03 March 2014
The Netherlands have a long and rich tradition of ceramics. Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum is keeping it going. With refined decorative and utility objects made by craftsmen, decorated by hand using the majolica technique, which in the Netherlands is now only found in Makkum. The traditional collection of vases, dishes, bottles, candlesticks, clocks and wall tiles reflects the heritage of centuries.
The Netherlands have since time immemorial played a prominent part in the production of European earthenware. The heyday of the ‘Holland masters’ was above all in the Middle Ages. At the peak, from about 1650 to 1750, Delft and its surroundings were home to no less than a hundred craft workshops making earthenware. At least five workshops making their own high-quality earthenware were also operational in Friesland.
‘In the Netherlands there is still one factory where the original majolica technique is still used…’
One of the essential features of earthenware from the Low Countries was the very fine ‘faience’ or ‘majolica’ technique with which the masters and their workmen decorated their tableware and decorative objects; until the end of the 19th century, when a new technique started to dominate the field. This valuable tradition was virtually lost. But not entirely, because in the Netherlands there is still one factory that has remained true to the original majolica technique and still continues using it to this very day. This is the factory of Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum, the oldest company in the Netherlands, which was founded in 1572 and has an international reputation for its knowledge and skill in ceramics.
The majolica technique involved the application of decorative painting on the unfired tin glaze after the initial firing of the bare earthenware object. The main design is marked out using charcoal powder. The design is then elaborated upon and coloured in with a fine cow-hair brush. The result is a deep and radiant effect created by the fusion of the decorative lines with the white tin glaze during the second firing.
Many of the decorated items in the Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum traditional collection derive their appeal from this age-old technique. Jan Tichelaar: “It is a privilege to be able to have passionate craftsmen in the firm who still have a thorough command of this technique. In our range of true ‘traditionals’ we remain true to the technique and origin of our craft. In this way we safeguard our heritage and remain part of the ceramic tradition that helped make the Netherlands so renowned in the past.”
‘We are continuing our rich tradition of craft creation with contemporary designers and artists while cherishing our traditional collection.’
Jan Tichelaar, director since 1995 and a member of the twelfth generation, combines exceedingly well his ties with the Makkum heritage and his passion for the application of ceramics in contemporary architecture, art and design. When he took over the reins of the family firm, he realised that the demand for handmade decorative objects had seriously diminished and he resolved to do everything in his power to guarantee the firm’s core values for the future. Collaboration with contemporary designers and artists who have an affinity with craft processes has heralded a new direction in the collection, which shows that the possibilities of ceramic and glazing techniques provide the inspiration for some exceptional creative work even today. “We are prolonging a rich tradition of craft creation and are building up a contemporary collection while continuing to cherish our traditional collection.”