Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans.
And to my friends in the UK…sorry about that.
In the small hamlet of Cummington, Massachusetts, home of the esteemed ceramics gallery Ferrin Contemporary, sits the Kingman Tavern Museum, a small historical museum overflowing with antiques of local interest, donated mainly by the town’s residents. The collection includes a full scale replica of an early 1900s country store, miniature rooms by artist Alice Steele, and vintage clothes, tools, and household items. Among them is a curious set of porcelain plates riddled with early staple repairs.
On a shelf sitting alongside a handful of innocuous-looking plates and tableware are two stacks of thick walled bowls and platters, each with pronounced staple repairs. The cobalt blue stylized rabbit pattern is unfamiliar to me but appears to be American, late 19th century, and perhaps restaurant china. No one associated with the museum seems to know anything about the set or how they got there. If anyone recognizes the pattern please let me know and help solve this mystery!
This is the one of the smallest antiques with inventive repair I have ever seen. Made in England by the Crown Staffordshire Porcelain Co. Ltd. in the early 1900s, the cup is a mere 3/4 inches high and the matching saucer has a diameter of just 1 inch. Both are decorated with pink flowers on a cobalt and gilt ground. The cup is stamped in green on the underside CROWN above the image of a crown. The same mark is barely visible on the underside of the saucer.
The smallest of the 3 metal staples on the cup measures a mind-boggling 1/8 of an inch long. After the staples were applied, they were painted over to blend in and appear less offensive. I can only imagine the precision and skill needed to make this delicate repair.
Here is an entire miniature tea service also made by Crown.
Photo courtesy of Pinterest
This cut crystal spirit decanter has panel cut shoulders, a single neck ring and a splayed top. It appears to be late Georgian, made in Ireland or England. It measures 8-1/2 inches high and is missing its mushroom form stopper.
Although it is not unusual to find cracked porcelain repairs with metal staples, glassware repaired in the same manner is less common. These metal staples made of thin wire repair a vertical crack on both sides, giving it the appearance of a laced corset.
This decanter with similar form has its original stopper but is without staple repairs. Guess which one I prefer?
Photo courtesy of 1stdibs
This early 1700s hexagonal porcelain plate was made in China during the Kangxi Period (1662-1722). It has an unglazed hexagonal rim and foot rim, with a cobalt blue underglaze garden design and floral border. It measures 9 inches in diameter.
After the plate took a tumble, it was put back together using three large metal staples, aka rivets, as well as an unusual pewter plug. Unlike the majority of the staple repairs I come across, the holes drilled to accommodate the staples go all the way through to the front, resulting in a nice dot pattern. With strong graphics appearing on the front and back of the plate, I deliberately display both sides.
This Chinese porcelain cup is decorated in cobalt blue with a Peerless Hero figure, stacked bottles and calligraphy taken from Wu Shuang Pu (Table of Peerless Heroes), a late 17th century book of woodcut prints by Jin Guliang. The cup measures 2-3/4 inches high, with an opening diameter of 3-1/2 inches.
After the cup broke in half, over 100 years ago, it was repaired with pairs of metal staples set in cement. Judging from the flattened lozenge-shaped staples made from repurposed wire, this repair was most likely done in the Middle East where itinerant china menders set up shop directly in the streets. But even with the doubled up staples and binding cement, more than a few staples have jumped ship, leaving just tiny empty holes as a reminder of its time in the china mender’s hands.
This cup is a mess! It’s a 2.5 inch high Chinese porcelain cup from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) with multi-color enamel decoration in the Mandarin style. Well over 150 years ago when it dropped and shattered into 12 pieces, it was most likely taken to an itinerant “dish mender” who carefully applied 15 metal staples to bring it back to life. A bit of plaster was used to fill in a few gaps left by lost fragments. Past owners really must have cherished this little mug, as it managed to survive many centuries looking like this. As my grandmother would have said, “Oy Vey!”
This cup, in much better condition than mine, shows what an intact example looks like.
Photo courtesy of eBay
This 18th century Milch Glass mug with hand painted polychrome hunting scene of a stage pursued by a dog was made in central Europe in the 18th century and measures 6-1/4″ high.
After this mug was dropped, breaking into two pieces, it was most likely taken to an itinerant china mender who repaired it using 16 metal staples of various sizes. It is more common to find ceramics repaired with staples or rivets, but skilled repairers drilled through glass as well.
“Bohemia was also renowned for ‘milch glass’ or milk glass, and tumblers, mugs, bottles and such things made of it were decorated with Watteau scenes and floral designs. The technique is often good, but the shapes are generally clumsy and the decoration insipid.” From The Glass Collector: A Guide to Old English Glass by MacIver Perciva, 1919.
Here’s another example of Milch Glass with similar form and decoration.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Dando
This thrice-repaired Chinese porcelain globular form teapot with Japanese influenced Imari decoration, is painted with a large chrysanthemum motif in underglaze blue, overglaze iron red and gilding, surrounded by stylized scrolling foliage. The bullet shape was inspired by European silver of the same period. It measures 4-1/2″ high and 7-1/2″ wide from handle to spout and dates to around 1720.
After the teapot was dropped over 200 years ago, resulting in a broken handle and spout, it was taken to a skilled silversmith who created this unusual silver zoomorphic replacement spout, added an engraved silver collar and used metal staples to repair the handle. In my opinion, the silver additions transform a perfectly nice teapot into a unique work of art.
This nearly identical teapot shows what the original spout on mine looked like before it took a tumble.
Photo courtesy of Moorabool Antiques