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Royal Delft: The Netherland's true blue pottery makers

By CNN wire staff
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Fri August 23, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Royal Delft influenced by Chinese pottery, after Dutch tradesman brought back porcelain from the Far East in the 1600s
  • Royal Delft is the sole remaining plant of 32 earthenware factories established around the industry
  • The company hosts more than 120,000 visitors a year to showcase how the pottery is made

(CNN) -- One of Holland's most prestigious pottery makers, the Royal Delft Group, is promoting its heritage to combat the rise of copycat producers selling cheaper versions of traditional blue and white earthenware.

Royal Delft Group, now 360-years old, is the only Delft Blue potter with a seal of approval from the Dutch royal family. The company hosts more than 120,000 visitors a year to its Rotterdamseweg base, to showcase how the pottery is made.

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But the traditional producer is facing challenges from imitators keen to grab a share of the market. Royal Delft Group CEO Henk Schouten, speaking to CNN, said the style was now being copied "everywhere in the world." He added: "It's not a solution for us to get rid of that."

While other producers can claim a Delft Blue style, they cannot say they are original makers. And the Delft Blue Group will jump on any misuse of its logo, Schouten said. "When people use our logo or our name then of course it will be going to a solicitor."

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Royal Delft itself was influenced by Chinese pottery, after Dutch tradesman brought back porcelain from the Far East in the 1600s. It proved popular with the Dutch, and potters began developing a similar style with local clay.

Hundreds of years later and with the backing of the monarchy, Royal Delft is the sole remaining plant of 32 earthenware factories established around the industry.

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As flag bearer, it focuses on tradition and history over mass production, Schouten said.

"We just want to produce high level products," Schouten said, "because there are many other factories who produce the mass products... that kind of product you can buy it very cheap in all kinds of shops."

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Craftsmanship is the key to Delft Blue's value, Schouten added. Each piece is inspected and hand-painted by a master painter who trains for four to five years, after which they are able to develop their own designs.

Schouten added: "When you see a product here hand-painted then I think three quarters of the price is craftsmanship and only a quarter of the price is the cost price of all kinds of material."

According to spokesman Saifya Yilmaz, the copycat products don't have a trademark and are sold as souvenirs. "The large objects, such as tulip vases, you only see at the original producers," he said.

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