The New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, 2015

January 24th, 2015

Each year I look forward to attending the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair at Bohemian National Hall, for me the highlight of New York’s Winter Antiques Week. This year the fair has expanded to three floors of exhibition space, including more glassware and contemporary pieces than ever before. I enjoyed seeing Martyn Edgell and his booth chock full of colorful English ceramics, including shelves of dazzling mocha ware pottery. Leon-Paul van Geenen was back this year with a few examples with early repairs, as well as white Delft pottery, many pieces included in his recently published book, Delfts Wit. A handful of early white plates were give a modern spin on Japanese Kintsugi repair, done by artist Bouke de Vries.

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Leslie Ferrin of Ferrin Contemporary had two booths of fine ceramics by leading international contemporary artists, including Vipoo Srivilasa, Sin-ying Ho, and Stephen Bowers, as well as modern examples incorporating inventive repair, which I was especially drawn to. Paul Scott, an English artist, has done extensive research and has published articles on the fascinating subject of early staple repair, incorporating it into much of his work. Francis Palmer and Mara Superior showed large vessels with Kintsugi repair and faux staples, making their pieces even more unique.

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It was heartening for me to see so many examples of antique and contemporary ceramics with inventive repair in such a prestigious venue. It gives me hope that beauty in imperfection is now being embraced by more artists, dealers and collectors than ever before.

Napoleonic War commemorative mug, c.1814

January 18th, 2015

I am a big fan of commemorative pottery, particularly ones with strong graphics and bright colors. Whenever I spot an example from afar in a shop, I secretly hope that they have some sort of inventive repair. Sometimes I get lucky. This creamware mug with transfer printed and hand colored decoration boasts the message Peace of Europe, Signed at Paris, May 30, 1814. Made in 1814 by Bristol Pottery in England to celebrate the signing of the peace treaty marking the end of war with France, this mug measures 4-3/4″ tall and 5-1/4″ wide to end of handle. Check out the detail photos showing the Bristol Pottery mark, the factory in the background, and ships with wood crates, no doubt filled with pottery for export.

This mug possesses numerous battle scars, including chips, cracks, and the loss of its original loop handle. After the handle broke off, a 19th century tinker replaced it by drilling through the body and attaching a metal replacement with two square fasteners. To add insult to injury, the replacement handle is covered in rust, a result of further neglect. But if this mug were in “perfect” condition, I would not have purchased it.

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This example, with different copy and overglaze coloring, can be found in the collection of the British Museum in London.

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Victorian silver server, c.1890

January 11th, 2015

This ornate sterling silver serving piece has a carved mother of pearl handle with an etched monogram. It was made during the later part of the Victorian period (1837-1901), most likely in England. Although I can not say for certain, its asymmetrical form suggests it to be a fish or jelly server. It measures 8-1/2″ long.

At first glance you may wonder why this seemingly “perfect” server ended up in my collection of inventive repairs, but upon closer inspection, you can spot a subtle repair. The mother of pearl handle cracked in half at a fragile stress point and was reassembled using pins and a silver mount. Also, the neck has been replaced with two wires clumsily soldered to the blade. In my opinion, the pattern of the four pins on the front and the wonderfully shaped brace on the back only enhance the original design, adding a unique charm to this piece.

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Happy New Year 2015!

December 31st, 2014

Wishing you peace in the New Year!

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Teapot with Rococo silver spout, c.1750

December 28th, 2014

This striking globular form teapot was made in China during the Qianlong period (1736-1795) for export to North America and Europe. It stands 5-1/4″ high and is decorated in cobalt underglaze with pavilions on islands in a lakeside setting.

After the original spout became damaged, the teapot was taken to a silversmith sometime in the 19th century, who replaced it with a silver Rococo style spout. I have seen many other examples of the same silver spout used on repaired teapots from the same period, so I imagine they were mass produced. In addition to the replacement spout, the broken handle has been riveted to the body and appears to be a later repair. By this point, the owner was taking no chances and chained the lid to the spout and handle to avoid further damage. On the underside is an etched signature Hood (?), but I am not sure if this was the owner of the teapot or the mender. I am hoping that it’s the latter and am on the hunt for more examples of signed ceramics.

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This teapot with similar form and decoration shows what the original spout on my teapot might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of eBay

Happy Holidays!

December 21st, 2014

Wishing you all the best during the holiday season and for a healthy and Happy New Year!

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Spode bat printed cup, c.1820

December 14th, 2014

This handsome porcelain cup was made in England by Spode, circa 1820. It is decorated with a bat printed pastoral scene of a person approaching a cottage, with gilt trim at top and bottom. It measures 2-1/4″ high, with an opening of 3-1/4″.

At some point in the 1800s the cup was dropped and broke into three pieces. A china mender with a steady hand used eight tiny brass staples to hold the cup back together.

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Black basalt teapot, c.1820

December 7th, 2014

This small earthenware pottery teapot with squat round shape was made in England during the first quarter of the 19th century. It has a black basalt glaze, aka Jackfiend and Egyptian black, and stands 4-1/2″ high. Due to its small size it is known as both a Bachelor’s and a one-cup teapot. Some collectors and dealers believe that these tiny teapots are miniatures or part of a child’s tea set, but they are actually functioning teapots.

By now my readers know that the main reason I purchased this teapot is due to its early replacement handle. Made by a tinker in the 19th century, the workmanship is a bit crude, as is evident by the malaligned horizontal band laden with excess soldier and the twisted wire support around the base. But even a funny looking tiny teapot with a clunky metal repair is better than burning your fingers on a teapot with no handle.

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This teapot of similar form shows what the original handle on mine might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Ancient Point 

Chinese Imari helmut jug, c.1750

November 28th, 2014

This porcelain helmut-shaped cream jug, decorated in the Imari palette of blue, iron red and gilt, stands 4-1/4″ tall. It was made in China during the Qianlong period (1736-1795.) The hand painted decoration of floral sprigs and alternating blue panels suggests it was made for export to the Persian market.

At one point in its early life, the original porcelain handle snapped off, leaving it impossible to gracefully pass the cream at the dining table. It was brought to a tinker or metalsmith who fashioned this ornate replacement handle, possibly repurposed from an existing silver item. The delicate silver replacement is more ornate than the original branch-form handle, but adds just the right touch of class and whimsy.

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The center jug, with similar form and decoration, shows what the original handle on my jug might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Christie’s 

Masonic creamware mug, c.1800

November 22nd, 2014

This cylindrical form creamware mug was made by Herculaneum Pottery in Liverpool, England, circa 1800. I am a sucker for bold graphics so you can understand why I like this mug so much. It is covered with black transfer decoration of Masonic symbols and stands 5 inches high, with an opening of 3-1/2 inches.

What makes this early mug so special to me is the sturdy silver replacement handle. Although unmarked, it appears to have been made by a silversmith in the early 20th century. An elaborate silver mounting system was devised to hold the new handle in place by mounting it to a broad plate and attaching it to a rim and base. The choice to mount the replacement handle, as opposed to drill through the body and bolt on a new handle, may have saved the mug from possible leakage and more damage. Typically, I do not polish metal repairs, as I feel the darkened patina adds to the overall appearance of the piece. I like how the tarnished silver is close to the color of the printed decoration, enhancing this clever repair even more.

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This mug with the same form and decoration shows what my mug would have looked like with its original handle intact.

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Photo courtesy of Bramfords