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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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