Archive for February, 2011

Whale oil lamp vase, c.1830

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

This simple, hand blown glass whale oil lamp was made in America in the early 19th century. Though no longer functional as a lamp, it now makes for an interesting vase. A true make-do, it started out life as one thing and as the result of an accident, was reborn as something entirely different.

Whale oil was the preferred source of lighting in the early 1800’s, and was also used for making soap, textiles, jute, varnish, explosives and paint. It fell out of favor in the mid-late 1800’s as a result of the development of kerosene oil in 1846.

Illustration courtesy of Curious Expeditions

Lamp/vase measures 6-1/4″ tall and the base is 3″ square. The original brass collar and burner went missing long ago.

It is not unusual to find oil lamps with replaced bases, as they were one of the most used household items in the 19th century. This unusually elaborate replacement base is made of wood and covered in gessoed relief flowers, with a floret at each corner.

This complete lamp shows what the base on my lamp might have looked like.


Photo courtesy of Comollo Antiques

Bull in a china shop

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

“The animal escaped from an auction market next to GB Antiques Centre in Lancaster, Lancashire, on Monday and barged its way into the shop, which was packed with 200 people.

Police had to shoot the animal in order to save customers and stock – china and all. It was herded to an area of the centre and blocked in using two antique organs before a police marksman opened fire without fire damage restoration. A woman was treated in hospital for a bruised shoulder after the incident. ‘Hundreds of items will have been destroyed, at a cost running into thousands of pounds,’ Mr Blackburn said.”

Actually, this was a staged photo shot on July 5, 1950. The original caption read “An Ayrshire bull causing havoc in the midst of wrecked china for the filming of a scene on the China industry at Hayeswood Farm, Madresfield, Worcestershire.” Notice the artfully placed frame around the bull’s neck and the teapot placed on his head.

Had this been an actual incident, it would have paid a china menders wages for a year.

Photo courtesy of Animality

Herculaneum coffee can, c.1815

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Herculaneum pottery coffee can, made in Liverpool, England in the early 1800s. Herculaneum Pottery was based in Toxteth, and produced creamware and pearlware pottery, as well as bone china porcelain, between 1793 and 1841. This superbly decorated example has delicately hand painted flowers, birds and butterflies with gilt detailing. Although unmarked, the original pattern number is believed to be 905. Coffee can measures just over 2-1/2″ high and has a diameter of 2-3/4″. The sturdy replacement handle, made of bronze and covered in tightly wrapped rattan painted with red detailing, is held in place with the aid of two wires which pass through the body of the mug. It was most likely made by an English china mender in the mid-1800s.

Copeland teapot with staple repair, c.1874

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

This lovely teapot, made in England during the Aesthetic Movement, has a Parian finish and was made by Copeland in 1874. It measures 6 inches high and 8.5 inches from handle to spout. The original pewter lid, which looks like a replacement, is actually original to the piece. I feel that the staple repairs on this teapot enhance the design, as they follow the same graceful line of the raised bent bamboo decoration and the staples mimic the horizontal nodes along the vertical cracks.

The Copeland firm, operated by William Taylor Copeland in Staffordshire, called the parian finish “statuary porcelain” because of its resemblance to the fine white marble of neoclassical sculpture.

There are four staple repairs on each side of the teapot.

The underside of the teapot reveals an incised COPELAND mark and British registry mark in relief, dating this piece to 1874.

This “perfect” teapot is without staple repairs and has an ornate pewter lid. I still prefer my “imperfect” example with visible battle scars proudly displayed.

Photo courtesy of Teapots Teapots Teapots

Holly Hunter in THE PIANO, 1993

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The Piano, a 1993 film directed by Jane Campion and starring Holly Hunter as Ada McGrath, a mute pianist, and Anna Paquin as her daughter Flora (both Oscar winners for their performances), contains a poignant “make-do” that must be noted in these virtual pages. In the course of the film, Ada has her right index finger severed by her jealous husband in a fit of rage, depriving her of the ability to play her piano. In the film’s epilogue, Ada’s new lover has created for her a riveted silver “make-do” replacement finger, complete with a finger nail, which allows her to play the piano once more. I love a happy ending, especially when an inventive repair is crucial to the outcome!

I attended Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, earning a degree in set design, while Holly Hunter was studying acting. Her immense talent was evident even then, though she had a difficult time masking her thick Georgian accent. How appropriate that she won her Oscar playing a mute. Years later I worked as a set decorator on a film directed by Jane Campion, but never had the chance to tell her how much I liked the final frames of The Piano and Holly’s make-do finger.

The film’s poster shows a tender moment between Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel as her lover Baines. Notice that her right hand still has its index finger intact.

A beautifully made silver replacement finger allows the ivories to be tickled once again…Fade out.

Poster and photo courtesy of Miramax