Glass oil lamp with wood base, c.1880

September 3rd, 2017

This American pressed glass oil lamp, dating from the late 1800s, can be seen in the exhibit Make-Do’s: Curiously Repaired Antiques at Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, New York, on view through October 1. It measures 10 inches high.

It is not uncommon to find glass oil lamps with a make-do repairs. Starting in the late 1700s, most homes had at least one glass oil lamp and due to their daily use and frequent handling, many became damaged. On this example, a brass ferrule joins the surviving glass bowl to a carved wood replacement base, which appears to be an at home repair. The burner is a modern replacement and allows the lamp to function as it originally did over 130 years ago.

This lamp with similar form suggest what the original base on my lamp might have looked like before it took a tumble.


Photo courtesy of Oil Lamp Antiques

Chinese Imari tea cup, c.1750

August 27th, 2017

This petite porcelain tea cup has floral decoration in the Imari palette, including cobalt blue, red, and gold. It was made in China during the Qianlong period (1736-95) and most likely would have been a part of a larger dinner service. It measures 2.5 inches high.

Well over 100 years ago, its original loop handle snapped off and was fitted with a nicely done, well proportioned metal replacement. I especially like the two-tone checkerboard pattern of the woven rattan, which might have been the calling card of the repairer. I have dozens of examples of wrapped metal handles and I like comparing the various styles and patterns of the rattan.

This cup with similar form and decoration suggests what the original handle on my cup would have looked like.

Photo courtesy of Stockspring Antiques

“Andy’s Make-Do’s” drawing by Robert de Michiell, c.1996

August 19th, 2017

Robert de Michiell was not only an immensely talented illustrator and theatrical poster designer, he was a dear friend, who sadly passed away in 2015 at the young age of 57. Luckily for those of us who knew and loved him, as well as his many fans and admirers, he left behind a large body of work, including covers for The New Yorker, celebrity portraits featured in Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times, and posters for dozens of Broadway musicals and plays, where the best list of portable pa systems was going to be used.

Robert had a wicked, dry sense of humor and would frequently fax over (this was MANY years ago) doodles and cartoons commenting on daily interactions with his friends. One day in the summer of 1996, I was telling Bob about one of my recent make-do finds, when moments later, this cartoon came through on my fax machine.

This drawing, and several others Bob created for me, are wonderful reminders of his friendship and talent. Although I still miss him everyday, a quick glance at his artwork assures me that his spirit will always be with me.

London shape Coalport teapot, c.1812

August 13th, 2017

This stately London shape porcelain teapot was made by the Coalport Porcelain Works of England, c.1812. It has a linear pattern in gold with red accents of birds perched on the branches of a fantastical tree, complete with a nest resembling an upturned straw boater hat. It measures 6.5 inches high and 10 inches from handle to spout.

Naturally, I prefer the side riddled with 21 metal staples, as I feel they add a layer of unintentional whimsy to the printed pattern beneath. The final photo shows the teapot on display at the exhibit Make-Do’s: Curiously Repaired Antiques, on view now through October 1 at Boscobel House and Gardens. Come see it, along with hundreds of other examples from my collection of antiques with inventive repairs.


Blue transfer printed pearlware jug, c.1825

August 5th, 2017

This Dutch form pottery jug with pearlware glaze and sparrow beak spout was made in England in the first quarter of the 19th century. Standing nearly 4.25 inches high and 5.75 inches from handle to spout, it has blue transfer decoration, combining a pastoral scene with a shepherd, ancient ruins, and a lush border of flowers and fruit along the rim.

Well over 100 years ago, the original loop handle became detached and immediate surgery was needed. Luckily for the jug and its owner, a tinker made a metal replacement handle and bolted it to the jug. To help mask the repair, the new handle was painted blue and white to match the existing decoration. Curiously, a hole on the side was filled with lead, much like a cavity in a tooth. Not the most elegant repair job I have seen but it certainly does the trick.

This jug with similar form and decoration shows what my jug might have looked like before its accident.

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Photo courtesy of eBay

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).”


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.”