The Beauty of Imperfection at Boscobel

July 30th, 2017

Recently at Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, NY, I was on a panel, The Beauty of Imperfection, alongside theatrical set designer Sandra Goldmark and metalwork artist Myra Mimlitsch-Gray. It was moderated by Glenn Adamson, the former Director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, with an introduction by Jennifer Carlquist, curator of the current exhibition, Make-Do’s: Curiously Repaired Antiques.

The talk was lively and included diverse topics including: aesthetics of repairs, restoration in the decorative arts, contemporary repair cafes, and the return of the relic. At the conclusion, enthusiastic crowd members asked thoughtful questions and made pertinent comments. Clearly, the topics of imperfection and early repairs have made an impact with the public, especially with those who have walked through the rooms of Boscobel and have seen the exhibit.

Photos by Lauren Daisley

Photos by Bibiana Famolare

“Disgrace is Worse than Death” armorial plate, c.1755

July 23rd, 2017

This octagonal porcelain armorial plate measures 8.5 inches in diameter and was made in China for export to England in the mid 1700s. It has floral decoration in the famille rose palette with gilt highlights and features a prominent coat of arms. It was part of a large dinnerware service, consisting of hundreds of matching pieces, each with the same hand painted decoration.

After this once broken plate was repaired with 4 sturdy metal staples over 200 years ago, it was most likely weeded out from the rest of the set later in its life by an antiques dealer who didn’t want imperfect pieces mingling with untarnished ones. I found the plate at a small antiques fair in London a few years ago and brought it back with me to New York City, where it now coexists with other former orphans, each scarred but accepted for their imperfections.

From Chinese Armorial Porcelain by David Sanctuary Howard, p.539:
“The arms, beneath a knight’s helm, are of Shard of Horsleydown in Surrey, Argent a bend sable, in chief a bugle horn of the last in base a stag’s head couped proper attire of the third; crest, A lion passant per pale or and sable guttee counterchanged, resting the dexter paw on a bugle horn of the second; impaling Clark of Sanford, Azure two bars or, on a chief of the last three escallops sable (see Clarke P22); motto ‘Pejus letho flagitium’ (‘Disgrace is worse than Death’).
These arms were borne by Sir Abraham Shard, of Kennington in Surrey, who died before this service was made in August 1746 (and from whom these arms the helm was probably copied). The service was probably made for his son or nephew or for another descendant of Sir Isaac Shard, whose daughter Martha married about 1710 Roger Hill (uncle of Abigail Lockey, third wife of Lewis Way – see Way with Lockey in pretence, P18).”

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This large serving platter is from the same dinnerware service as my plate. Too bad it doesn’t have early staple repairs.

Photo courtesy of Dubey’s Art & Antiques

“Love and live Happay” teapot, c.1805

July 15th, 2017

I am a big fan of ceramics with bold, graphic decoration, especially ones with text, and this charming example certainly fits the bill. This Prattware pottery teapot, proclaiming “Love and live Happay (sic),” was made in England in the early 1800s. Standing 5.25 inches high and 10 inches wide, it is painted in typical Prattware colors, including green, yellow, blue, and brown.

It appears that long ago, Mr. Butterfingers loved his teapot so much that he tossed it up in the air with glee, but didn’t catch it on its way back down. Sadly, the lid and handle shattered beyond repair, but thankfully a tinsmith was able to craft a nifty metal replacement handle so the teapot was able to be loved again and live happ(a)ily ever after.

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

Photo courtesy of Agnes Ashe

Boscobel opening reception

July 9th, 2017

Yesterday was the opening reception of Make-Do’s: Curiously Repaired Antiques at Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, NY. It was thrilling to see hundreds of pieces from my collection thoughtfully placed within the stunning Federal-style house, as well as in the gallery on the lower level. This first of its kind exhibition was brilliantly curated by Jennifer Carlquist, who freely admits to stalking me for the past 16 years, after seeing my make-do’s featured in Martha Stewart Living. Jennifer’s knowledge, passion, and sensitivity can be seen in the placement of each item in every room of the house and gallery. Thank you Jennifer for allowing my collection to be seen in a new light, in a gorgeous old house.

Special thanks to Executive Director Steven Miller who, without hesitation, bravely said yes to the idea of presenting a show featuring broken objects, and to Edward Glisson for his wonderful displays and technical wizardry seen throughout the gallery. And thanks to my friends and family who made the journey to Garrison to share this special event with me.

I urge you all to come see this exhibit, on view now through October 1. I will be back at Boscobel on July 21 for a panel discussion, The Beauty of Imperfection, moderated by Glenn Adamson, the former Director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. I will also be giving a talk on Friday, September 22, so come see the exhibit, stroll the grounds, take in the stunning view of the Hudson River and say hi.

Photos courtesy of Mark Randall and Bibiana Famolare

“Pot and Tea” exhibit at HKIA

July 2nd, 2017

Last weekend, on my return flight home after a three month gig working on a movie in Malaysia and Singapore, I had a four hour layover at Hong Kong International Airport. In my bleary-eyed stupor, I literally stumbled upon this small exhibit, Pot and Tea. Much to my surprise, I discovered many a make-do among the undamaged (I prefer not to use the word “perfect”) ceramics.

Here are some examples of inventive repair from this small, yet well curated, collection. I have included the corresponding labels, misspellings intact.

“Tonkard with Appliqué Decoration, English Imitation of Yixing Ware. Late 17th century.”

“Dutch Teapot in Imitation of Yixing Ware. Early 18th century.”

Ridgway relief molded jug, c.1835

June 24th, 2017

This relief molded salt glaze jug from 1835 was made in England by Ridgway. It is decorated with scenes from Robert Burns’ poem, “Tam O’Shanter,” written in 1790. It measures 6.75 inches tall and is incised on the underside: “Published by W. RIDGWAY & CO. MANLEY, October 1, 1835.”

Although this jug maintains its original pewter lid, its overscaled ear-shaped metal handle is a replacement, made by a tinsmith over 150 years ago.

Here’s the same jug with its original handle intact.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Dando

Character jug with stapled face, c.1924

June 17th, 2017

Is this another monster created by Dr. Frankenstein? Not exactly, but it looks like his English relative.

This blue-glazed pottery character jug in the form of British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was designed by Percy Metcalfe and produced in Surrey, England, by Ashtead Potters between 1923-1929. It stands 7.5 inches high and is boldly marked on the underside and numbered 202 of a limited edition of one thousand.

We will never know for sure if the jug became broken accidentally or if it was thrown in disgust as a result of a disagreement over the political views of the Right Honorable Stanley Baldwin. Either way, four small metal staples were used to repair his broken face. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt!

Three other commemorative jugs were made in this series. Shown here in Pearl Barley glaze, they include Attorney General Lord Hailsham (Douglas McGarel Hogg), British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and Australian Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce.

Photo courtesy of Ashtead Pottery

NUS Museum, Singapore

June 10th, 2017

Yesterday I visited the NUS Museum, a beautifully designed and well curated museum on the campus of National University of Singapore. Naturally, I was on the lookout for antiques with inventive repairs and happily, found some examples to write about.

The Lee Kong Chian gallery on the lobby level features Chinese export ceramics from the Lee Kong Chian Museum and the archaeological collection of Dr. John Miksic. Hiding in plain sight was this vase made during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), in Jinjiang, Fujian. Its silver replacement lid and collar were added hundreds of years later.

Also on the lobby level is the Archaeology Library, which includes thousands of excavated ceramic shards and artifacts, on loan from institutions and private collectors.

I spotted this blue & white porcelain hulu (gourd-shaped) ewer from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) among hundreds of ceramics, in the Resource Gallery on the top level. I have always loved galleries such as this, as they are typically more casual than curated exhibits and have a bit of an antiques shop or flea market vibe.

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!