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!

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.