Archive for the ‘anecdotal’ Category

Design Philadelphia 2016

Sunday, 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.







Ceramic shards and inventive repairs

Sunday, 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.


Beach Lake craft show

Sunday, 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

Sunday, 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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Making-do in Dresden, Germany

Sunday, 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.














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







Happy 4th of July 2016!

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans.

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

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The Kingman Tavern Museum mystery

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

In the small hamlet of Cummington, Massachusetts, home of the esteemed ceramics gallery Ferrin Contemporary, sits the Kingman Tavern Museum, a small historical museum overflowing with antiques of local interest, donated mainly by the town’s residents. The collection includes a full scale replica of an early 1900s country store, miniature rooms by artist Alice Steele, and vintage clothes, tools, and household items. Among them is a curious set of porcelain plates riddled with early staple repairs.

On a shelf sitting alongside a handful of innocuous-looking plates and tableware are two stacks of thick walled bowls and platters, each with pronounced staple repairs. The cobalt blue stylized rabbit pattern is unfamiliar to me but appears to be American, late 19th century, and perhaps restaurant china. No one associated with the museum seems to know anything about the set or how they got there. If anyone recognizes the pattern please let me know and help solve this mystery!







Inventive repairs in Prague

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

I just returned from a trip to Prague where I was bowled over by the seemingly endless amount of stunning Art Nouveau architecture, paintings, and decorative arts. Naturally, I was on the lookout for ceramics and glassware with inventive repairs, and was delighted to actually stumble upon a few good examples.

The most interesting ones were hiding in plain sight within the Prague Castle walls at the Lobkowicz Palace, which houses the Princely Collections of paintings, instruments, original musical scores, and decorative arts.

Two pieces of early rare Italian maiolica have what appears to be unexceptional 19th century tinker repairs. One of the jugs has a clunky and poorly painted replacement spout. I am surprised that the repairs found on these pieces were not executed with more artistry and finesse.

Rather than write the captions for my photos, I have copied directly from the English translations found on the glass display cases:

“Examples of a large service from Savona in North Italy, late 17th century.”







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“Examples from an extensive service of maiolica, from the Pavia region of Lombardy, painted in polychrome with scenes of figures and ruined buildings in mountainous coastal landscapes, all within borders of detailed moulded and painted acanthus leaf, flowers and grotesques some with wheat husk edging: Italian, late 17th century.”




Kintsugi repair, at last!

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Ever since I started my blog, people have asked me when I was going to start showing examples of Japanese kintsugi. The definition of kintsugi has been interpreted as “golden joinery”, “golden repair” and “to repair with gold”. I have long been an admirer of the ancient art of repairing broken ceramics and glassware using urushi (lacquer) and real gold powder but wanted to learn more about it before discussing it here.

I recently completed classes given by Gen Saratani in Manhattan and learned first hand how to repair a chipped plate. We were told to bring in a ceramic object with a chip and I knew immediately which piece to bring in: a French plate made by Sarreguemines, c.1890, with a large old chip at the bottom. The transfer decoration depicts an itinerant “china mender” repairing a broken vase using staples, while a distraught client looks on. A sign above him proclaims “I mend with staple and without staple: alabaster, wood, tortoiseshell , marble, amber, ivory, crystal, glass, earthenware, porcelain!! That’s the mender and repairman.” Beside him are a few plates repaired with staples. Next to the sign is a poster with the title “THE BROKEN JUG” showing a lovely lady holding a jug. My favorite detail is a stapled plate with a heavy weight hanging from it, to show how strong his staple repairs are. I do not recommend trying this at home.

Here is my completed plate with the chip now filled with gold covered lacquer. I will discuss the step by step technique I learned in upcoming posts, as well as show rare examples I have found in museums.

Thanks to Gen Saratani for his excellent teaching skills and to archeologist Alban Ceramo Horry for translating the text on the plate.







Nostetangen goblets with silver repairs

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

During a recent trip to Oslo, Norway, I discovered that the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design is packed with antiques with inventive repairs. I was particularly impressed by the abundance of intricately engraved 18th century German and Norwegian glassware, many with added silver mounts repairing snapped goblet stems and missing bases. Reflecting their rarity, many of these priceless presentational pieces were brought back to life by esteemed Norwegian jewelers and silversmiths in the 18th and 19th century. Here are some of my favorites:

Goblet (center) engraved by H. G. Kohler, artist and engraver at Nøstetangen Glassworks, on the occasion of the anointing of King Christian VII, 1767. The crimped silver joint was added later to repair the broken stem.

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Goblet, Nøstetangen, ca. 1766-1770. Engraved by H. G. Kohler with later ornate silver replacement base.

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Goblet (center) engraved in Bohemia, c. 1720, with silver cuff to repair a snapped stem.

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Both goblets were engraved at Nøstetangen Glassworks by an unknown engraver in 1748. The goblet at left has a silver cuff repairing a broken stem and the goblet at right has a brass replacement base.


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