A wall in Papenstraat, previously an expanse of boring grey, has been brought to life by the recent addition of an impressive work of art: the ceramic map. We interviewed the initiator and artist who conceived this project: Nan Deardorff McClain.
THE CERAMIC MAP OF DELFT - WHAT IS THAT EXACTLY?
Nan: The ceramic map is a map of 17th century Delft, made from mosaic tiles and ceramics. I have always been fascinated by old maps, particularly those of Dutch cities. They are often beautifully detailed, with tiny houses and bridges nestling in a rural patchwork of green fields with their irrigation ditches. I always thought it would be a great subject for a mosaic. One day, a girlfriend asked me: “Why don’t you make a map of Delft?” As she said it, I could immediately see it in my mind’s eye. That is how the idea came about.
HOW DID YOU TACKLE THIS PROJECT?
Nan: I started by organising a workshop with a number of people to make a prototype. That is where I met Colja de Roo, who specialises in ceramics. She was very excited about the idea and we hit it off immediately, so we decided to jointly tackle this project. In the next phase, we organised dozens of workshops at different locations in Delft. Some of the primary schools got involved as well, and the schoolchildren made the beautiful roofs. Their work gives the map its 3D effect.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A COMBINATION OF MOSAIC TILES AND CERAMICS?
Nan: Producing a mosaic is very time-consuming and can be extremely complicated. Working with ceramics is easier and less daunting. Even small children can make a house or a tree with the help of a shaped cutter. That meant that we could get many more people involved in helping produce the map. And Delft is famous for its ceramics, so using ceramics to make the map was an obvious choice.
WHAT MADE YOU PICK THIS LOCATION?
Nan: This wall in Papenstraat was crying out for attention! The wall is stable and nice and flat, but had been painted in a boring grey, which somebody had tried to liven up with graffiti. So it was a good candidate for a makeover. In addition, this is a great location because of the high level of pedestrian traffic. We obviously want as many people as possible to see this work of art.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I am extremely proud of the fact that we succeeded in making this map in just 15 months, thanks to all the help provided by more than 500 volunteers. It really is a collective effort. If Colja and I had attempted to do this on our own, it would have taken years. This approach was much faster and the result is truly a map for Delft, made by the people of Delft. I really like that.
THE CERAMIC MAP UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Did you know that all kinds of light-hearted twists have been included in the ceramic map? If you look really closely, you will see a tiny Hugo de Groot with the famous wooden chest in which he escaped confinement.
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