Royal Delft has been creating high-quality Delft Blue since 1653. The craft of painting is at the core of the company, although other decoration techniques have been developed over the years to create high-end eartenware. Carry on reading to discover the two different techniques that Royal Delft uses to this very day to make unique blue and white objects.
The origin and core of Royal Delft is the hand painting of high-quality Delft Blue pottery. Decorating starts with applying the contours with charcoal, after which the panel painters shape the details freehand with special brushes made of marten and squirrel hair. The paint is water-based and color nuances are created by mixing the paint less or more with water. The Delft Blue decor is painted with a paint that for the most part consists of cobalt oxide according to age-old recipes. Due to chemical reactions during the baking process, it changes color – hidden under the glaze – in a black-painted pattern to blue.
Stage 01 – The raw materials
The production process of Delft earthenware starts with the composition of the clay. It is made up of about 10 raw materials, of which kaolin, chalk, feldspar and quartz are the most essential. The raw materials are carefully mixed with water until they become a liquid mass.
Stage 02 – The casting
The liquid clay is cast into plaster moulds, which are hollow inside and consist of several pieces. The inside of the mould has been filled up with the clay. The porous plaster sucks up the water from the clay, leaving a layer of dry clay on its interior walls. When the clay has reached the right thickness, the liquid surplus is poured off.
Stage 03 – sponging
After some time, the clay is hard enough to be taken out of the mould without being deformed. After air drying, the seams or irregularities have been carefully removed. A secure work that determines the final shape of the vase.
Stage 04 – spraying & firing
The vase gets a special layer of liquid clay called ’engobe’ After that the object is put into the kiln to be fired for the first time, at a temperature of 1160°C (2120°F). After 24 hours the body, which is now referred to as ‘biscuit’, is taken out of the kiln.
Stage 05 – decorating the vase
The Delftware painters then paint the traditional Royal Delft decorations on the articles entirely by hand. This is done with brushes made of the hairs of martens and squirrels, and black paint containing cobalt oxide. The cobalt brings about a chemical reaction during the firing process, changing the colour from black to blue. The paint is based on water, enabling the painters to create various shades of blue by adding more or less water.
Becoming a master painter at Royal Delft is an internal training course which takes about eight years. After that painters are able to decorate and design according to the Royal Delft DNA.
Stage 06 – glazing & firing
The decorated pieces are then glazed. This is done either by dipping into the glaze or by spraying. The glaze covers the decoration with a non-transparent layer of white. Now the vase will be fired in the oven for 24 hours. During the second firing process, which is done at a temperature of 1200 °C (2192 °F), the glaze melts into a translucent layer of glass and the black paint turns blue. A chemical and physical reaction between the clay, engobe, paint and glaze is decisive for the typical Delft Blue colour.
Stage 07 – Quality above all
The final step of our production process is the quality check. Every piece is inspected from top to bottom to decide it can be put to sale as a “Premium“ Royal Delft product. A genuine Royal Delft piece can be recognized by the hand painted signature on the bottom of the vase; the initials JT, the pharmacy bottle and the word “Delft“. To find out more about our trademarks, take a look on this page.
Herring Dish | The Original Blue | Photo: Frieda Mellema
The Original Blue | Bowl | Photo: Frieda Mellema
Hand painting at Royal Delft
Amongst the Royal Delft collections there are, besides the hand painted collection The Original Blue, also several other unique collections like Blueware and Peacock Symphony that are made using a screen print. The decoration on these products is applied by using a transfer technique that was developed in England in the 18th century. In those days an engraved copper sheet with wet ink was pressed on tissue paper and afterwards the tissue paper was pressed on a ceramic surface. Finally, the ceramics were fired at a low temperature and the decoration appeared on the product. Nowadays the transfer is made with a screen print.
Step 01 – the design
Just like in a hand painted decoration, the personality of the Royal Delft master painter can be found in the design. The first design is applied to paper with the iconic paint and brushes by the master painter. After the design has been finalized it is sent to the printer. The printer digitally scans the design to create what we call a transfer.
Step 02 – making the transfer
The transfer is divided into four different layers for the four shades of blue. This is applied to films made of plastic that are lit up on a screen print frame. By doing so the design from the film appears on the screen print frame. This is done four times to create the different shades of blue after which a so-called carrier is applied. The carrier ensures the whole design stays together.
Step 03 – applying the decoration & firing
The transfer is applied on the glazed product after which, during the second firing process, it melts into the glaze.