Archive for the ‘anecdotal’ Category

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.”

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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.

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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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NCECA conference 2016

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Yesterday I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the NCECA conference in Kansas City, MO. I wasn’t prepared for seeing over 5,500 artists, curators, students and ceramic enthusiasts at the convention center and at various galleries, nor the abundance of the wonderful work on display and for sale.

Breaking (no pun intended) tradition from my weekly postings of inventive repairs, I am showing just a few of my favorite pieces, all perfectly intact. But after my lecture on the art of inventive repair, I am hoping some of these artists and others will be inspired to repair their own work, just in case the inevitable happens.

Mariko Paterson, Bird Brain, Bird Vain, 2016

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Lorna Meaden, Punch Bowl, 2016

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Kevin Snipes, Numbers, 2016

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Steven Young Lee, Maebyeong Vasw with Fish Decoration

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Richard Notkin, Brave New Old World

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Kristen Cliffel, Welcome Friends, 2012

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Jessica Brandl, Struggle and Strive, 2015

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Michelle Summers, Untitled Series, 2015

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Shari McWilliams, Octomug, 2013

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NYC&GF exhibit and lecture, part 2

Sunday, 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.

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

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Ai Weiwei’s “Bubble” sphere using the Chinese kintsugi repair technique to enhance the cracks by filling them with gold.

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Detail of a figure by Sergei Isupov with painted cracks.

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Two pieces by Paul Scott, using reassembled antique ceramics.

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Shattered and fused plate by Ruan Hoffmann.

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Stoneware jug with wood “staples” by Adam Lefebre.

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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.

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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

Saturday, 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.

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All photos by Mark Randall

The New York Ceramics & Glass Fair

Sunday, 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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Make-do’s at the MET, part 4

Saturday, 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

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V&A Ceramics Galleries revisited

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

I am back in London for a brief visit on my way to Ireland and the very first thing I did upon arrival was to head over to see the magnificent ceramics collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I could spend an entire day peering into the endless floor to ceiling glass cases filed with worldwide and world-class ceramics. Here are some of my favorite examples of inventive repairs found among the collection.

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Take a look at this previous post from just over a year ago, showing other examples from the collection.

Make-do’s at the MET, part 3

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Earlier this week I took a stroll through one of my favorite spots in Manhattan, The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. If the Smithsonian Museum is known as “The Nation’s Attic”, then I’d like to christen the Luce Center “The City’s Yard Sale” as it is packed from floor to ceiling with glass showcases filled with over 18,000 tchotchkes, including Tiffany lamps, Shaker boxes and Revere silver. This impressive collection of the museum’s overflow allows the public to research and take a peek into the MET’s closets. If you look closely among the rare Chinese porcelain and early English pottery you will find dozens of pieces in various states of disrepair including visible cracks, chips, worn paint and missing parts.

Here are some of my favorite make-do’s, all hoping to one day escape the confines of the study center’s curio cabinets and be placed alongside their more presentable friends in the “big house.”

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