Make-Do’s: Curiously Repaired Antiques

June 3rd, 2017

I am pleased to be part of Make-Do’s: Curiously Repaired Antiques, the first exhibition of its kind showcasing inventive repairs, at Boscobel, a Federal period historically restored mansion on the Hudson River in Garrison, NY. The exhibit, which opened today and runs through October 1, 2017, includes numerous forms of inventive repair, including over 150 pieces from my own collection, as well as examples on loan from historical institutions, museums, and individuals. Make-do’s are cleverly displayed within the rooms of the mansion and in a special gallery exhibit. There will be lectures, a repair cafe and other programs relating to the exhibit throughout the summer, so please check the Boscobel website for more details. An illustrated catalogue with essays by Curator Jennifer Carlquist and me is available for purchase in the Gift Shop.

Photos courtesy of Boscobel

Toy dog with replaced coat, c.1920

May 28th, 2017

This humble little fellow, with tiny glass eyes and standing just 3.75 inches high, lost his fur coat long ago. He was made in China in the 1920s from papier mache covered in flannel. Thanks to an enterprising individual, our canine friend can keep warm again, and be in the height of fashion, with his new snappy coat made from layered pieces of cloth tape.

Thank you Cousin Carol for this fine gift, a welcome addition to my collection!

Chinese Imari teapot with double repair, c.1720

May 21st, 2017

This bullet-form porcelain teapot has it all: good looks, great form, a winning personality, and two different early inventive repairs. It was made in China for export during the Kangxi period (1662-1722) and is decorated with floral sprays in the Japanese Imari palette with bold colors and strong graphics. It measures 4 inches high and 6.5 inches wide from handle to spout.

At some point in its early life, a spoutless teapot was brought to a repairer who made a simple metal replacement spout. Not long after, it was brought back to be fitted for a wicker covered bronze replacement handle. A friend once showed me a similarly shaped teapot that had met such an end. And by merely sealing up the hole left by the missing spout and grinding down the handle terminals, the original owner lost a teapot but gained a sugar bowl. As much as I marvel at the ingenuity of that transformation, I am glad my broken teapot is still a teapot.

This teapot with similar form and decoration shows what the original handle and spout might have looked like on mine.

Photo courtesy of Alain Truong

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

May 14th, 2017

Before I travel, one of the first things I do is research the local museums, in hope of finding antiques with inventive repairs. As I am currently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, working on a movie, in my rare time off I have been searching for make-do’s in local museums. Last weekend I finally hit pay dirt.

This past Saturday, I spent a few hours at the spectacular Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, home to one of the best collections of Islamic decorative arts in the world. Much to my surprise and delight, the museum is filled with many stunning examples of inventive repairs. The wide range includes silver, brass, and wood replacement lids, stems, handles, knobs, and spouts; made in China, Europe, and the Middle East. Strangely, I did not see any examples of staple repair, although I bet some pieces do exist, buried deep within their storage vaults.

Here are some of my favorite pieces and their printed descriptions:

Blue and white porcelain ewer, China and Persia, 17th-19th century.

Blue and white porcelain ewer, Kangxi Period, China, 1662-1722. Blue and white porcelain rosewater sprinkler, Kangxi Period, China, 18th century.

Blue and white porcelain huqqah (sic) base, Qing Dynasty China, late 17th-18th century.

Blue and white porcelain huqqah (sic) base, Kangxi Period, Qing Dynasty, China, 17th century.

Blue and white porcelain rosewater sprinkler, China, c. 17th century.

Blue and white porcelain ewer, Qing Dynasty, China, 18th century.

Engraved brass ewer, Deccan India, 17th-18th century.

Samson pot and cover (Iznik style), France, 19th century.

Underglaze painted vase, Safavid Iran, 17th century.

Underglaze painted ewer, Iran, 17th and 19th century.

Blue and white ewer, Jailing (sic) Period, Ming Dynasty China, late 16th-17th century.

Lalique “Coquilles” glass bowl, c.1900

May 5th, 2017

This elegant Art Nouveau opaline glass bowl was made by Lalique in France, circa 1900. It is decorated with molded overlapping clam shells in the Coquilles No.2 pattern and measures 8.25 inches in diameter. “R. LALIQUE, FRANCE no. 3201” is etched on the underside.

Most people are amazed when they first encounter staple repairs on ceramics. When they see the same technique applied to glassware, they are stupefied. Click on this entry: Miniature cranberry glass punch cup, c.1890, to see one quarter inch staples holding together a tiny glass cup. It’s hard to imagine how this delicate work was done, let alone how the repairs have remained intact for over 100 years.

Welsh jug with metal handle, c.1850

April 29th, 2017

This little pearlware pottery cream jug was made in the unpronounceable village of Ynysmeudwy, Wales during the mid-19th century and was part of a child’s tea set. It is decorated with moulded relief of hunters, dogs, and flowers, with flow blue glaze and copper lustre bands at the rim and base. It stands nearly 3.5 inches high and is marked “35” in copper lustre on the underside.

As is true of the many fragile items for children that I have in my collection, this poor jug must have slipped from the hands of a nervous child, who no doubt was told to handle it with care. Well over 100 years ago, as a result of the mishap, a tinker made a sturdy metal replacement handle. There must have been a lot of pressure placed on small children when they were given delicate playthings like this, and unjustly punished when the inevitable happened. I can just imagine the collective sigh of relief heard worldwide when children were given unbreakable toys made of plastic to toss about as they pleased.

This jug of similar form and decoration suggests what the original handle on mine might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of eBay

Pressed glass goblet with wood base, c.1860

April 22nd, 2017

This EAPG (Early American Pattern Glass) goblet in the Honeycomb pattern was made in America during the Industrial Revolution between 1850 and 1870. It stands 3.25 inches high.

After the base snapped off, it was repaired at home with a primitive wood replacement. A quick and easy, yet inelegant, fix. Please take a look at two other similar pieces, Honeycomb pattern goblet and EAPG glass goblet, each with different shaped wood replacement bases. I would like to attend, or perhaps host, a dinner party with mismatched wine goblets such as these. And if things get rowdy, I may have to do a bit of re-repairing of my own.

This goblet with base intact shows what my goblet might have looked like before it became undone.

Photo courtesy of Brey Antiques

Wedgwood barrel-form teapot, c.1780

April 15th, 2017

This basalt stoneware barrel-form teapot was made in England by Wedgwood, and in production from 1780 to 1790. It measures 3.5 inches high and 6 inches wide from handle to spout. The underside has the impressed mark “WEDGWOOD, Z, 1x”, and “B257” is hand painted in gold on the underside of the teapot and its lid.

Sadly for some but happily for me, over 200 years ago this small teapot slipped from the hands of someone who must have cherished it and the spout broke off. It was taken to a jeweler or tinker who replaced it with a silver spout on a scalloped plate. I have many examples of spouts with the same design, so I assume they were made in bulk by jewelers to have on hand, ready to be popped on to similarly damaged teapots. The lid’s knob broke off at a later date but was not replaced. I am hoping one day to make my own replacement knob of the same design, perhaps in silver to match the spout.

This undamaged teapot shows what the original spout and Sibyl-form knob looked like before they were damaged.

Photo from British Teapots & Tea Drinking by Robin Emmerson.

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