What used to be a dull, grey wall in the Papenstraat is now the site of an impressive work of art: the ceramic map of Delft. We interviewed the project coordinator and artist Nan Deardorff McClain.  

What is the ceramic map of Delft?

Nan: The Ceramic Map is a map of Delft as it was in the 17th century, made of mosaics and ceramics. I’ve always been fascinated by old maps, especially those of historic Dutch cities. They are often beautifully made, showing the tiny houses and bridges and bordered by the countryside, waterways, and green plots. It has always been in the back of my mind that such a map would be a great idea for a mosaic. And one day, a friend of mine asked me, “Why don’t you make a map of Delft?” and I could picture it instantly. So that’s how the idea came about.  

Keramieken kaart van Delft in de papenstraat

How did you start working on it?

Nan: It all started with a workshop that I organised, during which a group of people and myself worked on a prototype. That’s when I met ceramist Colja de Roo. We clicked right away and her enthusiasm motivated me even more, so we decided to take on this project together. We then organised dozens of workshops at various locations in Delft, and we even got groups of primary school children involved as well, making the roofs, which are in relief. These elements give the map its 3-D effect.  

Why prompted you to combine mosaics and ceramics? 

Nan: Mosaics are very time-consuming and can be very difficult to make. Ceramics, on the other hand, are easier and more accessible. Even small children can make a house or a tree with a piece of clay and a cutter. It also allowed us to give many more people the opportunity to help us create the map. And, of course, it only makes sense to make a ceramic map of Delft, because it’s the ceramics capital of the Netherlands.  

How did you choose this particular location?  

Nan: The wall in the Papenstraat really shouted out to us as being the perfect spot! It is a good-quality wall, nice and smooth, but it was dull and grey and covered in graffiti. A great wall for a beautiful piece of art. Besides that, many people pass through here, which is another great plus. After all, the map must be seen! 

What are you most proud of?   

I’m most proud of the fact that we managed to complete the map in just 15 months, which is entirely thanks to the more than 500 volunteers. The artwork truly is a joint achievement. Colja and I could have just done it together, but it would have taken us years to complete. So not only did the work get finished much faster, but it really has become a map of Delft, made by the people of Delft. I absolutely love that.  

What can you discover in the ceramic map? 

Did you know that artwork contains all kinds of hidden fun facts? For example, a tiny person representing Huge de Groot with his book chest. Look closely, and you may find him!