Archive for May, 2010

Wedgwood drabware teapot, c.1830

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Egyptian-shaped jasperware teapot with “drab” colored body and white relief overlay decoration of grapes and vines, made in England by Wedgwood in the first quarter of the 19th century. Josiah Wedgwood founded the British pottery firm in 1795 and it has grown to become one of the most famous names associated with pottery.

Teapot measures 4-3/4″ high and is 10″ wide.

The replaced lid and spout tip with engraved grape leaf & vine decoration are so elaborate and well executed that I initially thought they were original to the teapot. The silver plated knob is in the spirit of the original.

Stamped “WEDGWOOD” with incised mark on the underside.

This child’s tea set includes a teapot with a miniature version of my larger teapot, showing its original lid and spout.

Photo courtesy of WorthPoint

German doll head pen wiper, c.1900

Monday, May 17th, 2010

What do you do when a bisque doll’s body breaks? Naturally you turn the unbroken doll head in to a pen wiper! At least that is exactly what someone did in the early 1900’s to recycle a broken toy.

Unmarked German bisque doll head with a human hair wig, stationary glass eyes, painted lashes, eyebrows & mouth

Home made pen wipers were common household items and were used to remove excess ink from dip pens. Once the ink was on the page, a paper blotter was used to soak in the excess ink so it would not smear. This pen wiper measures 3-1/2″ tall

Below is an illustration from a Victorian craft book, showing how to make a decorative pen wiper, with the following description: “Girls are always trying to find something which they can make to delight their papas, and a gay little pen-wiper with fresh uninked leaves rarely comes amiss to a man who likes an orderly writing-table”

Photo courtesy of KnitHeaven

“Stone China” transferware jug, c.1830

Friday, May 14th, 2010

“Filled-in transfer” is the term describing the of use of multicolor enamel washes over printed transfer decoration. This English “Dutch” shape jug was most likely made by Spode, founded by Josiah Spode in Stoke-on-Trent in 1767. His “Stone China” line, a new type of stoneware that gave the appearance of porcelain, was introduced in 1813 to great acclaim.

This oriental style of decoration copied the popular Chinese export porcelains of the 18th & 19th century.

Jug measures 5″ high by 7″ wide.

Cobalt blue transfer mark printed on the bottom includes the ubiquitous lion and unicorn.

Tin handle has rusted over the years but still functions as a practical replacement.

This jug with similar form and transfer decoration maintains its original handle.

Photo courtesy of Hudson Antiques

English “Chinese House” mug, c.1790

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

This large soft paste pearlware ale mug was most likely made in Staffordshire, England in the late 1700s. Standing 6-1/2″ tall, the mug is decorated in cobalt blue underglaze with the “Chinese House” pattern, a popular middle class replacement for similarly decorated Chinese porcelain, affordable only to the wealthy. I am quite fond of this loose, stylized decoration; a melding of Eastern and Western influences. The sturdy 19th century replacement handle, with thumb rest and support straps, is made of Britannia metal, aka Britannium, a composite made up of 93% tin, 5% antimony and 2% copper. A traveling tinker made repairs such as this for the townspeople who saved their cherished broken wares in need of his services. Members of the upper class would have taken their damaged goods to a silversmith, resulting in a more refined sterling silver replacement.

This is what the simple loop handle must have looked like before it broke off, as seen on this similarly shaped mug of the same period.

photo courtesy of Earle D. Vandekar

Mexican corn grinding vessel, c.1900

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Last week I was in Oaxaca, Mexico and saw this large wooden primitive object in an antiques shop located in the center of town. I believe it to be a type of mortar used for grinding corn. It measures about  30″ high with a 14″ diameter and appears to be over 100 years old.

A crack in the wood has enlarged after a metal patch was originally applied. An earlier post, “Primitive wooden shovel, c.1870” shows a similar metal patch on an American piece I own.

This example, also cracked but not patched, is shown with a large pestle

Photo courtesy of Auctions & Services Unlimited

“How did they do that?”

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

I am frequently asked this question from people who see an object with staple repairs for the first time. I have spent many years gathering research to illustrate this fascinating topic and will try to demystify the skill and art of staple repair. Below are just a couple of examples but please know that I will be posting more photos and diagrams in the coming weeks.

This illustration, from “If These Pots Could Talk” by Ivor Noel Hume, shows a “nineteenth-century itinerant Chinese repairer using a bow drill and flanked by the work boxes he carried slung on a pole”.

Stills from the Chinese film “The Road Home” (1999) directed by acclaimed director Yimou Zhang (2008 Bejing Olympics, “House of Flying Daggers”, “Hero”) showing an itinerant pottery mender repairing a broken pot with staples. I highly recommend this film, as it clearly shows the entire repair procedure in a compelling 4 minute scene. If you view the DVD, the scene starts at 51:44 (chapter 15)

An itinerant mender, walking from town to town carrying his tools and supplies, shouts “Pottery repairs!”

Broken pieces of bowl are fitted together…

and held in place tightly with twine.

A wooden bow, with a diamond-tipped drill looped around a string, is pulled back and forth until a tiny hole is made in the bowl.

Drill close up

A small length of rigid brass wire is cut and hammered in to shape on the end of an iron mold

Staple close up

Finished staple is gently tapped in to the holes on the side of the bowl

Film stills courtesy of Sony Pictures, with Zhongxi Zhang as the “Crockery Repairman”