Thanksgiving dinner with stapled Canton platters

December 2nd, 2019

This past Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving in Massachusetts with Mark’s family. The table was beautifully set with 18th century blue & white Chinese porcelain and decorated with small orange gourds and bright red berries, a lovely contrast to the deep cobalt glaze.

After the meal, I was delighted to discover that the turkey was served on two large platters, each with multiple early staple repairs. These platters, along with much of the tableware, were used by Aunt Carol’s family for generations. Most impressive was that after over 250 years of use, the repairs remain watertight. Nothing makes me happier than to see antiques with inventive repairs still in use today!

Child’s Whieldon style teapot, c.1755

November 24th, 2019

They say big things come in small packages and this tiny Staffordshire creamware teapot with double make-do repairs is no exception. It was given to me last year by my friends Abe and Frank, who like me, share a love of 19th and 18th century antiques. I was surprised that they were able to part with it but I’m certainly glad they did.

This teapot was made in England in the mid-1800s and measure 2.75 inches high, 5.25 inches from handle to spout. It is decorated in the style of Thomas Whieldon, with a sponged pattern in dark brown, green and yellow underglaze. It was most likely part of a larger child’s tea set, which might have included a coffee pot, creamer, sugar, cups, saucers, and plates.

It is not surprising that fragile playthings for children ended up broken. I mean, what would you expect? Although this survivor is chipped and minus its lid, it’s a miracle that it is still around after over 260 years. I especially love the double make-do repairs, as a metal replacement handle with support bands and tin spout were added after the original ones broke off.

The original handle, spout, and lid on my little gem most likely resembled those on this miniature teapot of similar form and decoration.

Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane

Westerwald jug with pewter bands, c.1800

November 3rd, 2019

This Westerwald stoneware pottery jug with pewter mounts was made in Germany, c.1800. It is decorated in an ornate scroll-like relief pattern with cobalt and manganese glazes. The pewter bands around the neck are a later addition to help stabilize multiple cracks, and the original pewter top has the engraved initials of H. R. It stands 13.5 inches high, 5.5 inches wide.

I would love to find out more information on this striking jug so please post any insights you may have.

I’ve had trouble finding an accurate “before” photo so instead I’ve included a wonderful German oil painting c.1675, featuring an early stoneware jug, similar in style to mine. Now, if only it had an early inventive repair…

On the hunt for inventive repairs at The Art Institute of Chicago

October 13th, 2019

I am currently working in Chicago, IL on the Aaron Sorkin movie The Trial of the Chicago 7. The last time I was here was in December 1984 (I was an infant) working on a new production of A Christmas Carol for the Goodman Theatre. My most vivid memories from then were how cold it was outside and how much I enjoyed the Art Institute of Chicago. Eager to return to the museum, I spent a good part of yesterday taking in as much as I could. Naturally, I was on the hunt for anything with an inventive repair, and found a few choice examples.

Goblet (Pokal). Germany, c.1660. A silver disc was used to secure a broken stem.

Container Depicting Warriors, Rulers, and Winged Beings with Trophy Heads. Peru, c.180 B.C./A.D. 500. Before this enormous container was more recently restored, I imagine animal sinew was laced through the large holes, hundreds (thousands?) of years ago.

Bencharong (Five-Colored) Ware Covered Jar. Thailand, c.1850. Look closely for a braided rattan band securing a large crack. I have never seen this method used before and am eager to find more examples.

Although the Chinese export porcelain depicted in this painting by Raphaelle Peale, c.1822, appear to be intact, I’d like to think that when the artist dismantled the still life tableau, all of the fragile pieces fell to the ground and had to be stapled back together. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Chinese export tea bowl with staples, c.1770

September 29th, 2019

This porcelain tea bowl was made in China, c.1765-1775, during the Qianlong Period. It measures 1.75 inches high, with a 3 inch diameter opening and is decorated in the Mandarin palette, with polychrome enamels featuring a couple on a terrace. 

After the fragile bowl dropped and broke into 3 pieces, it was repaired most likely by an itinerant “China Mender” using 3 small metal staples, aka rivets. Unlike most examples where the rivet holes penetrate the surface about half way, these holes have been drilled all the way through.

I bought this, along with a mismatched saucer, from one of my favorite shops in London and was told by the owner “… we bought this little saucer yesterday with a lovely metal ‘plate’ tinker repair and supporting bar, the bar is etched with little line decoration, I don’t think I have ever seen a repair like this before, it does come with a bog standard riveted tea bowl, we would split them but the bloke we bought them from told me they had been together on his mother’s mantlepiece for at least 70 years, and I am a bit sentimental like that.”

The last photo shows the tea bowl along with the saucer, which I posted earlier.

Antiques Roadshow, May 2010

September 15th, 2019

I’ve been watching the Antiques Roadshow since it first aired in 1997, hoping to spot anything with an inventive repair. I finally got my wish in May 2010 with a Native American Tlingit ladle made of mountain sheep horn, c.1800.

The ladle was appraised for $75,000 in 2010 and I imagine it has appreciated in value over the past 9 years.

APRAISER: These would have been considered family heirlooms of the Tlingit people. That’s obviously not the shape of an original horn.
GUEST: Yeah, I wondered, is it carved out?
APPRAISER: Boiled until the horn fabric is soft and malleable, and then pressed into a mold, tied down and left to dry, and then it retains that shape. Right in the middle, there are little cracks and what we might call staples.
GUEST: Uh-huh.
APPRAISER: Although the material is not metallic, it’s baleen, from a whale’s mouth.
GUEST: Wow.
APPRAISER: So where it began to split, we see a Native repair.
GUEST: That’s cool.

Images courtesy of Antiques Roadshow

George Washington commemorative jug, c.1800

September 7th, 2019

This large creamware jug was made for the US market, most likely in the Liverpool area of London, c.1800. It stands 9 inches high and is decorated with transfer decoration commemorating George Washington and includes an eagle, American flags, and other patriotic symbols.

Over 200 years ago, someone must have slammed the pottery jug down on the bar a bit too harshly and cracked the bottom. Luckily for me, a skilled tinsmith fashioned a unique patch attached to a band at the base, which helped bring the broken vessel back to life. I hope that if George Washington were alive today, he would be approve of the inventive repair done on his jug.

This jug, identical in form and decoration, shows what mine would have looked like when it was intact.

Photo courtesy of Martyn Edgell Antiques

Happy Labor Day 2019!

September 2nd, 2019

Happy Labor Day to all of the unsung heroes of inventive repair throughout the world!

Inventive repairs at The Corning Museum of Glass

August 18th, 2019

I never know what I’ll stumble upon when I step into a museum for the first time. I certainly had no idea I would find so many fine examples of incredible glassware with early repairs on view at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of glass. Although some of the descriptions made mention of the repairs, most did not, so I am pleased to bring these unsung heroes to the forefront.

Here are some highlights I found in the 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries and the Study Gallery. This was such an overwhelming feast for the eyes that I look forward to going back seeing some of my favorites pieces again. I will post more examples at a later date.

Mocha ware mug with marbled decoration, c.1800

August 11th, 2019

This unusual mocha ware mug with slip marbled decoration against a banded background of brown and yellow slip is the 4th piece I bought at auction from the collection of Jonathan Rickard, renowned mocha ware expert and author of Mocha and Related Dipped Wares, 1770-1939. Says Jonathan: “The very rough mug that defies categorization was found at the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show…about three years ago.” It stands 5 inches high and was made in England, c.1800.

It was not unusual for damaged mugs such as this to be resurrected by local tinsmiths. This one boasts a simple metal replacement handle and two horizontal bands. Thank you Jonathan for your devotion, thorough research, and love of all things mocha.