Royal Delft- Delft, Netherlands

Royal Delft factory and store!
To be honest, I had no clue that this style of china- Delft Blue- came out of the Netherlands. When I was looking through things to do in Delft, this was near the top of the list, and I thought to myself, “WOW! That sounds like a really cool thing to do, but taking a toddler into some place like this seems like it is asking for loads of trouble and not very much fun.” Then I thought to myself, “How about we do something fun for him in the morning, feed him a nice lunch, and get him down for a nap in the stroller, and then do whatever you want!” And that’s what I did.
Lovely wall of china in the front room
Process of making a vase- from plain to fired!
Before I completely made my decision to do this, I made sure that the entire tour was handicap accessible, so that I could roll him through the tour without much trouble. Everything checked out and we were good to go! The lady at the front desk was very helpful and accommodating. The tour through the Delftware factory is self-guided, so she gave me an English audio guide, and led me on to the first film room. The tour began with two videos that explained the history of Delft blue.It is based on Chinese pottery that was both captured from Chinese boats by Dutch seamen and brought back to Holland by the Dutch East India Trading company. Soon, the demand for the blue painted porcelain dishes was much higher than the supply, and in the late 1500s and early 1600s shops were set up in Holland that made pottery similar to the Chinese pottery. They did not know how to make porcelain, but they tried their best with the clay found in their home soil.
Master painter hand painting a plate
De Porceleyne Fles, or the Porcelain Jar, was formed in 1653, and is the only remaining original manufacturer of Delft Blue porcelain products. The more expensive products are still formed, fired, and painted by hand in the factory I toured. The more affordable options are still hand formed, but decorated with a transfer technique. 
Vermeer’s dining room
The English came up with a white English clay that did not need a layer of white paint, and was stronger and more durable than the Delft blue clay. An owner of the company in the 1800s saw the writing on the wall and changed the recipe for the clay in order to compete with the higher quality English clay. The “Royal” part of the name came in 1919 when the company was commended for keeping alive the tradition of the Delft blue factories that were once so common in the 1600s. 
Tulip tower!
Next, we learned about how Delft blue porcelain is created. Master craftsmen create special molds for every item they are going to make. They then pour the porcelain in, and allow it to set. After it has dried, they take it out of the mold and smooth out the rougher parts before sending it on to be painted. The nice pieces are still hand painted by master painters. The ink looks black when applied to the clay, but once fired and glazed, it has that characteristic blue color. The ink can be diluted to make different shades of blue which works well for elaborate scenes and such. 
Black Delft
After the movies (which included some animatronic elements in the 2nd room!) there were several rooms to walk through before reaching the factory. I got to watch a master painter do his work for a few moments, and then see a typical layout of Delft blue in a dining room/kitchen designed to look like Vermeer’s kitchen. Vermeer was a famous painter from Delft who is most famous for “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” and “View of Delft”. I had not really heard of him before this, but it was cool to see a complete set up of what a table might look like with all of this beautiful china. 
Antique Royal Delft

Next there was a small museum with lots of different kinds of Delft earthenware on display. The first room had many of the gifts that Royal Delft has given the Dutch royal family over the years. They create plates and other memorabilia to commemorate coronations, weddings, births, etc. The way the painters are able to so accurately do portraits of the royal family was really cool to see! There were also examples of other types of earthenware that Royal Delft does that is not blue and white. I think I like the traditional style better, but at least there are options for every taste.

Delft chandelier

Next there were cases full of older Delft blue pieces that the factory has made over the years. There was even a chandelier with Delft blue decorative accents. The company also dabbled in decor- doing external and internal tile work for many buildings. I liked the many colors of the tiles, and the patterns that they created with them.

Love the pillar!

In the middle of the experience tour, we came across this pretty little courtyard. It was hard to access from where we were in the tour, and it was cold outside, so I just snapped a quick pic and went back inside, but I appreciated how lush and green it was!

Factory courtyard
Now we got to see the actual factory! There was a lot going on, and it was loud, so I did not stay in here very long, but it was cool to see all of the things that I had learned up to this point in action! These items were above were doing the first drying/curing process, and the ones to the left were waiting to be fired with the paint on!
I don’t think I mentioned that in order to get the nice shiny finish on the porcelain, these things are fired at 1200 Celsius the first firing, after which they are called biscuit, and then the second firing with the glaze and paint is at 1600 Celsius. That’s pretty hot.

Molds for vases, plates, etc
Another look at the process from bare vase to pretty decorated vase

A kiln!

Oh, then I went to go buy some Delft blue. I thought to myself, “I will just get something small that has been hand painted, and something bigger that is still Royal Delft, but just not as expensive.” My dreams were crushed when I went into the shop. Even the smallest hand painted item was at least 75 euro. Austin would not be happy with me. It’s not worth it, it was just too much. The same items that were still hand formed in the factory, but decorated with the transfer technique were going for a quarter of the hand painted items. So I did the thrifty thing and got the transfer-decorated items. I think the price tag for the tulip pyramid below adequately describes my sticker shock:

I’m not sure why anyone would spend this much on a tulip vase…

I guess it is worth mentioning that Landon did indeed wake up at the worst possible moment- when I was about to purchase my items from the gift shop. All around us were very expensive hand painted porcelain items, along with the tourist trinkets, but I was not as worried about those. I had to go get my wallet from the lockers they provided, and so we got to escape for a minute or two, but the sales guy was not very fast at getting over to the register for me to buy my stuff and I was worried. Luckily, Landon did not break anything, and was just slightly more difficult to manage than normal. Hooray for nap time mommy adventures!

I just thought it was cute that the car out front was decorated too…
One last shot at the factory

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