Katherine Verdickt ’05 hand paints custom tiles inspired by traditional delftware
While renovating her Dutch Colonial home in Amherst, Massachusetts, fine artist Katherine Verdickt ’05 decided to give the new kitchen a delft backsplash. Along with color, the distinctive blue-and-white tiles, named for the Dutch city where they were first manufactured in the 17th century, would add a dash of historic congruence. Delftware has been used in New England homes since colonial times.
This is the point where most people pick up the phone and talk to their contractor. Not Verdickt. She decided to make her own tiles.
“I went to art school, so I can probably do this myself,” she remembers thinking. She adds, “I always think that, and sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t.”
In this case, the project went very well.
Two years after inspiration struck, Verdickt’s kitchen looks great and her personal tile project has become a business. As work on the kitchen progressed, she began posting pictures to social media. More than simple likes, her images generated inquiries from people eager to install custom tile work in their own homes. Now Verdickt’s delftware studio attracts clients from across the United States and around the world. Recently, she received a request from the Netherlands.
“I was a little surprised by that one,” she says. “I’m one of the only serious manufacturers in the United States, but there are companies in Holland that still produce these tiles.”
Unlike any factory version, Verdickt’s tiles are handmade to complement specific settings. She collaborates with clients on a motif, then paints every piece by hand. For a house on Martha’s Vineyard, she did an extensive series of sea monster tiles. The owner of an estate in Georgia commissioned a large floral mural with a magnolia flower as its centerpiece.
“My favorite project right now is for a professor of interior architecture at RISD,” Verdickt says. “It’s a historic reproduction of intricate bible scenes. Jonah and the whale, Noah’s ark with animals and people at sea under a stormy sky. Each scene is painted inside a four-inch circle, really detailed.”
Painting was Verdickt’s original medium. When she was a child, her family frequently visited her father’s native Belgium, and she cites early exposure to Dutch art as a lasting influence. By the time she got to Williston, she was practically ready to live in the art studios. Her very first week of school, she remembers finishing a painting and taking it for a walk around campus.
“After that, it was like, ‘She’s the one who makes the paintings.’ I felt like my identity was as an artist. I’ve been painting pretty much nonstop ever since,” she says. Her work appears in individual and corporate collections, including those of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
From Williston, Verdickt went on to the Rhode Island School of Design, where she earned her B.F.A. in 2009 while picking up a concentration in art history from Brown. She completed an M.F.A. at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and recently finished a second master’s degree, in art education, at the University of Massachusetts.
Between graduate degrees, Verdickt returned to Williston for a couple years as a teaching intern in the art department. Coming back, she realized how much she liked the Valley. “I’ve always felt at home here, ever since I was a student,” she says. Her homecoming eventually led to her Dutch Colonial house in Amherst and the serendipitous choice to remodel with delft.
“I feel like I’ve found a new artistic stride with these tiles,” Verdickt says. “I love making them, each its own little work of art unlike any other.”