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

Glass trumpet vase, c.1900

January 29th, 2017

I found this pretty Bohemian crimped-edge glass vase at a small antiques shop near my house in the Catskills a few summers ago. It is decorated with enamel and gilt flowers in the Art Nouveau style and measures 10 inches high and 6.5 inches in diameter at the base. It was made in Europe at the turn of the 19th century.

Although it has an unusual make-do base repurposed from a brass lamp, I hesitated at first as it didn’t call out to me as most antiques with inventive repairs do. But I ended up buying it and in the years since it has grown on me. The dealer I purchased it from had polished the replacement base within an inch of its life, buffing the brass to match the lustre of the gilding. Typically, I prefer my early repairs to have a dark, rich patina, but in this case I like the gold on gold coloring. It just seems right.

This vase of similar form suggests what the base on mine might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of eBay

The New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, 2017

January 21st, 2017

This past Wednesday I attended the preview opening of the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, the “jewel in the crown of New York’s Winter Antiques Week,” at the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan. My friend Bibiana and I enjoyed meeting up with old friends and seeing what new treasures the dealers unveiled.

At Ferrin Contemporary I found a striking collage by Paul Scott made from two different antique ceramic platters with blue & white transfer decoration, melded together using kintsugi and gold leaf. Also on display was a large sculpture, Peacock 1, by Bouke de Vries, made from broken antique ceramics.

I found this pair of German stoneware jugs at Martyn Edgell Antiques Ltd. The Westerwald jug at top has incised decoration and cobalt glaze, c.1695. The early ribbed pewter band on the handle repairs an old hairline crack. The second jug, from around 1600, has a large ornate engraved English silver mount.

Martyn also had this plate with wonderful decoration, including my initials. Too bad it’s not damaged, for if it were riddled with metal staples repairing a multitude of cracks, I would have snatched it up in a jiff.

French ‘Cornflower’ pattern jug, c.1778

January 14th, 2017

This hard paste porcelain baluster-form jug with sparrow beak spout was made in Paris, France, by Andre Leboeuf at the Fabrique de la Reine factory, circa 1778. It is hand decorated in the ‘Cornflower’ pattern, also known as ‘Angoulême’ or ‘aux Barbeaux’, a favorite of Marie Antoinette and Thomas Jefferson. It measures 4.75 inches high and is marked on the underside with the letter ‘A’ and a gilt crown. Work of this kind is known as Porcelaine à la Reine and Old Paris Porcelain.

Unlike obvious repairs, such as replacement handles, spouts and lids, this jug possesses a chip off the old block, or more precisely, a chip off an old pot. The lip must have been so badly damaged that a jeweler or china mender had to graft on a piece from another vessel. The replacement piece, unintentionally cut in the shape of the State of Nevada, was fitted to the enlarged hole in the jug, just like a jigsaw puzzle, using two small brass rivets along the rim. An adhesive compound was applied along the edges to seal the deal. Not the most elegant of repairs but this jug must have meant so much to its original owner that a delicate jug with a Nevada-shaped patch was better than no jug at all.

This jug shows what the missing cover and metal mount on my jug might have looked like before Napoleon smashed it to the floor.

Photo courtesy of Rouillac

Chinese teapot with wood handle, c.1750

January 8th, 2017

This beautiful porcelain teapot was made in China in the mid-1700s and is decorated with cherry blossoms, bamboo, and birds using cobalt blue underglaze with red and gilt overglaze enamels. It stands 5 inches high and is 7.25 inches wide from handle to spout. The matching lid has a skep shaped knob.

For me, the real beauty of this teapot is in the overscaled wood replacement handle, which would look more at home on a pewter teapot of the same period. I have many teapots in my collection with similar wood replacement handles all made with an electric log splitter, each with slight variations. I find the fanciful carved wood handle is in direct contrast to the simple globular form of the body, making for a quirky mashup. Naturally, I prefer this unique example over a “perfect” one any day.

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

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Photo courtesy of Live Auctioneers

Happy New Year 2017!

December 31st, 2016

Wishing you all the best for a Happy New Year!

And about that champagne glass…

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Happy Holidays!

December 24th, 2016

May the joy of the holiday season shine bright!

And try not to break any of your grandmother’s “good china” during your holiday meal.

But in case you do…

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Chinese dollhouse snuff bottle, c.1700

December 18th, 2016

I seem to have a thing for miniatures. I marvel at the craftsmanship of creating tiny versions of larger pieces, which requires more time and skill, as well as good eyesight and nimble fingers. When I was at a street market in Egypt many years ago, I saw hundreds of lanterns made of tin and painted glass. One vendor had minuscule working lanterns, no more than 3 inches, which held tiny birthday cake candles. Even though they were a fraction of the size of the other lanterns, they were the same price and took just as long to make, if not longer.

So you can imagine how I was doubly thrilled when I found this miniature porcelain dollhouse snuff bottle with an inventive repair. It was made in China during the Kangxi period (1662-1722), has blue underglaze decoration of figures, and measures 2.75 inches tall. But there’s more to the story, as this bottle started its life as a vase. Well over 150 years ago, after its neck broke off, a silversmith added a silver collar with etched decoration, cork, and a top attached to a spoon, transforming the broken vase into a functional snuff bottle. It has a sword shaped Dutch hallmark dating the repair to the mid-1800s.

I now have five tiny Chinese dollhouse miniatures in my collection and try not to inhale too deeply around them.

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This pair of miniature vases with similar form and decoration show what the original neck on my vase looked like before it was transformed into a snuff bottle.

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Photo courtesy of Santos

Paper box with handsewn edges, c.1880

December 11th, 2016

Veering away from my more typical posts showcasing inventive repairs on ceramics and glass, today I am featuring the art of a mended paper box. Before the invention of masking and Scotch tapes, damaged paper products were repaired using strips of thin fabric, patching with paper, and mending with thread. I have long admired the unintentional artistry created by patterns made by tiny stitches used to repair torn pages in a book.

This small green paper box, most likely made in New England in the late 1800s, measures 4.75 inches by 4.25 inches and is 1.75 inches tall. It seems the entire box fell apart and rather than tossing it into a roaring fire, someone quite cleverly stitched up every edge, giving it a unique folksy look.

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