Coffee pot with metal lid, c.1810

April 21st, 2019

This pearlware pottery baluster form reeded coffee pot was made in England in the early 1800s. It is decorated with delicate flowers and ribbons in shades of pink, green, and orange and stands 9.5 inches high. The underside is marked with a tiny orange leaf.

At some point in its early life, the original lid broke or went missing and the base cracked. Fear not, as a tinker made a tin replacement lid with a brass knob and attached a tin band around the base to repair the crack. Want another cup of coffee? Yes, can do!

This coffee pot with similar form and decoration, shows that the original lid on mine would have looked like.

Photo courtesy of Etsy

Gugelhupf cake mold with wire net, c.1830

April 14th, 2019

I have seen hundreds of tinker-repaired metal replacement handles, spouts, and lids on antique ceramic teapots, jugs, cups, and sugar bowls throughout North America and the UK. What is harder find are cracked items with woven wire repairs, which I have come across in Italy, France, Germany and Eastern Europe. The most famous region for wire repairs is Slovakia, where tinkers still repair broken vessels and embellish new ceramics in the same manner as it was originally done, hundreds of years ago.

This heavy hafner earthenware gugelhupf cake mold was made in Germany during the Biedermeier period (1815-1848.) It measures 10.5 inches in diameter and is 4.25 inches high. The woven wire encases the mold like a net, keeping the broken pieces in place. Although this type of repair is certainly not invisible, I feel the additional layer of what appears to be a fish net adds much to the visual appeal of the piece.

Wire repair in Slovakia dates back hundreds of years…

…and is still being done there today.

Chinese Imari cup with dated silver rim, c.1720

April 7th, 2019

This porcelain cup was made in China during the latter part of the Kangxi period (1662-1722) and measures 3.25 inches high. It is decorated with flowers and leaves in the Chinese Imari style and with a palette of blue, iron red, and faint traces of gilt highlights.

At some point in the middle of the 1700s, the cup broke and was brought to a silversmith, who not only rejoined the 2 broken halves using 3 metal staples, but also added a thick silver rim with scalloped bottom edge. The rim is inscribed: “In Remembrance of a Friend,” along with a date “Jan 8, 1766” and monogram “JM.” Sadly the silversmith did not leave his hallmark, but I am thrilled he added the date. Now, if only we knew who JM and his friend were…

This example shows that my cup may have had a matching top.

Photo courtesy of Bidspirit

Inventive repairs at the Grand Palace, Bangkok

March 31st, 2019

This past December, Mark and I took a trip to Bangkok, Cambodia, and Laos, in search of regional culture and delicious food, but not necessarily in that order. While walking the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, I stumbled upon several large ceramic planters, each with large metal staple repairs and banding wires. I imagine only I, and the fine readers of this blog, would have noticed these make-do’s hiding in plain sight.

Sir William Nicholson still life painting with broken jug

March 24th, 2019

Odd, but I keep coming across the same pottery jug, each with a different replacement handle. It’s just one of those things. There must have been a design flaw in the manufacturing of the handles, rendering them too delicate to support the jugs once they were filled with liquid. I feel bad for the unsuspecting original owners, but am selfishly glad that there are so many examples out there with inventively repaired replacement handles.

This jug was made in England, circa 1850, and stands 6.5 inches high. It is decorated with pink lustre and polychrome enamels and has a stag and spotted hound in relief, along with an impressed mark EPSOM CUP, on one side, and a pair of stags on the reverse.

I was delighted to come across this image of an oil painting: Cyclamen, by Sir William Nicholson, 1937, which features the same Emsom Cup jug with a missing handle. I wonder if he ever had the handle replaced and if so, I hope to find it and add it to my collection.

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And finally, here’s a jug with its original sprig-form handle, showing what my jug looked like before the handle snapped off.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Click here to see an earlier posting featuring a pair of Epsom Cup jugs with metal replacement handles.

Rescue me, Marie Kondo!

March 17th, 2019

Today I take you behind the scenes and into my office/research center/storage room, where the bulk of my collection of nearly 600 examples of antiques with inventive repairs is kept. As you can see, the shelves are filled to the rafters. Mind you, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Fearful of the direction I seem to be heading in, I took an online test, Hoarding Symptoms Test for Adults, and thankfully discovered that I am not in danger of becoming a hoarder. At least for now.

Pin cushion, c.1900

March 10th, 2019

For years I have resisted buying a single make-do pin cushion, the most prolific of all repairs. I am not a fan and think of them as the “Hummel figurine” of the inventive repair world. I will admit that on a couple of occasions, during moments of temporary insanity, I came close to buying one for my collection. But last year at an antiques shop in Pittsburgh, I caved in and bought this sad little example.

At home repairs like this are the most common type of make-do, with endless variations made from broken household items, including oil lamps, goblets, and candlesticks. This one was most likely made in America during the late Victorian era and stands 4.5 inches high. The base is made from a broken cut glass decanter stopper and the top is made from a ball of fabric covered in colorful wool yarn. I will try hard not to succumb the next time I encounter another one of these.

This collection of make-do pin cushions, each with a different glass base, have yarn tops similar to mine.

Photo courtesy of Live Auctioneers

Rose Medallion teapot with unusual wood handle, c.1840

March 3rd, 2019

I purchased this porcelain drum form teapot a few years ago from a dealer who found it at a flea market in Brussels. It was made in China for export, most likely to North America or Europe, between 1830 and 1850. The classic Rose Medallion decoration includes 4 panels of people, birds, and flowers, painted in the famille rose palette of green, pink, blue, yellow, black, and gilt. It measures 5.5 inches high and 9.25 inches wide from handle to spout.

What makes this striking teapot stand out in a crowd are the unusual repairs. To replace the broken cross strapped handle, a hand carved wood replacement with removable brass straps was created, along with a papier mache replacement lid, cleverly incorporating the original pomegranate shaped knob and painted to match the broken original. Quite the curiosity piece, wouldn’t you say?! I have not seen repairs such as these before and can only wonder where this type of work was done. It does not appear to be North American, European, or Continental, so my feeling is that it was done in Asia or the Middle East. If anyone knows more about this type of repair, please let me know.

This similar teapot maintains its original handle and lid

Photo courtesy of WorthPoint

Masonic Sunderland lustre jug, c.1845

February 24th, 2019

This Dutch-form pottery jug was made in Sunderland, England, between 1830 and 1860. It is decorated with pink lustre and 3 large black transfer panels depicting King Solomon’s Temple, Masonic symbols, tools and verses. Jug measures 9 inches high and 10 inches wide from the end of the handle to the tip of the spout.

I am a big fan of Masonic imagery on antique pottery, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to find this large jug sporting an unusual repurposed handle. Well over 100 years ago after the original loop handle broke off, a clever tinker attached an ornate handle repurposed from a damaged (I can only assume) metal coffee pot. This is the truest form of a making do: creating one functional piece from 2 unusable broken ones. When you compare my unique jug to the “perfect” example seen in the last photo, it’s clear to see why I gravitate toward the quirky over the expected. There is indeed beauty in imperfection.

This jug, with similar form and decoration, shows what the original handle on mine would have looked like before it broke off.

Photo courtesy of Maine Antique Digest

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!