The old Dutch tiles of Marga van Oers


Marga van Oers lives in the Netherlands and creates the classic old Dutch tiles, which she sells through In Issue 33, she tells us a bit more about her work and inspirations.

What are you up to?

“For my latest series of tiles, I am collecting ceramic fish tails and drawing mermaids on them. This stage when I play with new ideas and make collages, is my favorite. That’s how I started StoryTiles: in my attic, surrounded by sketches and cuttings. Now, five years later, I’m running a company with four employees, and we’re selling tiles to 200 stores around the world.”

How did you come up with the idea of adding new images to traditional old Dutch tiles?

“When I was studying art, I was really into making ceramics and collages. And then my grandmother, an antiques collector, visited me in my graduation year, bringing me a box of old Dutch tiles. I thought: what if I combine that old traditional image with something new? The first tile I made had a picture of a goat. With ceramic paper, I baked a modern boy next to it in the glaze, making it look like he was taking the old-fashioned goat for a walk. It became a story within a story.”

Did you instantly know it was a recipe for success?

“Yes, it definitely felt like a ‘Eureka!’ moment. I knew that there was a great demand for small affordable artworks. As antique Dutch tiles such as those my grandmother gave me can cost € 3,000 each, I sought out a traditional tile baker to bake new ones. This way my product remains affordable and I can focus completely on the design. I see the picture on an old tile and ideas instantly start to bubble up. I have a huge image bank in my head. And of course also in real life, as clippings and digitally.”

Do you miss baking yourself?

“Sometimes, but the production volume is too high to do it all myself. I have to come up with a new collection every six months. But something new has developed: thanks to the company’s success, I’ve been receiving invitations to collaborate with other parties: Flow Magazine, and the National History Museum in London, which gave me access to its archive of fish images. I get ideas for tiles that I would never have thought of otherwise.”

  • Read the interviews with other creatives in Issue 33.

Interviews Jeannette Jonker, Eva Loesberg