Monday, October 26, 2015

Mended Dreams - Repairing French Faïence

Once tin glaze became available to potters a whole world opened up to the possibility of color. Blue on white aped Chinese porcelain and Dutch Delft. French potters, when applying for privilege from the King to start a factory, "always mentioned, as the model which they aspired to equal, the magnificent work done at Delft." The founder of the now famous Rouen factory, in petitioning the king for the usual privilege, said that it was his intention to make “violet faience, painted blue and white, in the form of those of Holland.” Another petitioner asserts that he “has found the secret of fabricating fayence as handsome and as good as those of Holland.” [Dutch Faience, Harpers Magazine CCCXXXVII—JUNE, 1878 NS-Vol. LVII.]

Plate racks and hutches [Vassiliers] began to appear to display dishes, not just conceal them in stacks behind cupboard doors.

Chipped dishes were not thrown away. And when they broke, ingenious ways of mending them began to appear. "...two of the sherds exhibit evidence of mends. These rim fragments have holes drilled from surface to surface filled with a lead plug. The flattened ends of these plugs are countersunk to fit flush with the interior vessel surface. On the exterior (underside) surface channels, also lead-filled, were cut across the break to be repaired. Apparently, a wire rivet was passed through the drilled holes and along the channels to make the mend. Molten lead was then poured to fill the drill holes and the channel. Other sites in the Illinois Country where mended faience vessel fragments have been recovered are enumerated ..." ["French Colonial Fort Massac: Architecture and Ceramic Patterning," by John A. Walthall in French Colonial Archaeology, The Illinois Country and The Western Great Lakes, edited by John A. Walthall, p. 58]. Stanley South (1968:62-71) has discussed the mending of ceramic vessels at 18thC sites of both French and British affiliation. He illustrates repairs on a faience platter (Rouen Blue on White) and plate (Brittany Blue on White) from Fortress Louisbourg.

The History of Repair: Past Imperfect and Art of Inventive Repair are very informative and show many examples of repair of colorful dishes. Today we even make jewelry from pottery sherds ... it seems we can't bear to throw away those glistening bits of color.

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