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!

Royal Crown Derby footed dish, c.1905

February 10th, 2019

This porcelain serving dish was made in England by Royal Crown Derby in 1905. It is hand painted in the Imari palette of cobalt blue, iron red, and gilt. On the underside is a red printed mark ROYAL CROWN DERBY, ENGLAND with cypher and an incised mark DERBY, 7-04, dating it to 1905. It measures 10 inches by 7 inches and is 1.75 inches high.

Although two painted metal staples on top of one of the handles hint at what is hiding below deck, it isn’t until this pretty dish is flipped over that things gets more interesting. After this dish fell to the floor and shattered into 9 pieces, it was taken to a china mender, who made it whole again by drilling 68 tiny holes and adding 34 metal staples. Typically china menders charged per staple, so this repair job must have cost the owner a pretty penny.

Engraved goblet with Mining Scenes, c.1690

January 31st, 2019

This superbly engraved blown wine glass was made in Nuremberg, Germany, c.1680-1700. It stands 10.5 inches high. The large bowl features finely engraved scenes of open-pit mining and a large coat of arms, believed to belong to one of the Counts of Mansfeld. The delicate stem is made up of a series of hollow knobs and rings and amazingly, has remained intact after knocking around for over 330 years. 

The foot was not so lucky. As would be expected of a large, fragile glass object such as this, the original glass foot broke off hundreds of years ago, and was fitted with an elegant hand hammered silver replacement. It is engraved with the name “Mansfeld”, the date “1530”, and in a tiny font “A.E. 12”. As Mansfeld, Germany was the center of silver mining for over 800 years, this magnificent goblet was most likely made by one of the Mansfeld families as a commemorative piece. 

As with almost everything from my collection, we will never know for sure how the piece broke, who repaired it, and what happened to it after it was reborn. I’m just glad that so many of them ended up in my collection and that I can share them with you.

This goblet from the same period shows what the original glass base on mine might have looked like.

Photo courtesy of Scottish Antiques

Porcelain plate with peaches & flowers, c.1880

January 20th, 2019

There is nothing terribly exciting or special about this small plate, but the rustic repair is impressive. It was made in China in the late 1800s to early 1900s and is decorated with hand painted peaches and lotus flowers in the Famille Rose palette. It measures nearly 7 inches in diameter and has a squiggle signature on the underside.

The 10 small iron bits, 5 on each side of the plate, are clearly visible and add an interesting graphic element. Again, not a particularly rare plate, but these unusual repairs elevate it to another level.

Felspatic stoneware jug, c.1820

January 11th, 2019

This Dutch shape stoneware jug with a moulded fox hunting scene was made in Staffordshire, England, perhaps by Chetham and Woolley. It dates from 1810 to 1830. The top portion is glazed in cobalt blue and the lower portion is unglazed. It measures 3.5 inches high and is unmarked. I particularly like the molded screws on the handle.

After the spout became badly chipped or broke off entirely, the jug was taken to a silversmith, who created a silver replacement spout. Though a bit squatter than the original most likely was, it is well made and more importantly, allowed the jug to function once again.

This jug of similar form shows what the original spout on my jug might have looked liked.

Photo courtesy of Paul Bohanna Antiques