Posts Tagged ‘staples/rivets’

Make-do’s at the MET, part 3

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Earlier this week I took a stroll through one of my favorite spots in Manhattan, The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. If the Smithsonian Museum is known as “The Nation’s Attic”, then I’d like to christen the Luce Center “The City’s Yard Sale” as it is packed from floor to ceiling with glass showcases filled with over 18,000 tchotchkes, including Tiffany lamps, Shaker boxes and Revere silver. This impressive collection of the museum’s overflow allows the public to research and take a peek into the MET’s closets. If you look closely among the rare Chinese porcelain and early English pottery you will find dozens of pieces in various states of disrepair including visible cracks, chips, worn paint and missing parts.

Here are some of my favorite make-do’s, all hoping to one day escape the confines of the study center’s curio cabinets and be placed alongside their more presentable friends in the “big house.”

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Florence Upton decorated child’s mug, c.1905

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

This English child’s mug, boldly decorated with characters created by illustrator and author Florence Kate Upton (February 22, 1873 – October 16, 1922), is made of porcelain and measures 2-3/4″ high. Her ubiquitous Dutch Dolls and Golly characters are represented here with strong graphics and in full color. The underside has an embossed lithophane image of a girl and boy, visible only when held up to the light. The printed registration mark on the underside dates this mug to 1905.

Second only to the Teddy Bear, the Golly was the most popular toy in Europe in the early 1900s. Although Upton wrote Golly as a lovable, benign character, the image and original name Gollywog eventually became a controversial figure, sparking outrage. Without a patent, other manufacturers copied the likeness and portrayed the character as lazy and evil, becoming a negative symbol and an embarrassment to the black community. The Guardian wrote an article in 2009, “From bedtime story to ugly insult: how Victorian caricature became a racist slur”, explaining the controversy.

Perhaps, during an all-doll tea party, the fragile mug was dropped by its young owner and the handle snapped off. Rather than being tossed out, the broken mug was taken to a china mender who reattached the handle using two metal cuffs and rivets. I am surprised that I don’t come across more examples of early repairs on children’s items, as I imagine many tiny hands had trouble grasping the precious ceramic toys they were given to play with, long before the invention of plastic.

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Stapled octagonal crab plate, c.1750

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Most people I encounter are astonished the first time they see broken ceramics held together with staples. I was, too, at a young age when I saw a small stapled dish. The first words uttered are typically “how did they do that?” If you type that very question into my search box on this page, a post from a few years ago will pop up and help answer that much asked question.

Sadly, most pieces repaired with staples, aka rivets, are not signed by the menders so we have no idea who repaired them. I have seen 18th century English and American newspaper advertisements and calling cards from tinkers and jewelers offering their repair services, as well as early prints showing “china menders” with their tools. Today, antique ceramics with staple repairs are not uncommon but many rare examples are quickly disappearing, as restorers will carefully remove staples, fill the holes and erase all evidence of the original “honest” repair. Although I have dozens of examples of early staple repair on a variety of forms, I still get a thrill when I encounter a rare or unusual example untouched by a modern restorer.

This porcelain plate was made in Jingdezhen, China, during the Qing dynasty (1740-1760) and measures 8-1/2″ in diameter. It is decorated in the Famille rose palette and features a large blue crab, crayfish, flowers, and a border with gilt detailing. Early in its life it was dropped, cleanly breaking it in half. An experienced china mender reattached the plate using six small evenly spaced brass staples. Repairs such as this are so tight and secure that the plate can be returned to the dinner table without fear of it coming undone. That is, unless another clumsy person lets it slip from his or her hands.

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Another example, nearly identical to mine, is in the permanent collection of the British Museum. It was donated in the 19th century by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks, described by Marjorie Caygill, historian of the British Museum, as “arguably the most important collector in the history of the British Museum, and one of the greatest collectors of his age”.

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Photo courtesy of the British Museum

Victorian silver server, c.1890

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

This ornate sterling silver serving piece has a carved mother of pearl handle with an etched monogram. It was made during the later part of the Victorian period (1837-1901), most likely in England. Although I can not say for certain, its asymmetrical form suggests it to be a jelly server. It measures 8-1/2″ long.

At first glance you may wonder why this seemingly “perfect” server ended up in my collection of inventive repairs, but upon closer inspection, you can spot a subtle repair. The mother of pearl handle cracked in half at a fragile stress point and was reassembled using pins and a silver mount. Also, the neck has been replaced with two wires clumsily soldered to the blade. In my opinion, the pattern of the four pins on the front and the wonderfully shaped brace on the back only enhance the original design, adding a unique charm to this piece.

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Happy New Year 2015!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Wishing you peace in the New Year!

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Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Wishing you all the best during the holiday season and for a healthy and Happy New Year!

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Spode bat printed cup, c.1820

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

This handsome porcelain cup was made in England by Spode, circa 1820. It is decorated with a bat printed pastoral scene of a person approaching a cottage, with gilt trim at top and bottom. It measures 2-1/4″ high, with an opening of 3-1/4″.

At some point in the 1800s the cup was dropped and broke into three pieces. A china mender with a steady hand used eight tiny brass staples to hold the cup back together.

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Chinese teapot with European subject, c.1750

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

This delicate porcelain teapot was made in China for export to Europe during the Qianlong reign (1711-1799.) It is decorated “en grisaille”, a pencil style drawing in black, with touches of overglaze enamel of iron red and gilt. The European subject depicts a lady in her boudoir daintily clipping her toe nails as a male attendant watches nearby. This must have been a racy subject for the Chinese porcelain painters, raising more than a few eyebrows in the studio. Decoration of this kind was typically based on current popular engravings, reinterpreted by Chinese painters with sometimes amusing results.

When this 3-3/8″ high teapot dropped and broke in half, a china mender stapled it back together. I like how the bold metal staples and the darkened cracks add another layer of pattern to the decoration. The lid, possibly broken at the same time that the pot was damaged, has since gone missing. I am hoping to make a tin replacement cover for it one day.

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Minton cup with butterfly handle, c.1869

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

This delicate English porcelain bone china cup and saucer each have a transfer decoration of butterflies and flowers with hand painted washes of color. The figural butterfly handle, though lovely to look at, makes for an unsteady grasp on a steaming hot cup of tea. Perhaps that’s how both the cup and the saucer met their early demise and ended up crashing to the floor, breaking into many pieces. But luckily a local china mender was standing by with drill and staples at hand, and able to join together the broken pieces. Six tiny brass staples were carefully attached, three on the cup and three on the saucer, allowing the tea to flow once more.

Marked on the underside of the cup, which measures 1-3/4″ high, is an English registry cypher, dating the piece to April 7, 1869. The saucer, with a diameter of 5-1/2″,  has a faint impressed MINTON mark.

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Spanish tin glazed plate, c.1800

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

My friend Marianne gave us this lovely Spanish pottery plate, along with two other similar ones, as a wedding gift when we visited her in Brussels last spring. It is tin glazed with a polychrome design of a bird at center and a wide stylized floral border. The deep plate measures just over 14″  in diameter and was made in Spain at the turn of the 18th century. The enormous iron staples measure a whopping 1-1/4″  long and hold together the three broken pieces. Some of the staples have fallen out since they were first attached to the plate by an itinerant china mender over 150 years ago. At a much later date, metal wire was wrapped and clipped to the back of the plate to form a crude but effective hanging device.

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