September 25th, 2016
Early in my collecting days I purchased a small pottery cream jug with blue & white transfer decoration and a wonderful wicker replacement handle. I had not seen a repair quite like it before, woven, I believe, by a basket maker. Flash forward about 20 years when I was notified by one of my favorite dealers in the UK who offered me another jug with a similar woven handle. The photo he sent did not show the scale, so I had no idea what size the jug was. When an oversized parcel arrived a couple of weeks later, I unpacked what turned out to be a HUGE jug.
This Dutch shape pottery jug with blue and white transfer decoration and woven rattan replacement handle was made in England in the first quarter of the 1800s. Measuring 9.25 inches high and 12.5 inches wide from lip to handle, it is marked “Lasso” on the underside. It must have been much loved over the past 200 years, as is evident by the unusual replacement handle and large hole worn away on the bottom. Although unable to hold liquids today, this impressive jug and ultimate survivor still commands respect merely by sitting quietly on a shelf in my home.
This jug with similar form and decoration shows what the original handle on my jug may have looked like.
Photo courtesy of Applecross Antiques
September 10th, 2016
This octagonal shaped jug with a snake form handle was made in Staffordshire, England, in the early 1800s. It is decorated with a cobalt blue geometric border, chrysanthemums, and leaves, with red and green overpainting and gilt highlights. On the underside is the stamp “DAVENPORT STONE CHINA,” which dates this jug to 1805-1820. It stands 7 inches high and is 6.5 inches wide from lip to handle.
It appears that well over 100 years ago this jug had a great fall, but unlike Humpty Dumpty, it WAS put back together again. A “china mender” used 27 metal staples to secure the cracks, adding an unintentional secondary pattern to the already busy design. For extra precaution, red wax was applied to the cracks on the inside, as a deterrent against possible leakage.
September 4th, 2016
Yesterday I stopped by a local craft show in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania, and discovered Ellen McGinnis, a crafty lady who makes a form of contemporary make-do’s. By pairing up unwanted single ceramic plates with glass candle stands and bases, she creates footed cake stands and serving bowls. Although not officially inventive repairs, they are a form of recycling that I feel have the same spirit as vintage make-do’s.
This cut crystal compote from my collection has a do-it-yourself replacement base made from a discarded wooden spool, which has the same sensibility of Ellen’s contemporary creations.
August 21st, 2016
This oval carved carnelian brooch with a pierced floral pattern in a simple silver setting was made in China around 1920. After it dropped and broke in half, a resourceful jeweler laced it back together with silver wire, using the pierced holes in the design.
August 7th, 2016
This past May I traveled to Dresden, Germany, to see the world renowned ceramics collection at the Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection) at the Zwinger, Dresden’s magnificent palace. Not only did I see the jaw-droppingly gorgeous ceramics, sumptuously displayed in various rooms and hallways of the palace, but I was given a private tour by Heike Ulbricht, conservator of ceramics. Ms. Ulbricht was most generous with her time, spending over 2 hours showing me early repairs sprinkled throughout the collection, and giving me a peek at pieces she and her colleagues were currently working on. Only about 10% of the collection is on view to the public so I was thrilled to witness the astonishing collection of over 20,000 examples, kept cool in underground vaults below the great halls of the palace.
These two pieces of Meissen porcelain, both with sturdy brass staple repairs, are in the private collection of Heike Ulbricht.
July 30th, 2016
This Chinese bowl, which measures 2.75 inches high and 5.75 inches diameter, is decorated with flowers, pagodas, and bridges in the Japanese Imari style and palette. It was made for export to Europe in the early to mid 1700s with just the blue underglaze decoration, but soon after arriving, it was overpainted in red and gold to keep up with the public’s new demand for colorful porcelain. This method of overpainting is often referred to as clobbering.
You may wonder why I am featuring a bowl that appears to have had its broken halves merely glued together. But the “Mifs Cox” red mark on the underside – she was most likely the original owner of the bowl – gives insight into how the bowl was repaired. An early form of ceramic repair practiced in England during the late 1700s to middle 1800s was called “china burning,” in which broken ceramics were re-fired at a low temperature, causing the broken pieces to fuse together. The most renowned china burner was Edward Combes of Queen Street, Bristol, who signed his pieces on the underside in red script, similarly to the mark on this bowl. I have a few examples of pieces repaired and signed by Combes and will post them in the coming months.