Mend it with Mendets

July 12th, 2020

Now more than ever it seems we are spending much of our time at home. Many, like myself, finally have time to go through our things, weed out unwanted items, and repair broken objects we’ve been meaning to fix but never got around to. I imagine (and hope!) this will lead to a new generation of inventive repairs popping up all around the globe. Stay tuned to see what interesting repairs I come up with in the coming months.

I have dozens of whimsical homemade repairs in my collection and have seen countless others showing thrift, artistry, and ingenuity. Although most were achieved by using whatever was available at hand, manufactured products started to creep up during the 1940s Make-Do and Mend era.

A popular early 1940s product, Mendets, provided a do-it-yourself solution to repairing holes in enameled cookware, metal pots, and even rubber hot water bottles. The white enameled cup, repaired with a small bolt and nut and not with an official Mendets plug, still seems to have done the trick.

Photo courtesy of eBay

Happy 4th of July!

July 5th, 2020

O, Say Can You See…these inventive repairs in patriotic colors?

I hope you enjoyed Independence Day weekend.

Stoneware teapot with flute player, c.1760

June 27th, 2020

This globular form salt-glazed stoneware teapot was made in Staffordshire, England, c.1760-65. It has a molded crabstock spout and is decorated in polychrome enamels of pink, green, yellow, blue, and black. I quite like how the male flute player and the female dancing among oversized flowers are rendered. Measures 3.25 inches high, 6 inches wide from handle to spout.

Someone must have been a bit clumsy over 200 years ago, as the little teapot has not one but two early repairs – a metal replacement handle and a metal replacement knob. These are both a bit rustic and most likely done by an itinerant tinker, traveling from town to town to repair all types of broken household objects. Thanks to the unsung hero who helped preserve this charming teapot, as well as the original owners who had to good sense to have it repaired and then pass it on for future generations to enjoy.

This teapot, with similar form and decoration, suggests what the original handle and knob might have looked like on my teapot.

Photo courtesy of John Howard

Glass laboratory beaker, c.1920

June 14th, 2020

Glass beakers, jars, and test tubes have been breaking in chemistry labs for centuries. Not surprisingly, I have come across dozens of examples of fragile laboratory glassware with early repairs. As with this one, most of the repairs I find are broken beakers set into repurposed metal lids filled with plaster. These repairs were done in-house using whatever materials were on hand and were put back to use as soon as the plaster had set.

This glass beaker, which stands 7.25 inches high, was made around 1920 by Whitall Tatum Company, was one of the first glass factories in America. Located in Millville, New Jersey, they also manufactured glass bottles and insulators. It has etched marks on the side: “TO DELIVER GUARANTEED ACCURATE, N.Y WHITALL TATUM CO., PHILA.” and: “N.Y. CITY AND PENNA. APPROVED TYPE III, SERIAL A-2.”

Check out a previous post, Two glass beakers, c.1890, showing similar repairs.

This beaker shows what the original base on mine would have looked like.

Photo courtesy of Etsy


Blue & white Spanish plate, c.1870

June 7th, 2020

This striking tin-glazed earthenware pottery plate was most likely made in Manises, Valencia, Spain in the late 1800s. It is boldly decorated with stylized trees, flowers and houses in cobalt blue glaze and measures 12.25 inches in diameter.

On the underside is the mark Fv V(?) as well as 7 HUGE metal wire staples, which were attached well over 100 years ago after the plate broke in half. Metal staples/rivets were used in many parts of the world to repair broken ceramics and glassware, ranging in size from less than 1/2 inch to over 3 inches long. Repairs done on tin glazed pottery from Spain, Italy and France typically have larger iron staples such as these.

My plate would feel right at home with this collection at the Museum of Ceramics in Manises, Spain.

Photo courtesy of Museu de Ceramica de Manises

Floral Tribute

May 31st, 2020

Those of you who know me well, know that I do not have a green thumb. But with lots of free time on my hands these days, I have taken the plunge and started to do a little bit of gardening. I’ve enjoyed planting flowers which (hopefully) the deer, groundhogs, chipmunks, and rabbits won’t eat. Let’s see how well that goes.

Inspired by my new activity, I am happy to present some of my favorite teapots with floral decoration.

Pair of Chinese jugs with silver spouts, c.1720

May 23rd, 2020

As I have noted many times in these pages, I love finding multiples of matching inventive repairs.

This colorful pair of Chinese porcelain footed jugs, made during the later part of the Kangxi period (1661–1722), has floral decorations with gilt highlights. They are baluster-form with unusual flattened sides, stand 8 inches high, and were most likely part of a large set of tableware for a wealthy household.

At some point in the jugs early lives, both of the spouts broke off, rendering them unusable. Luckily, a clever and talented silversmith was able to fashion new spouts with lovely engraved decoration, and attach them to the jugs. I can only assume that as soon as the jugs were brought home, they were put back on the dining room table and used again for many generations.

Samuel Hollins coffee pot with silver lid, c.1790

May 17th, 2020

I was thrilled to find this elegant baluster form, dry-bodied redware pottery coffee pot recently. It was made by Samuel Hollins in Staffordshire, England, circa 1784-1813, and stands 9 inches high. The applied sprigged decoration of a woman playing the harp is featured on one side, and The Birth of Achilles is on the reverse. Thin silver resist bands decorate the middle, rim, and spout.

The owners of this coffee pot must have been well off, as instead of carving a new lid out of wood or taking it to an itinerant tinsmith for a tin replacement after the original lid broke, they brought it to an established London silversmith for repair. The heavy sterling silver replacement lid is clearly stamped with the maker’s initials HWC, for Henry William Curry, and a date mark for 1867. I think the shiny new lid, beautifully offset by the rich red color of the stoneware, looks better than the original. But then of course, I’m biased.

Check out a previous post, Samuel Hollins stoneware coffee pot, c.1800 showing another Hollins coffeepot with similar form and decoration, but with a more humble repair.

This is what the original domed lid on my coffee pot would have looked like, had it not been broken and replaced.

Photo courtesy of WorthPoint

Happy Mother’s Day, 2020!

May 10th, 2020

Whimsical Victorian pin cushion, c.1880

May 2nd, 2020

For those of you who have been following my blog from the beginning, you are well aware how I feel about make-do pin cushions. I just don’t like them very much. Although for quite some time they were arguably the most ubiquitous of inventive repairs, they now seem to have dried up. I don’t know whether to attribute the scarcity to the distain by others like myself, or if they are so highly prized that they are being snatched up and hoarded by rabid collectors. Either way, I bit the bullet and recently bought this whimsical example. Please don’t judge me.

It seems anyone could wrap a scrap of fabric around some cotton, straw, or excelsior and plop it onto a broken base and call it a pin cushion, and many did just that. But this unusual example has been taken to another level. This wacky Victorian pin cushion stands 5.5 inches high and was made around 1880 and appears to be wearing a jester’s hat. It was made from the inverted bowl of a broken pressed glass goblet and filled with keepsakes, turning it into a memory jar. Contents include decorated paper, feathers, a pressed gold leaf, a colorfully painted base, along with an inscription, which reads: “Memento to Kate Caward made and presented by an old lady on her seventy fifth birthday.” It’s more common to see make-do pin cushions made from bases of broken goblets, so this may be an example of not losing a goblet but gaining two pin cushions.

So let’s raise a glass to collectors worldwide and celebrate our quirky passions. And in case you drop your glass, don’t worry. You can always make lovely pin cushions from the damaged pieces.

Here’s a well curated collection of fancy and whimsical pin cushions.

Photo courtesy of Peggy McClard