Chinese Qianlong plate, c.1750

April 7th, 2017

This plate was made in China during the Qianlong period (1736–1795) for export to North America and Europe. It measures nearly 9.25 inches in diameter and is decorated in cobalt blue over a light blue ground.

Well over 225 years ago after the plate dropped and a large chunk along the rim broke off, it was taken to a china mender who reattached the broken pieces using metal staples. Hand marked in red on the underside is “Mrs. Lou Pearson”, which I assume is the name of the owner who brought the plate in for repair. Signed pieces such as this are uncommon and bring us one step closer to the mostly undocumented world of the men and women who did these marvelous, anonymous repairs.

Georgian creamware teapot, c.1790

April 1st, 2017

I love finding pieces with multiple repairs and this lovely soft paste pottery creamware teapot with pearlware glaze fits the bill nicely. It was made in Staffordshire or Leeds, England, in the late 1700s and is hand painted with spritely polychrome floral decoration on both sides. It measures 5 inches high and is marked with what appears to be A+A in red on the underside of the pot and lid.

But of course the reason it ended up in my collection is the three inventive repairs, which include a slightly exaggerated bronze handle covered in rattan, a brass collar concealing a chipped spout, and a cracked lid repaired with brown paper tape. I believe each repair was done years apart so one can only assume that the previous owners of this teapot were a clumsy lot.

This teapot still has its original handle and spout and shows what mine may have looked like before it was repaired.

Photo courtesy of Skinner

Mad Hatter’s tea party

March 24th, 2017

What better place to stage a photo shoot of some of my inventively repaired ceramics than on one the sets I decorated on the television series Gotham. I helped create some wonderful, over-the-top fantasy settings during the past 3 seasons, including this one for the nefarious Mad Hatter. Thank you Elizabeth Rogers for your terrific photos!

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Rogers

Brass candle holder with wood base, c.1880

March 18th, 2017

I wonder how many fires were started as a result of broken candle holders. I have come across many examples with unusual replacement bases, including metal funnels, coconut shells, and blocks of wood. This is not surprising, as candleholders were handled everyday by various household members in every room of the house.

This candle holder was made in England in the late 1800s. It stands 7.5 inches high. Most likely it was one of a pair that might have been separated from its “perfect” mate. After the original brass base became detached from the stem, an overscaled wood replacement was fashioned. This well made base, complete with beveled edges and cut-line detailing along the top, measures 5 x 5 inches and appears to be a homemade make-do.

What ever happened to the matching candle holder without repair, you may ask? The story of The Prince and the Pauper comes to mind, so I imagine it has spent the past 130+ years in a castle, polished within an inch of its life, sitting prominently on a large sideboard and hobnobbing with other “perfect” things.

This pair of candlesticks suggests what the original octagonal base on mine might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of Selling Antiques

Qianlong punch pot, c.1760

March 12th, 2017

This large porcelain Chinese punch pot with blue & white floral decoration was made during the Qianlong period (1736-1795). It measures nearly 9 inches high and 11 inches from handle to spout.

In the mid-1700s, alcoholic punch, which consisted of spirits, water, sugar, nutmeg, and spices, was served in what looks like oversized teapots. I guess too much alcohol was added to an early batch, as whoever held this pot at the time was a bit tipsy and dropped it. After the handle shattered, it was taken to a tinker who made a bronze replacement. The raw metal was wrapped in wicker to protect one’s hands from the hot contents of the pot. Over the past 200 years or so since the repair was made, much of the wicker has fallen off, exposing the metal. I can only hope that the next person who fills this pot with hot punch remains sober and keeps a tight grasp on it.

This punch pot of similar form shows with the original handle on mine most likely looked like.

Photo courtesy of Doyle

Toby figural pepper pot, c.1870

March 5th, 2017

This 5 inch tall figural pepper pot (also known as a caster or muffineer) in the form of Sir Toby Philpott, wears a tricorn hat and grasps a tankard of ale in one hand and a tobacco pipe in the other. It was made in Staffordshire, England, in the late 1800s, of polychrome glazed pottery and is part of a four-piece caster (also known as a cruet or condiment) set, which includes a mustard, salt, and vinegar.

This Toby originally stood on a round plinth base, which he jumped off of (or fell, or was pushed) at least 100 years ago. In its place is a nicely crafted silver replacement base, lending an air of elegance to this robust fellow.

This chap stands on his original base, although the crack at the bottom leads me to believe that he might be heading to the silversmith soon to be fitted for his own silver replacement base.

Photo courtesy of The Antique Shop

Oslo National Academy of the Arts

February 25th, 2017

Last March I was invited to speak about the art of inventive repair at Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO) to students in the Art and Craft department. Along with professor and ceramic artist Paul Scott and fellow visiting speaker and metalsmith artist David Clarke, we shared our interests and passions with the students, showing examples of our work and inspiration. I was in excellent company and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and my visit to Norway.

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On view at the KHiO library is an installation recreating the office of Kai Gjelseth, a graphic designer, illustrator and associate professor of design at KHiO. The glass-walled office is filled with an eclectic assortment of interesting objects and ephemera collected from his trips abroad. Naturally, my favorite item is a large white porcelain bowl riddled with metal staples. I would love to know where he found it and what drew him to it.

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French faience patriotique plate, c.1790

February 19th, 2017

To commemorate the end of the French Revolution, post-revolutionaries planted trees to celebrate their freedom. This well-used earthenware faience patriotique plate with tin glaze was made in Nevers, France, in the late 1700s. It is made of red clay and decorated with polychrome enamels to emulate Chinese porcelain.  The Liberty Tree depicted here reflects the patriotism of the French.

The underside of this plate reveals even more history, as over a dozen rusted iron staples still hold the damaged plate together after it was shattered more than 200 years ago. Plaster was used to fill the gaps that were left surrounding the tiny holes. To me, the unintentional overall pattern made by the staples on the underside are just as interesting as the design made by the artist on the front of the plate.

 

Make-do’s go mainstream

February 11th, 2017

Looks like antiques with inventive repairs, aka “make-do’s,” have finally made it into the collective consciousness of the mainstream antiques world.

In the 2016 edition of the venerable Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide it states in the introduction: “And there is a surprising…interest in repaired pieces from years ago, like stapled export porcelain, ‘do-withs’ (sic) like broken goblet stems made into candleholders or damaged 18th century porcelain teapots with silver spouts added as replacements. It may be just part of the way being ‘green’ has influenced sales of antiques.”

Do-withs?! I kinda like it, in a sort of dyslexic way.

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Chinese mug with metal handle, c.1780

February 4th, 2017

This bell-shaped footed porcelain mug was made in China in the late 1700s for export to Europe and North America. It is painted in the Famille Rose palette with polychrome enamels and depicts a domestic scene with family members gathered around a large green table. I particularly like the porcelain teapot and cups on the table, as well as vases and garden seats nearby. It measures 6.25 inches tall and 4.5 inches across the top.

At some point in this mug’s early life something went awry. We will never know for sure if a scullery maid, a small child or a cat knocked over the mug, causing the handle to snap off. But rather than toss out the broken pieces, the owner brought them to a clever chap who made a simple bronze replacement handle. Many years later the handle was painted white, and now is discolored a sickly yellow. I am tempted to strip off the offensive veneer to reveal the rich bronze color beneath, but for now I will keep it as is.

This mug, with similar form and decoration, shows what the original loop handle on my mug might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of The Saleroom