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.

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

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

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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.

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The Slaughter Feast jug, c.1795

August 13th, 2016

This pearlware pottery Prattware jug was most likely made in Staffordshire, England, between 1790 and 1800. It has molded polychrome relief decoration, with The Slaughter Feast, attributed to Ralph Wood, on one side of the jug and An Offering of Peace, designed by Lady Templetown and modeled by William Hackwood, on the other side. It measures 6.25 inches high.

It looks as though over 200 years ago someone took the image of The Slaughter Feast a bit too literally and broke off the handle. Luckily for the owner, a tinsmith was able to create a simple metal replacement handle so that the jug was able to function again. But as luck would have it, a brawl began after the first repair was completed, resulting in a damaged spout. Although the pressure is intense, I promise that as long as I am the keeper of this jug I will do my best to insure no further damage befalls it.

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This intact jug shows what the original handle on mine would have looked like before it took a tumble.

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Photo taken from the book Pratt Ware 1780-1840 by John and Griselda Lewis.

Making-do in Dresden, Germany

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.

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These two pieces of Meissen porcelain, both with sturdy brass staple repairs, are in the private collection of Heike Ulbricht.

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Chinese bowl for “Mifs Cox”, c.1740

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.

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Low Chelsea ewer with Gorham silver handle, c.1785

July 24th, 2016

This porcelain Low Chelsea ewer shape cream jug with spiral molding was made by New Hall in London, c.1785. The floral spray decoration is hand painted in polychrome enamels. It measures 2.5 inches high and 4.75 inches from lip to handle.

A lovely jug indeed, but what I find so special is the rare replacement handle, which was added about 100 years after the jug was made. Perhaps a descendant of the original owner, who must have been quite well off and engaged the services of John Gorham of Providence, Rhode Island, to fashion a custom sterling silver replacement handle. I own and treasure just a handful of hallmarked silver repairs, but this is the first piece I have encountered with an American hallmark, which pinpoints the repair to 1880.

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Here’s an example with similar form showing what the original handle on mine might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Bonhams

Small black teapot, c.1830

July 17th, 2016

This small earthenware one-cup teapot has an “Egyptian black” or “shining black” salt glazed finish with low relief floral design. It was made in England between 1820 and 1840 and measures 3.50 inches high and 6.5 inches from handle to spout. Due to its small size it is also known as a Bachelor’s teapot. Some collectors and dealers believe that these are part of a child’s tea set but they are actually fully functioning teapots.

It is not uncommon for teapots to lose their lids and that’s just what happened here. But this one didn’t remain unlidded for long, as a tinker, most likely in the late 1800s, made a well crafted replacement from tin, adding a mass produced pewter knob to complete the job. The new lid has developed a rich, warm patina over the past 100+ years, blending in nicely with the mellow tones of the dark teapot.

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This teapot with its original cover intact suggests what the lid on mine might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of eBay

Chinese coffee can, c.1750

July 10th, 2016

This cylindrical form porcelain coffee can (or coffee cup, outside of the UK) is decorated with cobalt blue underglaze decoration and has brown glaze along the rim. It was made in China during the Qianlong period (1711-1799) for export most likely to North America and Europe. It measures 2.5 inches tall.

Well over one hundred years ago, this small cup slipped from someone’s grasp, resulting in its handle snapping off. Rather than being tossed out, the precious cup was taken to a “china mender” who fashioned a sturdy iron replacement handle wrapped in rattan. The woven rattan acts as an insulant from the hot contents and allows for a tighter grip.

This coffee can with the same form and similar decoration shows what the original handle on mine might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Etsy

Happy 4th of July 2016!

July 3rd, 2016

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans.

And to my friends in the UK…sorry about that.

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Sprigged stoneware jug, c.1840

June 26th, 2016

This small sprigged baluster form stoneware jug is decorated with applied vines of grapes around the middle and impressed leaves along the rim. A wash of brown glaze covers the top half of the jug. It was made in England in the mid 1800s, most likely in Bristol or Chesterfield, and measures 3.25 inches high and 4.5 inches from handle to spout.

Sometime in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the handle became detached. Luckily, the owner found a proficient tinsmith who fashioned a sturdy metal replacement with crimped detailing and horizontal support straps.

This jug with similar form and glaze shows what the original handle on mine might have looked like.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr