Archive for the ‘anecdotal’ Category

The New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, 2015

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Each year I look forward to attending the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair at Bohemian National Hall, for me the highlight of New York’s Winter Antiques Week. This year the fair has expanded to three floors of exhibition space, including more glassware and contemporary pieces than ever before. I enjoyed seeing Martyn Edgell and his booth chock full of colorful English ceramics, including shelves of dazzling mocha ware pottery. Leon-Paul van Geenen was back this year with a few examples with early repairs, as well as white Delft pottery, many pieces included in his recently published book, Delfts Wit. A handful of early white plates were give a modern spin on Japanese Kintsugi repair, done by artist Bouke de Vries.

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Leslie Ferrin of Ferrin Contemporary had two booths of fine ceramics by leading international contemporary artists, including Vipoo Srivilasa, Sin-ying Ho, and Stephen Bowers, as well as modern examples incorporating inventive repair, which I was especially drawn to. Paul Scott, an English artist, has done extensive research and has published articles on the fascinating subject of early staple repair, incorporating it into much of his work. Francis Palmer and Mara Superior showed large vessels with Kintsugi repair and faux staples, making their pieces even more unique.

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It was heartening for me to see so many examples of antique and contemporary ceramics with inventive repair in such a prestigious venue. It gives me hope that beauty in imperfection is now being embraced by more artists, dealers and collectors than ever before.

Happy New Year 2015!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Wishing you peace in the New Year!

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Inventive repairs in Florence

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Last week I was in Florence, Italy, and although I was there to celebrate my friends’ recent marriage, I was also on the search for antiques with inventive repairs. Even with numerous antiques shops scattered throughout the narrow winding streets, finding examples to photograph proved challenging. The few shops I found with antique ceramics had mostly “perfect” examples, and even the museums I visited had nary a plate with staples. Remembering some great examples from my last visit, I hightailed it over to Santa Maria Novella, the world’s oldest pharmacy, to see a few early majolica apothecary jars with elaborate replacement handles. Delighted by the recent renovation to the stunning interior, I was disheartened to discovered that the wonderful jars were no longer on view. This photo from my previous visit shows the front jar with two metal replacement handles, as compared to the jars in the rear with their original handles intact. Hopefully one day soon they will be back on public display.

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On my last day I walked back to my apartment using a different route and literally stumbled upon the Biblioteca Pietro Thour, an early stone building with attached benches along the front. The cracked stone on the top of the benches was repaired using over a dozen HUGE metal staples, serving the same purpose as the tiny ones that hold together ceramic plates in my collection. The giant staples appear to have been installed sometime during the 20th century so it’s great to see a modern application of this early method of repair.

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Also on my last day, I found in a small antiques shop a majolica tankard with a pewter lid dated 1796, and sporting a heavy, clunky metal replacement handle. Sadly, the piece had been dropped, leaving it and my spirits shattered, as it had been glued together poorly. If only the piece had been repaired with staples I would have been thrilled. But apparently, the tankard was a favorite with the shop owner and his customers, and recently an art student asked to borrow it to use in a still life. The resulting painting is lovely, and I actually prefer it to the tankard itself.

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A tribute to Don Carpentier (1951-2014)

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

I met Don Carpentier in 2012 when he asked me to give a lecture and show examples from my collection of antiques with inventive repairs. From the moment I entered the Brigadoon-esque Eastfield Village, his paradise on earth, we immediately hit it off and discovered we had many friends and interests in common. Don was one of my biggest supporters and was always there for me to help identify unusual pieces, show me how to detect fraudulent repairs (some made by his own students!) and cheer me on during my very first lecture.

A glimpse of Eastfield Village, consisting of over 20 buildings from the late 18th to early 19th century, including a pottery studio, print shop, blacksmith shop, tinker shop, doctor’s office, tavern, general store, and church. Each building was found within a 50 mile radius of Don’s home and was disassembled piece by piece, brick by brick, and reassembled on his property.

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Don helping me set up for my first lecture at Dish Camp, 2012.

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This pressed glass master salt with a make-do wood replacement base was given to me by Don as a token of thanks for my participation as a lecturer.

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Don making a tin handle during the first Making Make-Do’s workshop in 2013.

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The finished product, which I proudly display in my farmhouse.

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Two examples of Don’s reinvention of mochaware, using the original molds and techniques of the 19th century. The bowl on the right was a wedding gift given to me by my mother last October.

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This past June I participated in the second Making Make-Do’s workshop and made a tin lid for my Worcester teapot. I was helped by (left to right) Olof Jansson, William McMillen, and Don.

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Thank you Don for sharing your enthusiasm, knowledge, and friendship. Words can not express how much you will be missed by those close to you and by the antiques world in general.

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Making make-do’s in Eastfield Village, part 2

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

I gave a lecture and participated in a workshop, “Period Make-Do’s and How to Reproduce Them,” this past Monday at Don Carpentier’s Historic Eastfield Village in East Nassau, NY. My friend Bibiana also participated in the workshop and took these photos of my presentation and of our work. Instructors included Master Tinsmith William McMillen, expert Blacksmith and Tinsmith Olof Jansson, and Master of all trades Don Carpentier, who guided us through completing handmade tin replacement lids for my Worcester teapot and Bibiana’s banded mocha ware mug.

This was my second workshop on the art of repairing antiques with antique tools and employing the same methods as those of Early American tradesmen. I am eager to continue my education in the craft of tinsmithing and learn more about how my great-grandfather, a Philadelphia tinsmith, most likely created a number of household items with inventive repairs of his own.

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Photos courtesy of Bibiana Famolare Heymann

Make-Do workshop at Historic Eastfield Village

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Please join me for a two-day workshop, PERIOD MAKE-DO’S AND HOW TO REPRODUCE THEM, at Don Carpentier’s Historic Eastfield Village104 Mud Pond Rd, East Nassau NY 12062, on June 9th & 10th. Under the guidance of experienced instructors, you will learn early methods of restoration and create your own make-do repairs on damaged pieces you bring in. In addition, I will be there to show examples from my collection, so please join us for a fun and informative workshop. And make sure you check out the schedule for other workshops throughout the summer, including “Dish Camp”, a 3 day ceramics lalapalooza which must not be missed!

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Photos by Mark Randall

Inventive repairs at the Ashmolean Museum

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Last week I took a day trip to Oxford and made a beeline to the Ashmolean Museum, Britain’s oldest public museum, which houses a world renowned collection of ceramics. Much to my delight, it also contains dozens of examples of porcelain and pottery with distinctly different types of early repairs. Amongst the “perfect” ceramics on display, and the ones with obvious repairs and replacement parts, are many examples with metal mounts, which I will tackle in a future post.

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V&A Ceramics Galleries

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

I spent many hours wandering the ceramics galleries on the top floor of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, searching for examples of ceramics with inventive repairs. The refurbished galleries opened in 2009/10 and are filled with over 30,000 of examples of ceramics in floor to ceiling glass cases. The last time I was at the V&A the original wooden showcases were still in use and I took photos and made notes of the pieces that interested me. Now there are monitors in every room with photos and descriptions of the entire collection available online. The transformation of the old galleries to the current design is so dramatic that I think I gasped out loud when I stepped off of the elevator on to the 6th floor and saw the seemingly endless rows of vitrines for the first time!

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What the Dickens?

Monday, April 7th, 2014

I am back at my hotel in Notting Hill, resting up after taking on the National Gallery, the British Museum, and the Charles Dickens Museum all in one day. Needless to say, I spotted many a “make-do” at the two large institutions, but I was surprised to find a 19th century cut crystal and silver ewer with staple repairs to the base hiding in plain sight in Charles Dickens’ dining room!

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English Ceramic Circle lecture, London

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

I was invited to give a talk and show examples from my collection this past Thursday, April 3rd, at the English Ceramic Circle (ECC) at Bonhams in Knightsbridge, London. The ECC was founded in 1927 and is “the oldest society dedicated to the study of British ceramics and enamels.” Thankfully, the lecture was well attended and I enjoyed meeting many members, as well as viewing pieces from their own collections, that they were encouraged to bring in.

I was introduced by ECC president Roger Massey, who explained to the crowd that he was made aware of my blog a few years ago by a ceramics dealer. He was told about a “mad American” (crazy, not angry, I assume) who collects antiques with early repairs and that he should have a look. Roger apologized to me about the remark but I rather like it!  After the talk I was invited to dinner and chatted with other members, including Nicholas Panes, Honorary Treasurer.

Thank you ECC for your warm welcome, and a special thanks to Stephen McManus who extended the invitation. I look forward to becoming a member of your marvelous society.

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Photos by Mark Randall