Friday, February 25, 2011

Chipped, stained and cracked...

I once had a woman come into my small studio-workshop and ask if she might have a look at the few things I offered for sale. Something about the chambray shirt with up-turned collar, pearls and oyster watch that made me a bit wary but I figured I could take her. She made a bee-line for a large Welsh dresser where I'd displayed a substantial collection of simple white ironstone. These were pieces that I'd gathered from estate sales, flea markets, thrift stores and curbside bins over a period of maybe fifteen years and, I thought, made a pretty impressive display. The plates, sugar bowls and pitchers were patterns I'd rarely seen and haven't seen since. Some of the great platters were almost three feet across. She leaned forward raising the reading glasses that hung on a gold chain just below her pearls and began an intense scrutiny of my humble collection. I left her to it. For a good ten minutes I listened to her groan and sigh before she suddenly straightened up and glared at me as if waiting for an apology or at least some sort of explanation. " Is this all the ironstone you have?" she asked. I said it was and asked if she was interested in any of the pieces. " I don't think so." she said and explained that she only bought perfect pieces and that the only pieces I had that weren't discolored or stained were chipped. I honestly can't remember what I said next, as a matter of fact, I think I blacked out for a few seconds because the next thing I remember was the south end of a Volvo station wagon burning rubber in the parking lot.
I am, I'll admit, a chipped, stained and cracked kind of guy. I don't know why but I tend to be drawn to the broken and distressed. My stock pile of furnishings reads like the proverbial three-legged dog and if I'm guilty of anything it's of seeing the value of past service or a glint of life still left in something that makes discarding it unthinkable. I can only imagine the number of hands that have lifted a two hundred year old plate for the first time or for the last; the many faces that have stared into the depths of a sugar bowl in good times and in bad. The imperfections are to me signs of a life well lived and well deserving of both respect and admiration: badges of honor like the lines on a face of one who's spent more years laughing than looking into a mirror. Perhaps the explanation is simply the fact that most of us are chipped, stained or cracked but are still deserving of our place at the table.

7 comments:

  1. This is a fine post perfectly worded and written. Most of my personal collection of porcelain has a chip, crack or a repair. I also have many friends with similar collections of Antique pottery or porcelain. Unfortunately as a Antique dealer in luxury rare antiques and decorative arts I have to deal with women like the one you just describe. I try to keep the perfect pieces that I find for them, and charge them a perfectly high price for them. Thanks for this post! And I love the transfer ware bowl with figures!

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  2. Followed you back from a comment at Mrs. Blandings and was rewarded with this lovely essay. I am a 61 year old Master Gardener dropout in Kansas (our county was so anti organic organic I could not force myself to bloom there), chipped, stained, cracked kind of girl. My husband's grandmother was a poet and wrote a poem about teaching her young daughter to fill guest's coffee from the sugar bowl placed by her side. It was her job to keep that sugar bowl in place to hide the hole in the antique damask tablecloth. It was a loving conspiracy. A wink and an understanding that a little grace and hidden laughter could ease out the rough spots. Look forward to reading more about you and your garden.

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  3. Ken, Not only are you a master gardner, you are a master wordsmith. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. We do seem to think alike on a lot of issues. I too, seem to be drawn to the old and imperfect just like me.

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  4. I love this post! What a treat to find for my first read from your blog. I too, like to rescue antiques and treat them with the dignity they have earned. Keep writing, I'll keep reading!

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  5. So enjoyed this post and oh how true how true. I always like ro call those pieces, shelf pieces! You have added the extra notes, beautifully and personally written.

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  6. hello Ken, Nice to meet you! I, too, love ironstone and prefer the chipped and stained pieces. My favorites are the pieces with old staple repairs! A favorite platter of mine was obviously a second even in the day as it is very unlevel, but because of that the mark which is uder the lip instead of on the bottom is visible (on a high shelf;) I look forward to reading about your garden, and must say I adore all of your pet photos and love the photo of your studio.
    all my best,
    joan

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  7. lovey writting...beautiful musings.

    B

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The jewel is in the lotus...

The jewel is in the lotus...

maturing seed pods...

Sister Martha Delaney in the Lady Banks

A corner of my studio...

"Moses in the bulrushes" was worth a few more years on the shelf...

"Moses in the bulrushes" was worth a few more years on the shelf...

Chipped, stained and cracked...

Chipped, stained and cracked...
I couldn't walk away from the "bottomless bowl"...

The kitchen garden...

The kitchen garden...
New construction will eliminate the kitchen garden that's been such a joy for me and a family of fat opossums.

Norton came to me as a screaming orphan at about 3 weeks old and was adopted on the spot by my hound Alice...

Sister Martha Delaney came to me as an orphan at about 3 weeks old and showed an aptitude for climbing from the very beginning...