A mosaic map colours life into Delft history

When one thinks of street art, graffiti images on walls or random sculptures along walkways most readily come to mind. Rarely does this concept bring to mind mosaics, mini-sculptures or intricate ceramics. The ‘Ceramic Map of Delft’ (‘Keramieken Kaart van Delft’), however, can wholeheartedly be classified as emblematic of urban beautification.

Even more exhilarating than seeking out this artwork (which every Delft visitor should do!) is perhaps stumbling upon it by chance.

A Golden Age map

Crafted by volunteers and skilled artisans, the artwork covers a 18m2 wall on which a map has been made of ceramic houses, trees, bridges, mills, street names and buildings. The mosaic finish and 3D effect are both informative and interactive.

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Adding to the attraction of this 3-D map is the fact that it was completed during the worldwide pandemic. This observation is yet another testament to the ability of art to inspire awe during uncertainty and turbulence.

Awards and unveilings

The Ceramic Map of Delft was officially and festively unveiled on June 26, 2020, by Delft mayor Marja van Bijsterveld. The map is a replica of one from around 1700 and imitates those by Johan Blaeu and Janssonius (circa 1649). In May 2021, it was announced that the ‘Keramieken Kaart van Delft’ had won the Le Comte Prize 2020 from Delfia Batavorum.

The mosaic consists of teeny tiny buildings. Image: Kathryn van den Berg/Supplied

Although formal awards and recognition are justly deserved and recognise the beauty of this project, standing in front of the map stirs up the type of excitement and admiration that reflects the artwork’s magic more than any award could.

A community undertaking

Celebrated as a vibrant mosaic artist who has decorated Delft since 2008, Nan Deardorff-McClain is best known for breathing colour onto ordinary Delft walls. Artist Colja de Roo and Deardorff-McClain are the architects of this mosaic on Papenstraat in Delft.

Although both artists guided the process, the ‘Keramieken Kaart van Delft’ was an ambitious community project undertaken by the people of Delft in various workshops throughout the area. It is fitting that this depiction of Delft’s history was crafted by a community of devoted Delft volunteers.

Accuracy and challenges

Even though the making, firing and glazing of the ceramics, inlay and grouting was a lengthy process, it was made with enthusiasm by Delft’s people. What was possibly most challenging to achieve was that every house, tree and part had to be glued separately according to the street plan and in the right place. The result is a combination of scale effect and recognisability of specific buildings and neighbourhoods.

Check out these tiny roofs. Image: Kathryn van den Berg/Supplied

How the piece was constructed

The steps involved in making the map of Delft included sampling ceramic houses, doing weather resistance tests and glaze tests for the right colour palette. A map prototype was also made by Nan Deardorff McClain and Colja de Roo, which was 1m2.

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Besides the physical labour going into this project, Public Relations had to be managed during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Subsidiary applications and financial planning were also undertaken to make this idea a reality. Workshops had to be organised and offered to make clay houses along with the glazing and baking process.

Sponsors and participants

The project’s crowdfunding campaign was successful thanks to independent donors from Delft and beyond, along with aid from The Samen Delft Foundation. These participants’ financial help reflects the wealth of character and community that Delft residents have been known for throughout history.

And breathe in the piece in all its glory! Image: Kathryn van den Berg/Supplied.

An interactive artwork

Stories, symbols and clues can be discovered on every small part of the artwork. In addition to creating art that one can look at and explore for hours, the artists also came up with activities to engage people who perhaps have not seen the map up close (or for those who have and just can’t get enough of it!).

Every week, The Facebook Page ‘Keramieken Kaart van Delft’ posts stories and clues about one of the hidden gems on the map.

Have you seen this majestic piece of work? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Feature Image: Kathryn van den Berg/Supplied.

Kathryn van den Berg
Kathryn van den Berghttps://kathrynvdb.com/
As a Dutchie born in South Africa, Kathryn enjoys writing about the Netherlands from the perspective of having grown up in an entirely different world. Regardless of where she is, Kathryn’s love for dogs remains constant. When not striving to play with or narrate a dog’s every move in public, Kathryn is trying new chocolates to fuel her addiction. Besides critiquing pop culture, art and literature, Kathryn fancies painting Disney side-kicks in watercolour.

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