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News Article  
One for Sorrow: The art of Paul Bommer’s tiles
Larry LeMasters

Occasionally, it is possible to recognize future well-sought-after collectibles while they are new and affordable. Paul Bommer’s ceramic tiles are such collectibles.

Originally from London, Bommer graduated from the National College of Art & Design in Dublin, Ireland. After training in ceramics, Bommer returned to England where he now has a studio in Aylsham, Norfolk, and his work is often displayed in Spitalfield’s numerous galleries.

While Bommer has a wide and diverse line of artistic pottery, his move into faux delftware tiles is interesting and has produced highly sought after collectible tiles. Bommer, in interviews, has admitted to always being “fond of delft tiles.” Such tiles, Bommer added, are “like Folk Art at the low end, a popular medium illustrating the characters people knew and the things they used.”

Delftware, also known as Delft pottery or Delft Blue (from the Dutch Delfts blauw) is blue and white ceramic ware made in and around Delft in the Netherlands. Delft Blue began in the 1500s in the Netherlands, building on the plant-based decoration first developed in 14th century Chinese pottery.

Historically, Delft Blue is created using types of tin-glazed earthenware or faience in which a white glaze is applied and then decorated with blue metal oxides. Bommer’s Delft Blue tiles showcase a whimsical, almost irreverent, sense of humor and character, escaping from the traditional plant-based decoration.

Bommer has, to date, painted 120 faux Delft Blue tiles. Of his recent show in Spitalfields, it has been written, “Paul’s sly witty style is perfectly at home on tiles, bringing an extra level of humor and sophistication to this appealing vernacular art.” Many of his Delft Blue tiles illustrate people or life found in and around Spitalfields (an East End area of London that includes Jack the Ripper’s White Chapel area) when the Huguenots first immigrated there.

Some collectors limit their Bommer Blue Delft tile collection to his “One for Sorrow” line in which he created a tile for each of the nursery rhyme’s ten magpies (birds considered signs of ill omen), which, according to superstition, the number of magpies determines one’s luck. The nursery rhyme, from 1780, goes like this: One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for Silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret, Never to be told, Eight for a wish, Nine for a kiss, Ten for a bird, You must not miss.” This nursery rhyme was originally intended to be a counting rhyme for children to learn how to count to ten. The original lyrics, in keeping with the dark magical folklore associated with magpies, stated, “One for sorrow, Two for mirth, Three for a wedding, and Four for death.” Seeing four magpies (or four of any type of bird) on a tree has, since 1780, been considered very bad luck.

One of Bommer’s most popular Blue Delft tiles is his “Deus Videt” tile, depicting an all-seeing eye. Bommer used Hieronymus Bosch’s famous painting, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, as his inspiration for this tile. Bosch’s work has a large circle in the center that represents the “eye of God” (in the eye’s pupil can be seen Christ emerging from the tomb). Below the eye is the Latin inscription “Cave Cave dns Videt,” which translates to “Beware, Beware, The Lord Sees.” This tile, when available, is valued at $85.

Perhaps Bommer’s most interesting faux Blue Delft tile is his “You and I are earth” tile, which takes for its title the inscription and date found on a 400 year old ceramic chamber pot, excavated from a London sewer. The Dutch inscription, on the white and blue dish, reads, “You and I are earth” and has the date “1661” below the inscription. This tile is valued at $85 and has become a symbol for God’s command for mankind to be stewards of the earth.

Price is always a concern for novice collectors, and since nearly all Americans are novice collectors of Bommer’s faux Delft Blue tiles, a small knowledge of pricing is important. Expect to pay $60 - $85, perhaps more, for a single Bommer tile and don’t forget to add shipping since the tiles are shipped from England. Secondary market prices for Bommer’s tiles have not yet been established, so, for now, a novice collector may get in on the ground floor of these exciting art tiles.

For more information on Bommer’s artistic career, his Delft Blue tiles, and how to collect (purchase) them, visit his website at