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Friday, August 14, 2009

How to Detect Repaired Porcelain, Art Pottery & Clay Pieces

Found this great article on how to detect repaired pottery. Mr Eisele shares his expertise. Visist his website for more information.
Old World Restoration

How to Detect Repaired Porcelain, Art Pottery & Clay Pieces
by priceminer
by Douglas Eisele

Chips on the top rim of this Weller Art Pottery vase were professionally restored by Old World Restorations, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio.

The repairs are invisible to a cursory glance. Which is why one needs to be on the lookout for repaired porcelain, art pottery and clay pieces.

Antiques and collectibles enthusiasts often find themselves frequenting community charity auctions, local antique shows, neighborhood garage sales and internet web sites searching for their next “Great Find.” But buying from someone you don’t know—and may never be able to find again—is sometimes risky business.
For collectors of different types of ceramic art, including porcelain figurines, art pottery and clay sculpture, one of the issues facing them is the fact that chipped or broken porcelain can be professionally restored so that the damage is no longer visible. But the pieces may not always be marked as such.

So, how can one know if an item has been damaged and restored?
There are different methods and types of equipment used by conservators to detect invisible restoration of ceramic objects. Ultraviolet (UV) light is used to examine the surface of an object and to reveal adhesive residue or any substances that may have been applied over the original surface to mask damage. X-ray can also be used to show fractures that have been invisibly restored. If allowed, a collector can usually have art and antique items inspected by an experienced conservator or museum conservation lab.

But if your are standing in the middle of a flea market, holding a piece you might be interested in buying, knowledge and experience are probably the most valuable tools with which collectors can equip themselves when inspecting and buying ceramic art. It is important to learn as much as possible about the objects’ nature and composition and be able to confirm that it has the proper shape, size, design and glaze. Even when buying from reputable auction houses and dealers, one should still have a basic knowledge of the methods and materials that were used to create the object.

Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions like: “How and when did you acquire the object?” “Have you thoroughly examined it for damage and repairs?” and “Are you willing to document the condition in writing and provide a money back guarantee if it differs from your representation?” (Answers to these questions are especially important when buying over the Internet).
Pair of early porcelain candlesticks with old discolored repairs, small chips and missing leaves. This damage is difficult to see on a photo posted on an Internet listing.

I recommend a visual inspection of the object in direct sunlight. Look for inconsistencies in the color, decoration and glaze. When a damaged ceramic object is restored, it will usually have some type of clear non-fired coating applied over the repair to mimic the original surface glaze. In some instances, this “simulated glaze” is applied over the entire surface. Unlike original fired glazes, new acrylic coatings often contain lint or dust particles that can be seen with the naked eye under direct sunlight.
Some original ceramic glazes exhibit a network of fine cracks know as “crazing.” These small surface cracks should not be restored and are nearly impossible to replicate when completing a restoration in an area of an object that is crazed. If an object has visible crazing, look for inconsistencies or the absence of crazing in suspicious areas that may indicate a restoration.

Carefully run your finger along the edges to reveal any rough spots or chips that may be hard to see. Some vases and flat objects can be lightly tapped with your finger or a straight pin to check for structural cracks. A cracked object will not “ring” like a bell when tapped.
An Imari porcelain plate with old repairs and rim chips that are easily visible to the naked eye.

I also suggest that you carry a small straight pin with you when shopping for ceramic objects. With the permission of the seller, carefully and lightly “touch” the point of the pin to the surface of the glaze where you suspect a restoration. The pin will easily slide across the glasslike surface of original fired and un-restored glaze; however, it will not slide across, and may even sink into, the simulated materials used to restore the damage. Be careful not to scratch or damage the glaze or the restoration. Some claim that a similar test can be done by touching a suspected area of an object to your teeth to reveal a difference between original and restored glazes.
Before you buy:

• Do your homework and know what it is that you are looking at• Research basic restoration and conservation techniques• Ask the seller questions to document an objects history and condition• Conduct thorough inspections in good light• Consult an experienced art conservator or museum• Ask for written money-back guarantee

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Factory Decoys Offer another Collecting Avenue

There are as many strategies to collecting decoys as there are decoys. For example, one can collect by area made, maker or species. One popular area of decoy collecting is the factory-made decoy. Factory decoys are those decoys commercially made by machine and advertised for sale in sporting magazines. This really began around 1870, due to the high demand for decoys during the explosion of market gunning. Many wood decoys were turned out on a lathe at a time then the detail carving was finished by hand. Hand- or spray-painting finished them.
One exception to the rule in machine production are the decoys made by Harvey Stevens of Weedsport, NY. These decoys were handmade starting in the 1860s. By the 1880s, they were being advertised for sale in national magazines. These decoys have always been considered by collectors to be factory decoys because of this advertisement. At the height of his business, Stevens employed eight men in the carving and painting of these decoys. They have a style all their own and are quite collectible, selling for thousands of dollars in good condition.

These four Stevens decoys, two goldeneye drakes, top, and a bluebill drake and hen, bottom, are in superb condition. They ranged in price from $7,500 to $10,250 at auction. Photo courtesy of Guyette and Schmidt.
Another early factory, owned by William J. Mason, made decoys that are probably the most popular factory decoy for collectors today. Mason began business in 1896 in Detroit, Mich. and closed doors in 1924. This definite and short period of production is very attractive to collectors. The decoys were machine-turned on a duplicating lathe then the details were hand carved. The paint was also hand done in a very attractive style. They came in five quality grades, premier grade, challenge grade, No. 1 glass eye, No. 2 tack eye and No. 3 paint eye. Today, a premier grade bluebill drake in good condition goes for $1,000 to $2,500 at an in house auction. And a No. 2 tack eye bluebill drake goes for $400 to $600 in good condition. Rare models, rare species or exceptional condition can bring these prices up exponentially.

Mason premier grade bluebill drake (top) and paint eye bluebill drake (above). Note the scalloped paint swirled on the breast of the premier grade decoy and the straight, plainer paint on the paint eye decoy. Photos courtesy of Guyette and Schmidt.
William E. Pratt Decoy Co. bought Mason’s patterns and equipment when it closed the factory doors in 1924. Pratt was later bought out by the Animal Trap Co. of America in 1939. They made decoys under the name of Victor until the mid 1960s with a hiatus during World War Two. The Pratt decoys were similar in looks to the Mason, but never had the style or quality. The circular blade marks from the duplicating lathe were left on Animal Trap’s Victor instead of hand carving them smooth. Very simple painting was at first done by hand then by airbrush. The Victor decoy is very easily identifiable and makes an inexpensive first decoy.
One other factory I will mention here is the Wildfowler Decoys of Saybrook, Conn. This company manufactured truly lovely decoys. They made many species and many models of decoys. They also had two finishes; No.1 was hand -painted with feathering, and the No. 2 model was spray-painted and called the gunners model. The decoys were made from white pine until WWII. The company produced gunstocks for the government during the war. After the war they began using government surplus balsa wood for the bodies and white birch for the heads. There were three other owners of Wildfowler Decoys at three other locations before the company closed in 1993. Each had its own brand that can help the collector with dates and locations.

A Wildfowler blackduck decoy is on the left and a low head pintail drake is on the right. These decoys as a lot only went for $500 at a 2003 Guyette and Schmidt auction. Photo courtesy of Guyette and Schmidt.
There are many other factories that made, and some still do make decoys. And there are many factory decoys available; some more collectible than others. Many were very utilitarian, others quite beautiful, some practical and some absurd. For example, on the practical side is the tinnie; a tin shorebird decoy that, when unfolded, would nest with others for ease of transport. When folded closed to form the bird, a stick was added to the body for deployment in the mud.
For the absurd, a decoy with a rubber tube and bulb running to the hunter in the blind. When he squeezed the bulb the decoy would quack! If you wish to explore this area of collecting further, excellent books on the subject include “American Factory Decoys,” by Henry A. Fleckenstein Jr. and “Mason Decoys, A Complete Pictorial Guide,” by Russ Goldberger and Alan Haid. Factory decoys provide an easily documented, satisfying collectible still at affordable prices.
Laura Collum is a Worthologist who specializes in decoys, nautical and scientific instruments