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.

Chinese export saucer with metal cuff, c.1770

July 28th, 2019

This attractive porcelain saucer was made in China, c.1765-1775, during the Qianlong Period. It measures 1.25 inches high, 4.75 inches diameter and is decorated in the Mandarin palette with polychrome enamels, featuring a vignette of 5 figures on a terrace and birds along the border.

The saucer must have chipped rather badly, as a large metal cuff with a 2 inch decorated flattened metal staple covers a damaged area beneath. This unusual repair appears to have been crafted by a tinker, sometime in the 19th century.

I bought this, along with a mismatched tea bowl, 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, which I will post at a later date.

Dog days of summer

July 21st, 2019

As I type, the temperature has reached a scorching 94° F / 34° C , and heading upward of 97° F / 36° C. Rather than go out in the heat, I have decide to stay inside my nicely air conditioned apartment and share with you some canines with inventive repairs representing the dog days of summer.

To see the original posts, please click on each title. Enjoy! Now, stay inside and eat a popsicle.

Cold painted cast lead dog figure, c.1930

King Charles spaniel jug, c.1865

Bohemian milch glass mug, c.1750

Toy dog with replaced coat, c.1920

Welch jug with metal handle, c.1850

“Boy on a Buffalo” teapot, c. 1755

July 14th, 2019

This porcelain Dr. Wall (or First Period) Worcester compressed globular form teapot was made in England, circa 1755-56. One side has pencilled (painted with fine brush) decoration in black of the “Boy on a Buffalo,” the reverse has a different scene, and the spout is decorated with a sprig of flowers. Teapot measures 4.5 inches high to top of lid, 6.5 inches wide from handle to spout.

After the lid went missing and the spout broke, it was taken to a silversmith, who fashioned an elegant hinged lid and a well made collar to extend the truncated spout. Although it would have been an added bonus if the teapot possessed hallmarks of the silversmith who did the fine repairs, I am thrilled to own this rare teapot, nonetheless, and share it with you.

This example shows what the original cover and spout looked like before the teapot took a tumble.

Photo courtesy of Invaluable