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.

german teapot

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.

orange jug

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.


Chinese teapot with replaced metal handle, c.1760

August 30th, 2015

This globular form porcelain teapot was made in China in the mid-1700s for export to Europe and North America. It measures 6 inches high and 9 inches from handle to spout and is decorated in the famille rose palette with a coral scale ground and puce flowers.

Soon after the teapot dropped and the handle shattered, it was taken to a tinker, jeweler or metalsmith who fashioned this nicely made metal replacement handle. To help insulate delicate hands from the hot contents, the handle was encased in woven rattan. I have dozens of examples of woven rattan handles and have noticed distinctly different patterns among them. I am hoping to one day match up the woven handle patterns to specific makers, although I know that is a long shot. As an added bonus, a small section of missing rattan has been patched using string, no doubt at a later date, a true case of a make-do making-do.

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This teapot with similar form and decoration shows what the original loop handle on my teapot looked like before it took a tumble.


Photo courtesy of Earle Vandekar of Knightsbridge

Child’s transferware proverb mug, c.1820

August 1st, 2015

It’s obvious why there are so many early children’s ceramics with inventive repairs. Before the invention of bakelite and plastic, children used smaller versions of adult sized ceramics, and their little hands could barely hold these fragile vessels, especially when filled with hot liquids. So could you really blame these poor innocents when many a mug, plate and glass slipped away, ending up shattered on the floor?

This child’s mug is clearly titled with the 16th century English proverb “MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES” and has brown transfer decoration of a farming scene with a pink lustre ring along the rim. It was made in the Staffordshire region of England in the first quarter of the 19th century and measures 2.25 inches high. After the handle broke off, it was taken to a tinker who fashioned an ear shaped metal replacement handle and support bands. A triangular piece from another cup was patched in along the top to replace a lost chip. In my humble opinion, the repairs add character to this wounded survivor, making it much more interesting than a “perfect” one.

This mug with identical form and decoration shows what the original handle on mine would have looked like before it took a tumble.

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Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane

Chrysanthemum Leaf vase, c.1900

July 19th, 2015

This Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG) vase was made in Greentown, Indiana, by the Indiana Tumbler & Goblet Co. from 1894 until 1903. It is made of non-flint glass in the Chrysanthemum leaf pattern with gold accents and stands 5.75 inches high.

I have many examples of EAPG goblets, celery holders, vases, cake stands and oil lamps in my collection that have been dropped and inventively repaired with wood and tin. This one sports a modern-looking golden oak pyramid-shaped wood base replaced in the early 20th century.

This vase still has its original base.

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Photo courtesy of eBay

Chinese Mandarin cup, c.1760

July 5th, 2015

This cup is a mess! It’s a 2.5 inch high Chinese porcelain cup from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) with multi-color enamel decoration in the Mandarin style. Well over 150 years ago when it dropped and shattered into 12 pieces, it was most likely taken to an itinerant “dish mender” who carefully applied 15 metal staples to bring it back to life. A bit of plaster was used to fill in a few gaps left by lost fragments. Past owners really must have cherished this little mug, as it managed to survive many centuries looking like this. As my grandmother would have said, “Oy Vey!”

This cup, in much better condition than mine, shows what an intact example looks like.


Photo courtesy of eBay

Make-do’s at the MET, part 4

June 20th, 2015

I spotted this during my last visit to the American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The description in the showcase says more than I could possibly say:

“This extraordinary punchbowl features a remarkably faithful replica of the engraved certificate, dated December 1785, issued to Ebenezer Stevens (1751-1823) by the Society of the Cincinnati. Stevens was a major-general in command of the New York artillery and was vice president of the New York branch of the society. The decorative silver-gilt mount on the rim and around the foot were probably made during the early nineteenth century in response to an earlier crack—evidence of the extent to which the bowl was valued by its owner…”

Punch Bowl
Date: ca. 1786–90
Geography: China
Culture: Chinese, for American market
Medium: Porcelain
Dimensions: Diam. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
Classification: Ceramics
Credit Line: Gift of Lucille S. Pfeffer, 1984
Accession Number: 1984.449





Liverpool Porcelain teabowl, c.1770

June 14th, 2015

I purchased this unmarked soft-paste teabowl from an antique ceramics dealer in the UK who appreciates early repairs and has provided me with many interesting examples of make-do repairs over the years. This piece was made by Philip Christian Liverpool Porcelain, c.1765-70, and measures 1-3/4 inches  high x 3 inches  diameter. It has a fluted body with molded leaves and flowers, a cobalt blue underglaze border of leaves and berries, and a flower motif painted on the inside.

This delicate teabowl boasts multiple repairs done by a 19th century “china mender.” After the bowl broke, a large chip was reattached using tightly bound brass wire wrapped around holes drilled through the body, appearing at first like more commonly used staple repairs. A large blob of lead was applied to the center of the crack, acting as an anchoring rivet. A smaller chip along the rim, perhaps lost or too small to repair, has been replaced with a thin sliver of porcelain decorated with iron-red scrollwork from another piece entirely. This type of repair, using thin wire instead of metal staples, is typically associated with 19th century repair work done in Belgium and the South of France.






Below is a “perfect” example with matching saucer.


Photo courtesy of Antique Porcelain Online