Delftware. I have always admired it. Sounds like I just will keep admiring it from afar. Pretty pricey but beautiful.