I recently received a large, gorgeous American Arts and Craft vase by one of my favorite ceramicists: Artus and Anna Van Briggle. The piece was in perfect shape, except for an elbow that had broken off one of the ladies.
The owners had wisely hung on to the broken-off piece. They had not attempted to glue the broken piece back on, which was also smart. Attempting to glue broken ceramics back together is one of the worst things you can do.
I always advise my collecting clients to never glue pieces back together!
Readily available glues are not conservation quality, and glueing the piece well enough that it’s 100% complete is no easy feat.
If a piece breaks, always wrap it carefully in a towel to keep it from further damage. Having all the pieces readily available and intact can save you a great deal of time and money on the repair.
I was able to carefully glue the elbow back on using museum quality glue and I fixed the slightly “open” areas with colored fillers. The final step was applying a color-matched coating, which made the repaired area both invisible and protected from dust and dirt.
The vase is now returned to its former appearance.
It is rare, I think, for ceramics to live 100 years without getting a bump or break.
Often during restoration I find previously restored areas that the owner or dealer were not aware of! If the area is close to the new break, I usually just remove the old restoration, as mixing of chemicals is never a good practice.
This particular vase had been well taken care of and fortunately only had the elbow damage. With the break repaired, it can now be displayed without turning one side to the corner to hide it.
American Arts and Craft objects are my very favorite era. The designs are just beautiful!