In Search of the Orient

“Just because the Ottomans have been at your gates twice doesn’t necessarily mean you become the gateway to the Orient”

 

– Mathias Enard

For centuries, the Westerners have dreamt of and mystified the East. The faraway places and rich history that seemed so distant both geographically and culturally created a setting for our imagination. Although unattainable and restrained, they, too, wanted to be part of it and did so by envisioning and building gardens and interiors using oriental elements and themes.

Paired with contemporary furnishings, fresh design approaches and the always stylish blue and white pattern mixes, the chinoiserie remains a true classic and is as relevant and sought after as ever.

Tulip

 An original tulip illustration by Liis Kalda.

 A late 19th century Delftware tile with a warrior on horseback and fleur-de-lis corner motifs.

AN EXCHANGE OF CULTURES

Despite chinoiserie being mostly recognized as an European phenomenon, it actually spread out and was produced locally all over the world including places like India, Japan, Persia and Latin America. The style became entwined with criss-cross references from both Eastern and Western cultures.

When the Chinese porcelain supply to Europe became interrupted at the beginning of the 17th century, the Dutch potters having obtained a knowledge for imitating the look of their porcelain in a less expensive way, started producing Chinese inspired earthenware – Delftware. The latter gained huge popularity and reached all of Europe as well as Japan and China itself.

In turn, Chinese and Japanese potters took up the style of Delftware and produced versions of it for the European market.

An homage to François Boucher’s The Chinese Garden (unfinished) by Katrine Claassens.

DELFT GARDEN

I became more acquainted with Delft, its history and crafts when visiting my friends who lived there at the time. I was surprised at how cozy the town felt with its lush green areas and the canals yet having considerably high population.

They were inhabiting a lovely ground floor apartment with double doors in the living room that opened to the shared but secluded back garden. I was sitting in the summer shade, sketching the potted plants, the hedges and the roofed area of the garden against the fence. For personal amusement, I even drew a horse under the pavilion because I thought it would look perfect in there.

Cushion Delft Garden

If my friends’ garden could accommodate a fanciful horse, what other creatures could be living in the hidden corners of Delft? Why pheasants and chicken, of course! Imagine a flock of rain and mist loving Mikado pheasants quietly bustle about while Silver Sebright hens roost on bushes and are being observed by the majestic Yokohama from the distance. If this description fits your grandmother’s garden, I’d love to pay a visit.

 A Pair of Dutch Delft Vases by Adrian Pynacker, 17th Century, decorated in iron red, blue and green with birds perched on branches, insects and flowers.

ADVENTURES START FROM HOME

Whether it’s the mementos from your picaresque travels, the drift shop treasures or the DIY masterpieces that make up the environment in which you feel most comfortable and creative in, a home should always reflect your adventurous personality. It doesn’t ever have to be one certain style you saw in a glossy interior magazine – it’s a mix of things.

I, having never been to the Orient, felt like experimenting with that fantasy by bringing together my own impressions of the Dutch potters’ interpretations of the Eastern decorative arts and the tales and curated images of the people that have experienced it first-hand.

Having the ‘Delft Garden’ pattern on a fabric, rather than on a ceramic object, I feel, allows for more versatility when decorating an interior. You can play around with different shapes and sizes, depending of the needs of your space – sometimes a pair of cushions will add the dot to the “i’”.

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