German faience pewter mounted jug, c.1790

January 8th, 2023

This baluster form earthenware faience covered jug with a pewter lid was made in Germany at the end of the 18th century. It has tin glaze floral decoration with blue, pink, and green enamels over a white ground and measures 8.25 inches high. 

Well over 150 years ago, the jug must have dropped, resulting in a broken handle and a large missing chunk along the rim. Luckily for me and all others who like early repairs, the broken vessel was brought to a metalsmith who created a stunted but functional pewter replacement handle, along with a lead patch to fill in the chip. Although most pieces like this are unsigned, the number 80 is written in pencil on the underside, as well as an incised scribble I can’t decipher.

This jug with similar form suggests what the original loop handle on my jug would have looked like.

Photo courtesy of eBay

Small mug with lattice & floral decoration, c.1780

December 4th, 2022

This small cylindrical porcelain mug is decorated with polychrome enamels in the Famille Rose palette with floral sprays and a lattice and scroll border at top and bottom. It was made in China for export during the latter part of the Qianlong period (1736–1795) and stands 4.25 inches high.

After the original handle broke off, it was most likely taken to a tinker who fashioned this sturdy metal replacement handle with 2 support straps. Judging by the numerous chips and cracks in the body, this little mug has survived quite a bit of abuse. I’m glad it wasn’t thrown away long ago for not being perfect.

This mug with similar form and decoration suggests what the handle on my intact mug might have looked like before it took a tumble.

Photo courtesy of Chairish

Sweetheart EAPG whale oil lamp, c.1850

November 27th, 2022

This EAPG (Early American Pattern Glass) flint glass oil lamp with the Sweetheart pattern was made in America at the Boston & Sandwich Glass Co., Boston, Massachusetts, in the mid 1800s. It stands 8.5 inches high.

As oil lamps were used daily throughout the house for centuries, it’s not surprising that they are one of the most common types of inventive repair. Since I started collecting make-do’s, I have come across a variety of clever repairs in wood, metal and glass. This lamp sports a straightforward 4 inch square wood replacement base with inlaid trim, most likely done at home. I have many unique glass oil lamps in my collection so please enter GLASS OIL LAMP in the search bar if you want to see more examples.

This intact example suggests what the original base on my lamp might have looked like before ol’ butterfingers let it slip.

Photo courtesy of eBay

Teddy bear with poignant repairs, c.1920

November 20th, 2022

What a sad bear! I can only imagine the unbearable indignities poor Teddy endured under the “care” of his previous owners. And yet with all of the damage, some of it literally worn on his sleeve, he has prevailed and now sits atop his own make-do high chair. 

I purchased the bear many years ago from an antiques dealer who had a large collection of antiques with inventive repairs, including toys – one of my favorite subcategories. Teddy, or perhaps Theodora(?), originally wore a faded pink cotton dress to help cover multiple battle scars. But now he can bare all and proudly show the many different mends done over the past 100 years. I particularly like the indigo blue with white polka dot patterned fabric patches on a paw and foot.

The doll high chair was found in Mark’s family home in Vermont and repaired by his grandfather when one of the front leg became damaged. T. Bear seems quite comfortable now, although still hanging by a thread in many places, and can finally relax knowing the abuse is over.

Black salt glazed teapot with metal handle, c.1830

November 13th, 2022

This black basalt (aka Egyptian black or shining black ) stoneware low form collared teapot was make in England in the early 1800s. It has elegant engine turned banding decoration and measures 3.5 inches high, 9.5 inches from handle to spout.

Early in its life, the original handle broke off and was replaced with a metal “tinker” replacement. I like how it has taken on a dark patina over the past 150+ years, nearly matching the dark glaze of the teapot. The lid also took a tumble at a later time and was glued back together, suggesting that the break/repair was done more recently. I wish staples/rivets were used to repair it but that’s a bit selfish of me, I know.

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

Photo courtesy of Ebay

Inventive repairs at the V&A Museum

November 6th, 2022

This past weekend I was in London and once again found myself on the 4th floor of the Victoria & Albert Museum gawking at their stunning, and seemingly endless, collection of world-class ceramics. During each visit I find more examples of inventive repairs hiding in plain sight. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Ceramics at the Hungarian National Museum

October 23rd, 2022

I recently arrived in Budapest, Hungary, where I will be based for the next 6 months to work on a new Netflix series. Having a hunch that I would find many a make-do in Budapest, I hightailed it to the Hungarian National Museum and found some wonderful repaired examples hiding in plain sight among their “perfect” peers. Here are some of my favorites.

Blueberry picking and inventive repairs

July 31st, 2022

Every July I look forward to picking wild blueberries at our farm in Upstate New York and showcase the bounty in various pieces from my collection of make-do’s. Pictured first is one from this weekend, followed by examples from summers past. For more information, click on each of these previous posts: Nanking reticulated basket, c.1750, “King’s Rose” pearlware bowl, c.1850, Chinese footed dish with fort scene, c.1840, and Pierced creamware fruit basket stand, c.1790.

Tiny cream jug with EHFDR handle, c.1830

July 24th, 2022

This minuscule pearlware pottery Dutch shape cream jug was made in the UK in the first half of the 1800s. It is hand decorated with brown sprigs on a tan ground and stands just 2 inches high. Due to its small size, I believe it to be part of a child’s tea set.

Many years ago, I imagine an eager child poured the pretend cream too aggressively, resulting in a broken handle. Amazingly the broken jug wasn’t discarded, and instead was resurrected nearly 100 years later, thanks to snapping on an Emergency Handle for Domestic Receptacles (EHFDR.) I have more of these nifty do-it-yourself replacement handles, patented in the early 1920s, in my collection and have long admired this unique, though not quite successful, invention: Copper & pink luster child’s mug, c.1820, Mini Sunderland jug with EHFDR, c.1850. I am excited to report that Emergency Handle for Domestic Receptacles, c.1922 was acquired by the V&A and is now in their permanent ceramics collection.

This large jug with similar form suggests what the original handle on my tiny jug might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Glass candle holder with metal mystery base, c.1880

July 17th, 2022

This poor pressed clear glass candle holder barely survived whatever mishap it befell over 125 years ago. Only about half of it remains, and thanks to a crafty tinker, it now stands 11 inches high in its make-do replacement base. And what a strange base it is! The 3.5 inch square weighted base, has a post on one end, not centered, and is missing metal pieces at the top. Perhaps this base was actually made for something else, and the broken candle holder was added. If anyone out there can shed any (candle)light onto this subject, please let me know. I’d love to solve this mystery.

This candle holder with similar form to mine suggests what the original base might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of eBay