Basalt teapot with Sibyl knob, c.1785

February 9th, 2020

This classical black basalt pottery teapot with engine-turned ribbed body was made in England, c.1785-95. It stands 4.5 inches high, 8 inches wide from handle to spout. An impressed mark “NEALE & CO” can be found on the underside. My favorite design feature is the Sibyl knop on the lid, an intricately detailed sculptural feat unto itself.

After the original spout broke off – most likely over 175 years ago – a silversmith applied a silver replacement. I tend to keep replacement metals unpolished, as I feel the oxidization adds another layer of beauty to the piece. In this case, the dark richness of the silver spout blends in nicely with the teapots black surface.

This intact teapot with similar form suggests what the original spout on my teapot might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of 1stdibs

More inventive repairs at Corning Museum of Glass

February 2nd, 2020

Here are some more examples of antiques with inventive repairs hiding in plain sight throughout the 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY. Please check out my previous post from August 18, 2019, Inventive repairs at The Corning Museum of Glass, which includes many more photos of impressive early glass repairs.

Dixon & Sons jug with authentication letter, c.1842

January 26th, 2020

Here’s a curious one. I bought this English earthenware pottery jug online many years ago and was pleased to discover that it came with an interesting provenance. It stands 10.5 inch high and is decorated in yellow with Chinoiserie cartouche decorations and floral sprays, over glazed with color washes and gilt trim. It has a Britannia metal lid and a bronze replacement handle, as the original one broke off well over 100 years ago. It is clearly marked on the underside: “PUBLISHED BY JA’S. DIXON & SONS, SHEFFIELD, MARCH 1ST 1842”.

I found a letter rolled up inside of the jug from the manufacturer James Dixon & Sons dated 6th July, 1962, along with a sketch. Here is a transcription of the letter:

“Dear Sir,

We readily identify the earthenware Water Jug from your sketch.

Our records show this and similar jugs were being made and sold by us from 1842 onwards. You could assume the date for yours to be in or near that year.

We have in our possession a Jug as yours.

It is not possible to replace the original handle which was part of the jug. Rough sketch of the handle is enclosed.

These earthenware jugs were specially made for using the Staffordshire Potteries and nowadays they are not obtainable. We fitted the covers which were made from Britannia Metal.

You do not say where you obtained your jug, probably from a second-hand source; on the other hand it may have been in the U.S.A. We did in the past years export them to your country. They are today museum pieces.

We trust we have been of service,

Yours faithfully,

James Dixon & Sons, LTD.”

This identical jug shows what the original handle looked like.

Photo courtesy of Worthpoint

Bohemian glass pokal, c.1851

January 19th, 2020

I bought this striking alabaster glass pokal with sterling silver overlay from a dealer a few years ago and have loved looking at it ever since. It was made in Bohemia, today the Czech Republic, in the middle of the 19th century and stands 16 inches high. Etched on the lid is “Andenken von (Souvenir of) G.W. 1851”. If anyone knows what G.W. stands for, please let me know.

Over 150 years ago, a well constructed pewter replacement base was added by a skilled metalsmith after the original glass base broke off. The muted pewter tones compliment the tarnished silver decoration on the pokal. 

Make-Do’s at the movies

December 29th, 2019

As I work in the film industry as a set decorator, it’s nearly impossible for me not to scrutinize the decor when watching a movie or television series. Although it is fun to see what other decorators have done to help establish the characters, it has become a bit of a curse, as on occasion it distracts me from following the plot. As my eye wanders away from the actors and on to the set dressing seen in the background, I have spotted some interesting inventive repairs along the way.

Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker, 2019. Kintsugi helmet.

This past week I saw the latest Star Wars movie and immediately noticed a kintsugi helmet worn by Adam Driver as villain Kylo Ren. Jen Glennon writes in Inverse: “The Rise of Skywalker is finally here, bringing with it the return of Kylo Ren’s nouveau-Vader helmet, shattered during a Last Jedi tantrum. In the months leading up to the release of Episode IX, keen-eyed fans compared the visible red cracks on Kylo’s helmet to the Japanese practice of kintsugi, or mending broken objects with visible seams of gold or silver, transforming a break into a unique design element.” So glad to know that kintsugi has made its way into one of the world’s most popular movie franchises and is being seen by millions of people.


Mary Poppins Returns, 2018. Cracked Royal Doulton bowl.

After the Banks children accidentally break their mother’s beloved Royal Doulton bowl, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) takes the childern and the broken pieces to her cousin Topsy Turvey (Meryl Streep), a “woman who can fix anything,” to repair the damaged heirloom. Naturally, an elaborate song and dance involving broken antiques ensues.


The Crown, 2016. Mug with early replacement handle

During the first season of the sumptuous series The Crown, I spied with my little eye a Chinese porcelain covered mug with early metal replacement handle in Winston Churchill’s yellow-walled sitting room. The room is filled with many other pieces of antique ceramics, paintings and fine furniture. I wonder if Churchill actually owned antiques with inventive repairs or if the set decorator, Alison Harvey, added it in to help comment on the character.


The Piano, 1993. Make-do finger.

*Spoiler alert! This fantastic make-do hand prop (literally) is integral to the plot of Jane Campion’s masterful movie starring Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath. The polished silver steampunk appendage, seen at the end of the movie, allows Ada to play her beloved piano once again.

Happy Holidays!

December 22nd, 2019

Wishing you a SMASHING Holiday Season!

Flynt Center, Historic Deerfield, MA

December 15th, 2019

Last August I stopped by Historic Deerfield, a beautifully preserved Colonial Village in Northern Massachusetts, and found many a make-do scattered throughout a collection of ceramics and glassware on display at the Flynt Center of Early New England Life.

Here are some of my favorite pieces:

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…