Written by Melissa Lauana Carter for Heirloom Art Co.

We are thrilled to present the timeless tale of the Dutch Delft Tiles. The rich history of craftsmanship, creativity, and blended cultures that the Storytiles hold has made them one of our favorite pieces to share. We decided to do a deep dive into their origins and creation process to help others fully appreciate their magnificence. 

What are the Origins of the Dutch Delft Tiles?

During the 16th century, the Dutch East India Company had an active trade with Eastern countries. Europeans were especially captivated with the delicate, porcelain pieces crafted in China. However, only the highest class could afford such pristine pottery. When the Wanli Emperor of China died in 1620, trade was cut-off for a time, leaving the Dutchmen desperate for the porcelain. Dutch potters embarked on a long series of experiments to be able to replicate the fine Chinese porcelain.

The end result was the Dutch Delft tile and pottery: a thin earthenware that amazingly resembled porcelain with its white tin glaze. Eventually, the commonly used clay used for the Dutch tiles was a rich combination of clays from Delft, Tournai, and Rhineland. Shortly after the discovery, an accidental gunpowder explosion in Delft put many breweries out of commission, sending the unemployed brewery workers straight into the eager hands of Dutch tile potters looking for craftsmen skills. Delft then emerged as a hub of ceramic production, with artisans honing their skills to create exquisite pieces. Eight hundred million Dutch tiles were produced in 200 years, adorning homes and palaces across Europe. 

Potters continued to paint tiny scenes on the tiles, as the Chinese had done, but now the scenes were representative of the European experience, giving birth to a unique fusion of Eastern and Western aesthetics. Dutch potters used crushed oxides to paint the figures onto the clay after the first bake and glaze. A second firing in the oven at high-temperatures gave the tiles their rich, Delft Blue hue. Pastoral scenes, windmills, floral patterns, and maritime themes were featured on the tiny clay stages. Our collection of Dutch Storytiles, made by our Amsterdam designer, Marga, depict similar images and add a modern taste to the traditional style.

Where Does Our Dutch Tile Collection Come from?

One day, a little Dutch girl, Marga, received a box with old Dutch tiles from her grandmother dating back to the 1600’s. Feeling inspired and having the craftsmanship knowledge from her prior education at the Amsterdam School of Arts, she began to add her own designs to them. She now has her own Dutch Tile studio in the heart of Amsterdam, creating tiles in the traditional way and sending them out to over 20 countries. The Storytiles have become a universal language. We asked Marga and her team to give us a few insights into their work. Here is what we learned: 

  1. What is the creation process? 

Answer: The entire StoryTiles collection has been designed by founder Marga van Oers since 2013. In each collection, she also works together with other designers to bring diversity to the range. Piece by piece, the tiles are cut by hand and then baked in the Netherlands in traditional ovens. So, 100% Dutch design and heritage. The tiles are baked at a very high temperature and are therefore heat and water resistant. As a result, they last a lifetime and can also be tiled in the kitchen and bathroom.

      2. Where do the designs and images come from? 

Answer: From everyday life! Marga can get inspired by flowers in her garden, going on holidays in foreign countries, going to different markets with antiques. She is inspired by different colors and patterns she sees everywhere. Creative ideas pop into her head even when she is walking the dog in the forest. She also still employs images of authentic Delft blue tiles.

Dutch Tile Use

Despite the passage of centuries, the charming simplicity of Dutch Delft tile endures, with enthusiasts cherishing the antique pieces as prized heirlooms and collectors' items. Initially, the tiles were loved for their practicality in their use on Dutch fireplaces. The ceramic and heat-resistant nature of the tiles made them the perfect way to border a fireplace. Later, they started popping up in bathrooms and kitchens because the glaze also doubles as a water-resistant material. Today, Delft tiles have found diverse applications, transcending their humble origins as mere building materials. How would you use your own Delft Tiles? Uses for your Own Storytiles 

  1. Kitchen Backsplash: Incorporate Dutch Delft tiles into your culinary space by using them as a backsplash behind the stove or sink. They are great conversation starters during your meal preparation. 
  2. Gift Wrap: Place one of our mini Dutch Tiles on top of your gift wrap, adding a classic and sophisticated keepsake to your gift’s presentation. Then, sign the back like a card! 
  3. Fireplace Surround: Frame your fireplace! This original use of the Dutch Tiles still proves effective with heat-resistant glazed tiles that make for an easy clean after evening fires. The striking patterns and motifs will infuse the room with character and charm.
  4. Accent Wall: Create a stunning accent wall in any room or hallway of your home by installing a panel of Dutch Delft tiles. Try out a scattered, linear, or curved pattern of tiles. 
  5. Coaster: Place a few of our tiles on your coffee table and the next time you share your favorite beverage with loved ones, place it on the tiny blue and white tiles as a coaster. 
  6. Tabletop or Countertop: Transform a plain tabletop or countertop into a work of art by embedding Dutch Delft tiles into the surface. Whether as a decorative border or a mosaic centerpiece, these tiles will lend a sense of refinement and craftsmanship to your furniture, making it truly one-of-a-kind.
  7. Decorative Display: Frame individual tiles as art pieces to hang on the wall, display them on shelves or mantels, or use them as coasters or trivets to add a touch of elegance to your tabletops and scatter stories throughout your home.

Written by Melissa Lauana Carter for Heirloom Art Co.

June 12, 2024 — Heirloom Staff


Lauren Richards said:

Well-written and articulate article. Thanks, Melissa!

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