Royal Delft Museum:

Quintessential Dutch Craftsmanship and Culture

Steeped in history and recognized globally, Royal Delft stands as a testament to Dutch craftsmanship and heritage. This renowned pottery, with its distinctive blue and white designs, has become a symbol of the Netherlands, capturing the essence of Dutch artistry.

As part of our crusade to explore and experience as many museums in the Netherlands as possible, Ludejo’s social media manager Noëlle and I (Andrew Hickson – Ludejo’s media production manager) headed to Delft to visit the “Porceleyne Fles”. 

KLM and Royal Delft – cultural ambassadors for the Netherlands

The Royal Delft Museum has been on my list of “must see” museums for about 8 years. In 2016 I attended GALA, a localization conference, in New York. I flew with KLM from Amsterdam. One of the most lasting memories from that trip occurred before the plane had left the ground. I fell in love with an airline’s in-flight safety instructions video. 

In 2015 KLM introduced a new in-flight safety film. The film features more than 1,000 Royal Delft tiles, crafted specifically for KLM. The entire storyboard for the script was translated into handmade Delftware drawings, which were then painted onto the tiles. Stop-motion video animation was then used to film KLM’s flight safety instructions for passengers, tile by tile. I fell in love with this video. I had to show it to friends. How often do you find yourself searching YouTube for airline flight safety instructions? 

I am keenly aware of symbols of national identity. There are certain brands that act as official or unofficial flag carriers for their home countries on a global stage. Ikea is Swedish; innovative, affordable, stylish. Gucci is Italian; luxurious, avant-garde, iconic. Royal Delft is Dutch; traditional, artisanal, quality.

The KLM safety video hammered home the notion that Royal Delft was a quintessential symbol of Dutch craftsmanship and entrepreneurship worldwide.

DIY artistry in the Porceleyne Fles

Noëlle and I booked in for a “Tile painting workshop”. When we met at the museum, the wonderfully named  “Porceleyne Fles”, (The Porcelain Bottle), I was rather taken back to hear that Noëlle had planned what she wanted to draw on her tile. It makes sense in hindsight. But at that moment, I felt like a kid who had arrived at school completely unprepared for an exam. Noëlle had chosen a wonderful image of Snoopy looking at the stars. When I was a kid an art teacher asked me if I liked to draw. I told her “I can’t draw a straight line”. “All the most interesting lines are a bit crooked,” she replied. My hands are shaky at the best of times. I knew from a young age that I wasn’t going to be a surgeon. None of the lines on my tile would be mistaken for straight. 

Our instructor for the workshop (who was lovely!) went to great lengths to remind everyone that in tile painting there are no “do-overs”. Once your brush touches the tile, that mark is permanent. You cannot erase mistakes. 

That did nothing to settle my nerves. 

Noëlle suggested I commit to every brush stroke.

The workshop room, intimidatingly decorated with beautifully intricate examples of Delft pottery, started to open up for me. The other attendees of the workshop (5 Americans including 1 family from California, and a couple of Dutch ladies) seemed equally ill-prepared. 

Scrap porcelain: Dutch craftsmanship

Once we had been introduced to our brushes and materials, I began to relax. I was given a template to guide my efforts, thankfully! There was also a small piece of scrap porcelain (a biscuit) to practise on. I found solace in the therapeutic act of focusing on a seemingly small canvas. After wrestling a bit with the brushes, I started to get the hang of it. It took a bit of time to understand how much water was necessary to make lighter shades. 

I found the process of painting incredibly relaxing. In the end, I was delighted with my efforts and rather curious about how deep into a trance I fell.

One of our primary reasons for visiting museums around the country is to get a taste of how they use audio to enhance the experience for visitors. The Royal Delft Museum itself includes audio tours in Dutch, Spanish, English, Italian, German, French, Japanese, and Chinese, reflecting the global reach of the Royal Delft brand. There is also a children’s tour in Dutch and English.

We were not involved with the audio at the museum, but if you’d like to know more about how Ludejo can help with your audio, have a look at our article on podcasts for museums.

“Take out the good Delf”

A friend in Ireland pointed out to me that DELF, sometimes spelled delph, is a word extensively used in Ireland for earthenware and crockery. When you have important visitors over to the house, your mother would tell you to “take out the good delf”. Diarmaid O’Muirithe explained the etymology of “Delf” or “Delph” in an article in the Irish Times

“Its origin is the Dutch town of Delf, now called Delft, famous for its tableware since the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the excisemen were worried about “certain Goodes called DelphWare and Counterfeit China coming from Holland”.

Delf (the t was added to the town’s name in Middle Dutch for no good reason) was named from the delf, ditch, by which the chief canal of the town is still known. Middle English has delf for ditch, from late Old English daelf trench, ditch, quarry, apparently from gedelf, digging, a digging, a ditch, from delfan, to delve or dig.”

Global Recognition and Symbolism

Royal Delft’s international acclaim is not merely confined to its aesthetic appeal; it embodies the very spirit of Dutch culture and entrepreneurism. Much like how iconic brands such as Guinness represent Ireland (even though it’s now owned by British company Diageo), Royal Delft serves as a cultural ambassador for the Netherlands. The significance of having a tangible symbol like Royal Delft cannot be understated. In a globalised world, where every nation seeks to share its unique identity, these symbols become beacons of cultural pride and tradition.

Ludejo; Dutch craftsmanship in communication

As a company rooted in the Netherlands, Ludejo aspires to parallel this tradition of craftsmanship. With a focus on Dutch translation and audio production, Ludejo offers not just linguistic accuracy but also a profound understanding of Dutch culture. Much like Royal Delft’s role in symbolising Dutch heritage, Ludejo strives to be a representation of the Netherlands in the realm of linguistic communication. Craftsmanship, whether in pottery or poetry, becomes a bridge connecting cultures and fostering a deeper appreciation for diversity.

Royal Delft transcends being merely a pottery brand; it encapsulates the essence of Dutch artistry and heritage. At Ludejo, we aim to offer our own brand of craftsmanship through language and audio services. We draw inspiration from the enduring legacy of Royal Delft. 

If you are visiting the Netherlands and would like a real Dutch experience (where you may also experience a non-chemically induced trance-like state), I would highly recommend a tile painting workshop in the “Porceleyne Fles”. 

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