Ferrin Contemporary at MASS MoCA

February 17th, 2019

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the current exhibit at Ferrin Contemporary, located at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA. Leslie Ferrin has her finger on the pulse of what’s hot in contemporary ceramics and has cultivated a veritable “who’s who” of the best ceramic artists from around the globe.

The exhibit features ceramics by Paul Scott, a Ferrin favorite, who puts a contemporary twist on antique blue & white transferware plates and platters. Many pieces are refired, embellished, cut, reassembled and repaired with gold, utilizing the ancient kintsugi (“golden joinery”) technique.

Elizabeth Alexander is new to me but I am already a huge fan of her work, which includes deconstructed white teacups and saucers from her Heirloom collection. I especially love the grey shadows created by the negative spaces of the pierced tableware.

I am including new work by alliterative potter Peter Pincus, inspired by Josiah Wedgwood’s classic 18th century basalt pottery. None of his pieces are broken or repaired, but I am showing them here just because I love his ceramics!

Royal Crown Derby footed dish, c.1905

February 10th, 2019

This porcelain serving dish was made in England by Royal Crown Derby in 1905. It is hand painted in the Imari palette of cobalt blue, iron red, and gilt. On the underside is a red printed mark ROYAL CROWN DERBY, ENGLAND with cypher and an incised mark DERBY, 7-04, dating it to 1905. It measures 10 inches by 7 inches and is 1.75 inches high.

Although two painted metal staples on top of one of the handles hint at what is hiding below deck, it isn’t until this pretty dish is flipped over that things gets more interesting. After this dish fell to the floor and shattered into 9 pieces, it was taken to a china mender, who made it whole again by drilling 68 tiny holes and adding 34 metal staples. Typically china menders charged per staple, so this repair job must have cost the owner a pretty penny.

Engraved goblet with Mining Scenes, c.1690

January 31st, 2019

This superbly engraved blown wine glass was made in Nuremberg, Germany, c.1680-1700. It stands 10.5 inches high. The large bowl features finely engraved scenes of open-pit mining and a large coat of arms, believed to belong to one of the Counts of Mansfeld. The delicate stem is made up of a series of hollow knobs and rings and amazingly, has remained intact after knocking around for over 330 years. 

The foot was not so lucky. As would be expected of a large, fragile glass object such as this, the original glass foot broke off hundreds of years ago, and was fitted with an elegant hand hammered silver replacement. It is engraved with the name “Mansfeld”, the date “1530”, and in a tiny font “A.E. 12”. As Mansfeld, Germany was the center of silver mining for over 800 years, this magnificent goblet was most likely made by one of the Mansfeld families as a commemorative piece. 

As with almost everything from my collection, we will never know for sure how the piece broke, who repaired it, and what happened to it after it was reborn. I’m just glad that so many of them ended up in my collection and that I can share them with you.

This goblet from the same period shows what the original glass base on mine might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of Scottish Antiques

Porcelain plate with peaches & flowers, c.1880

January 20th, 2019

There is nothing terribly exciting or special about this small plate, but the rustic repair is impressive. It was made in China in the late 1800s to early 1900s and is decorated with hand painted peaches and lotus flowers in the Famille Rose palette. It measures nearly 7 inches in diameter and has a squiggle signature on the underside.

The 10 small iron bits, 5 on each side of the plate, are clearly visible and add an interesting graphic element. Again, not a particularly rare plate, but these unusual repairs elevate it to another level.

Felspatic stoneware jug, c.1820

January 11th, 2019

This Dutch shape stoneware jug with a moulded fox hunting scene was made in Staffordshire, England, perhaps by Chetham and Woolley. It dates from 1810 to 1830. The top portion is glazed in cobalt blue and the lower portion is unglazed. It measures 3.5 inches high and is unmarked. I particularly like the molded screws on the handle.

After the spout became badly chipped or broke off entirely, the jug was taken to a silversmith, who created a silver replacement spout. Though a bit squatter than the original most likely was, it is well made and more importantly, allowed the jug to function once again.

This jug of similar form shows what the original spout on my jug might have looked liked.

Photo courtesy of Paul Bohanna Antiques

Porcelain cup with metal handle, c.1800

January 6th, 2019

Last weekend I was traveling back from Southeast Asia and didn’t get the chance to wish you all a Happy New Year. The image on this charming cup seems to be an appropriate way to welcome 2019, so Happy New Year…one week later!

This porcelain Bute shape cup has hand painted decoration en grisaille (shades of gray) of a young boy tooting a horn. It has gilt bands around the rim and base. Cup measures 2.25 inches high, with an opening diameter of 3 inches.

Much like a 1980s mullet – though a lot more attractive – this cup is business in front, party in the back. The bronze handle, which replaced the original broken one over 100 years ago, is unseen from the front but clearly visible from the side and back. The underside has a cobalt blue mark, suggesting the cup is Continental or English. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

Yixing teapot with rabbit finial, c.1750

December 16th, 2018

This unusual quadrangular form, brown stoneware Yixing teapot was made in China in the middle of the 18th century. It has a rabbit finial and measures approximately 5 inches high and 7 inches from handle to spout.

At some point in its early life, the original loop handle broke off and was replaced by an expertly made carved wood replacement. I am not sure if the silver spout was added at the same time as the handle, but it is also an early replacement, most likely done by a fine jeweler or silversmith.

I particularly like the rabbit finial, which has a missing foot. When I was young I was given a rabbit’s foot key chain. I was quite fond of it until I realized, much to my horror, that it was an actual rabbit’s foot! I do hope this little guy’s foot didn’t end up dangling from the end of a tiny keychain.

On the streets of New York

December 9th, 2018

I just returned home to NYC, after a 10 month gig in Pittsburgh, to be greeted by the make-do desk left out on the street. Didn’t realize how much I missed little old New York! And no, I did not take it home.

Make-Don’t, Fake-Do, or the real deal?

November 25th, 2018

Every so often I find a piece that stumps me, stopping me dead in my tracks. This is one such example.

I purchased this 6.5 inch high robin’s egg blue satin glass goblet at an antiques shop in Southern Vermont where I have found other interesting antiques with inventive repairs. At first glance, I believed it to have an at-home wood replacement base repair, similar to dozens of others I own. Upon closer inspection, I am not so sure.

Although I have a few examples of finely turned wood bases, this one seems too slick and intentional to be a replacement. The glass itself is in perfect condition, with no indication of its base having been snapped off.


After a bit of research, I believe the goblet to be a reproduction of French Portieux Vallerysthal glass, c.1900. Why it has a wood base is a mystery, but if anyone has any information, I would love to hear from you.

These goblets have their original bases.

portieux goblet

Photo courtesy of eBay

Delft teapot with metal handle, c.1720

October 14th, 2018

This Dutch (or perhaps English?) globular form tin-glazed earthenware teapot, dates to around 1720. It is decorated with hand painted flowers and birds in glazes of blue, red, and green on a white ground and measures 5 inches high and 7.25 inches wide from handle to spout.

Over 150 years ago, its original loop handle was replaced with a slightly more elaborate metal replacement handle with thumb rest. More recently, red string was added to keep the handle and lid from going their separate ways.

This teapot of similar form and decoration suggests what the original handle on mine might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Museum