Mocha ware tavern mug, c.1850

February 6th, 2016

This small cylinder form mocha ware tavern mug was made in England in the mid-1800s and stands just 4 inches tall. It is decorated with blue & black bands and a broad teal ground with a bold seaweed pattern.

I’m guessing that the original handle of this mug broke off during a particularly rough bar room brawl. Luckily, a local tinker, sometime in the third quarter of the 19th century, was able to bring it back to life by adding an iron replacement handle with support bands.




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Similar mocha ware mugs and jugs can be seen in this late 19th century photo, on the bottom shelf behind the counter.


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Photo courtesy of Martyn Edgell

This is what the original loop handle on my mug would have looked like prior to the brawl.

mocha mug

Photo courtesy of The Antique Dispensary

NYC&GF exhibit and lecture, part 2

January 31st, 2016

Here are some more photos from my exhibit, Mended Ways, which ended last Sunday at the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair. In addition to the 100+ examples of my own antique ceramics and glassware, I also curated a collection of contemporary work by ceramic artists, with help from Leslie Ferrin of Ferrin Contemporary. I’d like to thank these artists for loaning their work and for continuing the tradition of early repairs.


Details from fastidiously hand painted plates by Stephen Bowers, showing trompe l’oeil fragments and staples.


A Bubble sphere by Ai Weiwei using the Chinese kintsugi repair technique to enhance the cracks by filling with gold.

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A detail of a figure by Sergei Isupov with painted cracks.


Two pieces by Paul Scott, using resembled antique ceramics.


Shattered and fused plate by Ruan Hoffmann.

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Stoneware jug with wood “staples” by Adam Lefebre.


Nicolle Horsfield’s broken plate stitched back together using silk thread.

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One of many explosive sculptures using reassembled broken antique ceramics by Bouke de Vries.


Vase with gold kintsugi repair by Frances Palmer

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Mara Superior also used the kintsugi technique to repair a crack in a figural vase.

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NYC&GF exhibit and lecture, part 1

January 23rd, 2016

I was thrilled by the turnout at my exhibit, Mended Ways, at the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair this past week, as well as the reception to my lecture, Past Imperfect. To top it all off, I got a nice mention (with photo!) in yesterday’s New York Times. Thanks to my friends, family, fair organizers and staff, contemporary artists, and to the new people I met, for your support. I also enjoyed meeting some of you – my blog, Instagram and Facebook subscribers, who came up and introduced themselves to me. Such a pleasure meeting you face to face!

The exhibit is comprised of three cases of examples from my collection of antiques with inventive repairs and one case of pieces by contemporary artists who have found inspiration in early repairs. I will include pieces by these extraordinary artists in an upcoming post.











All photos by Mark Randall

The New York Ceramics & Glass Fair

January 17th, 2016

I am thrilled not only to be speaking at The New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, January 21-24, but also to be exhibiting over 100 examples of antiques with inventive repairs from my personal collection, titled Mended Ways. Included in the exhibit is a collection I curated, in conjunction with Ferrin Contemporary, of ceramics by contemporary artists, including Stephen Bowers, Bouke de Vries, Ruan Hoffmann, Noelle Horsfield, Sergei Isupov, Adam Lefebvre, Frances Palmer, Paul Scott, Mara Superior, and Ai Weiwei, who have taken the art of inventive repair to new heights. My lecture is this Thursday at 4PM and my exhibit is up during the run of the fair so please stop by.

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Champagne coupe with wood base, c.1850

January 2nd, 2016

This hand blown glass champagne coupe with fluted stem was made around 1850, possibly in America. It measures 5-1/2 inches high.

I imagine during an exuberant New Year’s Eve toast, well over 100 years ago, the base snapped off. Rather than toss out the broken glass, a replacement base was made. A simple, nicely turned wood replacement base was attached to the remaining stem and the champagne was poured once again.

Happy New Year to my friends and followers of Past Imperfect: The Art of Inventive Repair!





Crystal jug with silver handle, c.1836

November 29th, 2015

I found this little gem while vacationing in London last spring. While the majority of my collection is comprised of ceramics, I marvel at inventive repairs done on glass, which seem even more astonishing to me. This cut lead crystal pear shaped jug stands 4.75 inches tall, has an exaggerated spout with scalloped rim and heavily cut patterns. It was made during the Georgian era and is dated 1836, along with the name J. Jopling on a front panel. It is missing its original applied glass handle but in my opinion, the innovative replacement handle is much more interesting than the original one would have been.

Someone was clumsy in the mid 19th century and soon after the glass handle snapped off, it was taken to a silversmith who fashioned an elaborate silver replacement. A clever repair was done incorporating a delicately proportioned silver-plated handle and support wires and cuffs so that no holes were drilled through the body of the jug. Tiny screws at the back near the handle terminals allow for the handle to be completely removed without damage to the fragile glass. As much as I love the workmanship on this early repair, my only regret is that the repairer did not sign his work.

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This jug with similar form maintains its original handle and gives you an idea of what my jug might have looked like intact.


Photo courtesy of 1stdibs

Wu Shuang Pu cup, c.1870

October 31st, 2015

This Chinese porcelain cup is decorated in cobalt blue with a Peerless Hero figure, stacked bottles and calligraphy taken from Wu Shuang Pu (Table of Peerless Heroes), a late 17th century book of woodcut prints by Jin Guliang. The cup measures 2-3/4 inches high, with an opening diameter of 3-1/2 inches.

After the cup broke in half, over 100 years ago, it was repaired with pairs of metal staples set in cement. Judging from the flattened lozenge-shaped staples made from repurposed wire, this repair was most likely done in the Middle East where itinerant china menders set up shop directly in the streets. But even with the doubled up staples and binding cement, more than a few staples have jumped ship, leaving just tiny empty holes as a reminder of its time in the china mender’s hands.







Small Meissen teapot, c.1750

October 24th, 2015

This small porcelain teapot for one was made in Germany at the esteemed Meissen factory in the mid 1700s. It stands 3.75 inches high and 5.5 inches from handle to spout and is nicely painted with colorful floral sprays on both sides. The underside reveals the classic blue crossed swords mark.

It’s impossible to tell when the original lid went missing but later in life an ornate brass lid was placed atop of the lidless pot and a marriage was made. Although this lid looks nothing like the porcelain original which might have had a molded flower as a knob, it fits quite well and certainly does the trick.








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

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Photo courtesy of eBay

William of Orange commemorative jug, c.1840

October 17th, 2015

This colorful soft paste baluster form commemorative jug was made in England around 1840 and is decorated with a figure of William of Orange on horseback, figures showing brotherly love, a crown, flowers and Protestant emblems. It has polychrome glazed black transfer decoration, hand painted flowers and pink lustre trim, measuring 6 inches tall and 7-3/4 inches wide from handle to spout.

After the original handle broke off, a tinker secured the sturdy copper replacement handle to the body using two flat screws. See an earlier post, Inventive repairs at the Rijksmuseum, showing a painting, Prince’s Day by Jan Havicksz Steen (1625-1679), depicting the birthday celebration of Prince William III of Orange-Nassau on November 14, 1650.

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This jug with the same transfer decoration still has its original handle intact.

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Photo courtesy of eBay

Chinese dollhouse sugar bowl, c.1690

October 3rd, 2015

This Chinese export porcelain dollhouse miniature with blue underglaze floral decoration dates from the Kangxi period (1662-1722) and stands nearly 2 inches tall. Contrary to popular belief, miniatures like this were displayed in doll houses owned by wealthy adults and were not intended to be played with by children.

Surprisingly, this little gem was not always a sugar bowl but actually started life as a baluster form vase. After it took a tumble, a silversmith kept the surviving middle section, added a minuscule silver lid, handles and base, and voila…a sugar bowl was born. A tiny Dutch hallmark in the shape of a sword can be seen on the bottom of the base, dating it to 1814-1905. The small sword mark was used on silver pieces too small to accommodate full hallmarks.





Shown below is an intact miniature vase, standing just 2-1/2″ tall. It appears that the middle section on a similar vase was used to make the sugar bowl.