Chinese mug with multiple repairs, c.1750

October 22nd, 2016

This bell-shaped footed porcelain mug was made in China in the middle 1700s. It has floral decoration in the Famille Rose palette and stands 5.5 inches tall.

It appears that someone literally loved this mug to pieces. I imagine that the person who dropped it must have been heartbroken as they watched it tumble to the ground, resulting in multiple breaks, chips, and cracks. The early metal repairs, done over 150 years ago, include a band along the rim to stabilize cracks, braces on the handle, and rivets to reinforce four symmetrical chips. Much like how time can mend a broken heart, a skilled restorer did an excellent, yet eccentric job with this mug break-up.








Design Philadelphia 2016

October 16th, 2016

I gave a talk yesterday in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as part of Design Philadelphia’s citywide celebration. My gracious hosts for the event were Emily Finigan, of Finigan Color & Interiors, and Alex Stadler, owner of stadler-Kahn, where I gave my talk.

Emily, who has been following my blog since its inception, is a kindred spirit whom I finally got to meet last January at the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair. Alex is a multi-talented artist, author, and textile designer.

Upon entering Alex’s inviting subterranean shop, I was immediately drawn to a large wall of full-size images from my collection that Emily had painstakingly printed, cut out, and mounted, creating a striking backdrop. I couldn’t help but look at each and every piece of merchandise that Alex had acquired for his shop, and I loved the eclectic mix of mid-century ceramics, original vintage New Yorker Magazine illustrations, metal sculptures, glassware, along with wool scarves, rugs, and shirts of his own design.

I enjoyed being in the warm, inviting, intimate space – perfect for my informal talk. After it ended, the chairs were cleared, refreshments were served, and I chatted with the attendees, many of whom had interesting questions and observations regarding early repairs.

It was a beautiful weekend in Philly and I was glad to have been a part of Design Philadelphia. I look forward to returning to the City of Brotherly Love and next time maybe I can do something about that large crack in the Liberty Bell.







Canary yellow jug, c.1825

October 9th, 2016

This one’s a mystery. A few years back, I purchased this small, canary yellow, footed pottery jug with brown floral decoration from a dealer in the UK. I was thrilled to add it to my collection, as I had not seen another piece quite like it. But therein lies the conundrum. It’s such an unusual piece that I can’t find any information about it. After showing it to a few experts in the field, it has been determined that it was most likely made in North East England around 1820 to 1830.

The jug stands 4.75 inches high and has a sturdy metal tinker’s replacement handle added in the 19th century. If anyone has further information about this jug or has seen other examples with similar decoration, please let me know. I am eager to mark this investigation “case closed!”






Ceramic shards and inventive repairs

October 2nd, 2016

When I was about 10 years old, I started collecting ceramic shards gathered during my daily journey to school. It was a 1 mile trek from my house on Elmwood Place to Glenwood Elementary School and a favorite route of mine was to cut through the Hartshorn Arboretum. It was more fun to follow the creek rather than the walking path, and it was there that I began finding and filling my pockets with bits and pieces of broken pottery and porcelain. I kept my treasures in an old cigar box on a shelf above my desk. A few years later when the box became full I decided to glue the pieces to an old glass bottle, creating a ceramic patchwork. I was pleased with my creation and thrilled that my parents let me display it alongside their highly regarded Chinese porcelain, mercury glass and English pottery pieces. Little did I know at the time that my childhood collection of ceramic shards would plant a seed that would take root years later and blossom into my collecting broken ceramics with inventive repairs.


My ceramic patchwork bottle sits in the back on the middle shelf.


Now it seems that ceramic shards are finally getting the attention they deserve. The recently published London in Fragments by Ted Sandling is filled with wonderful photos showcasing artifacts found along the River Thames. Each relic gives insight into the lives of those who tossed their unwanted household items into London’s ultimate detritus depot.


Across the pond is Alban Horry, an archeologist, or more precisely a ceramologist: one who studies ceramics and pottery. He lives in Lyon, France, and works at INRAP, the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research, studying ceramics from the Middle Age to 20th century found in excavations.





Mr. Horry has written 2 books on the subject, including Poteries de Lyon 1500-1850.


Large jug with woven handle, c.1820

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.

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This jug with similar form and decoration shows what the original handle on my jug may have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Applecross Antiques

Chinese teapot with butterflies, c.1780

September 18th, 2016

This porcelain globular-form footed teapot was made in China in the late 1700s and is decorated in the famille rose palette with flowers, butterflies, and a diaper pattern border along the rim and on the lid. It measures 4 inches high.

A sturdy metal spout stands at attention, replacing the original porcelain one that was damaged. At a later date, a metal chain was attached to keep the lid from going astray. I have numerous metal replacement spouts just like this and feel that repairers had a stock of them on hand to be attached to damaged teapots. Look for an upcoming post where I compare and contrast similarly made replacement spouts.






This teapot, with similar form and decoration, shows what the original spout on mine may have looked like.


Photo courtesy of 1stdibs

Davenport Hydra jug, c.1810

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.

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Beach Lake craft show

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.


Not a make-do, part two

August 28th, 2016

“We learn from failure, not from success!” Bram Stoker, Dracula

Well said, Mr. Stoker. Over the years, I have purchased a handful of items which, at the time, appeared to have inventive repairs. But upon closer inspection, I discovered they were not make-do’s. Here are a few of my mistakes that I eventually grew to love and even learned something from.

During a trip to Amsterdam a few years ago I purchased four glasses with silver bases at an antiques market. I was surprised to find over a dozen pieces with similar silver repairs all in one place. Assured by the dealer that the bases were indeed replacements and not original to the glassware, I bought a few of them, even though I was still not entirely convinced of his claim. Upon returning home, I began to research them extensively and after hours of digging deep into the depths of Google, came up with nothing. Months later, I accidentally stumbled upon a similar piece for sale in Amsterdam. After contacting the shop, Valentijn Antiek, and asking for information regarding this specific type of “repair”, I was told that these were not repaired pieces. The dealer went on to tell me that they were and still are being made by contemporary jewelers. I was told “For clarification, you should know something about the (Dutch) national character: The Dutch are and were very frugal. A repair, for example, crystal, should not cost too much. Objects are restored only in case 1) there is not as quick as possible a replacement; 2) the material of the object is expensive and scarce; 3) it is a precious object, because it is a reminder; or because one has received it from someone (like your mother in law) with whom you do not want to have to get a quarrel.”

This delicate champagne flute is the first piece I bought. I still find it hard to believe that its silver base is not an inventive repair.


This goblet has a nicely detailed silver base. It also had me fooled.


I was a bit more skeptical of these two, which appear to be from the 1960s. Their silver bases do look intentional.



I recently found this sharply cut small footed dish at an antiques shop in New Jersey. Although my gut was telling me that the hallmarked silver base was not a replacement I purchased it anyway. It seems that old habits die hard.

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Chinese carved carnelian brooch, c.1920

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.