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.

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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

Early iron metal repairs

September 23rd, 2018

Early repairs can pop in unexpected places. For example, last May I went to visit my mother who lives in a small town in the Berkshires. Near her house is the Barnard Cemetery, with grave markers dating back to the middle 1700s, where I came across rusty iron braces holding together broken tombstones. I have seen similar early repairs on stone steps in Florence, Italy, so keep your eyes open for other repairs such as these throughout the world.

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Copper lustre jug with badminton decoration, c.1830

September 9th, 2018

This English copper lustre jug with canary yellow and painted over transfer decoration of a woman and child playing badminton, dates from around 1830 and stands 5.75 inches high. It is not uncommon and I have seen dozens of examples of it in various sizes, all priced affordably.

What sets this particular jug apart from the other “perfect” examples are the inventive repairs. Unable to glue the original broken handle back on, a metalsmith in the 1800s fashioned an ornate replacement and used 2 metal staples to stabilize cracks. I find the metal handle quite pleasing, and am not at all bothered but the metal staples, which can be viewed as badminton birdies flying away.

This is what the jug looks like with its original handle intact.

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Photo courtesy of Martyn Edgell Antiques

Ceramics as seen in Crazy Rich Asians

August 26th, 2018

Last summer you may recall I spent 3 months in Malaysia and Singapore working as the set decorator on a movie called Crazy Rich Asians. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that our little movie would end up breaking box office records and become an overnight smash hit! I am thrilled with how the movie turned out and am happy to report that none of my favorite scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

Combining my 2 passions, I try to incorporate ceramics as much as possible into my set decoration. Here are some examples of how I used ceramics to help bring the characters in Crazy Rich Asians to life, including some new make-do’s.

If you haven’t already seen Crazy Rich Asians, please go and enjoy! Be sure to look closely for these and other ceramics I’ve sprinkled throughout the movie.

Rose Medallion coffee pot, c.1890

August 12th, 2018

This bulbous form porcelain coffee pot was made in China during the Qing dynasty, circa 1850-1890. It is decorated with figures, birds, butterflies and flowers in the Rose Medallion palette, including green, pink, yellow, blue, black and gold enamels. It measures 7.25 inches high and 8 inches wide from handle to spout.

At first glance you may wonder why this seemingly “perfect” pot has made its way into my collection. But look closely and you will find a couple of large cracks on the the sides, held tightly together with the aid of 3 large metal grooved staples. It is neither exceptional nor rare, but I like it because it has kept its dignity intact after surviving a tumble well over 100 years ago.

Here’s a similar coffee pot, along with a matching sugar bowl and creamer.

Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane

Miniature Westerwald stoneware jug with silver handle, c.1750

July 29th, 2018

This tiny hand-thrown, salt glazed, baluster form stoneware jug with cobalt decoration was a mystery to me when I purchased it two years ago. I found it in Hawaii, of all places, and the dealer knew nothing about it. The unusual silver replacement handle with a hand hammered band, and what appears to be a coiled snake at the base, threw me off. These details gave off a 70s vibe – more 1970s than 1770s. After a bit of research I discovered I had a miniature Westerwald jug, made in Germany around 1750 and possibly earlier. It stands just 3.5 inches high.

Not all miniatures were made for children to play with. Some were made by potters as souvenirs, while others were made possibly as salesmen samples. As with most pieces from my collection, we will never know how the original handle broke off. But it appears that the original owner must have truly treasured this tiny tank, as it was brought to a silversmith who fashioned a splendid silver replacement handle. Thank you to the unknown artist who transformed a broken jug into a unique conversation piece that has lasted over 250 years…and counting.

This miniature jug, with similar form and decoration, shows what the original handle on my jug might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of ebay

Mocha ware mug with marbled and combed slip, c.1780

July 15th, 2018

This wonderfully graphic mug was made in England in the late 1700s. It is decorated with marbled and combed slip in shades of brown, tan, and cream, reminiscent of French marbled paper. It stands 5 inches high and has an opening diameter of 3.25 inches. The metal replacement handle, most likely made by an itinerant metalsmith in the 19th century, has developed a warm patina over the past 150+ years, which compliments the decoration nicely.

I purchased this mug at auction, along with a few other pieces, which were originally in the collection of Jonathan Rickard, renowned mocha ware expert and author of Mocha and Related Dipped Wares, 1770-1939. He says of this mug “The marbled & combed mug came from a British dealer and it originated around 1775-1782 based on wastes from the William Greatbatch excavation.” Thank you Jonathan for your devotion, thorough research, and love of all things mocha.

This mug, with similar form and decoration, suggest what the original handle on mine might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of Skinner