The heritage of Delftware, renowned the world over for its exquisite detail and beautiful shades of blue, can be traced back to the early 17th century. Around 1602, Chinese porcelain was quickly becoming a much-coveted item due to the efforts of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). However, its hefty price tag meant that it was an indulgence only reserved for the most affluent members of society.
It wasn’t long before potters from Antwerp (who had fled from the Spanish Inquisition starting in 1585 and settled in Delft) caught wind of this new trend and began producing similar pieces at slightly more affordable prices. A lucrative industry began to blossom as vacant warehouses in the small Dutch town of Delft were converted into pottery factories. During the 17th century, more than thirty factories were operating in the city alone.
Despite the fact that the pottery was referred to as ‘porcelain’, it was actually made from composite clays which were baked before being coated with a tin glaze and carefully decorated with typical Dutch objects such as tulips and windmills. The fact that slightly cheaper materials were used did not make it any less popular. Soon it wasn’t only the Dutch who were proudly displaying the pottery in their homes, but it was also making its way to every corner of the world.
Nevertheless, the craze only lasted until the 18th century, forcing many potters to close their doors. These days there are only three factories left in Delft. Though the pottery is quite popular among tourists and makes an excellent Dutch souvenir, it is now becoming fashionable again among members of the younger generation who have re-introduced it into their interior decor.
Buying Delft Blue in Amsterdam
A producer that is doing its part to keep this quintessentially Dutch craft alive is Heinen Delfts Blauw, a traditional company which has workshops in Delft and Putten, a factory in Holland and ten shops in Delft, Amsterdam and even Curaçao. Heinen Delfts Blauw is striving to maintain age-old traditions while at the same time it is looking towards the future and taking Delftware into the 21st century with fresh new shapes and attractive designs. Not only does it employ top-notch Delft Blue designers, pottery artists and ceramic engineers, but it also works with renowned Dutch artists. At the company’s various shops in the Dutch capital, you’ll be spoiled for choice when looking for the perfect souvenir. From unique souvenirs such as tulip vases, cheese slicers and charming figurines to elegant hand-painted pieces that will add flair and style to any room, there is something available for every budget. Those who are interested in seeing exactly how the pottery is painted and want to learn more about recognising its fine characteristics can stop by the shop at Muntplein 12 in Amsterdam. There you can see a master painter at work seven days a week on the first floor of the building. A must-see experience for anyone visiting the Dutch capital!
Heinen Delfts Blauw