Sunday, December 19, 2010

Material Culture Minute: "Antiques Cherished for Their Imperfections"

Given the recent discussion about how to encourage new collectors to enter the antiques market, a recent article and slide show featured in the New York Times' "Home and Garden" section depicts a collection of "make-dos," or antique objects (mostly ceramics) that have been repaired in creative ways. In the words of the New York Times, these are "domestic objects dating back centuries that bear evidence of having been broken and repaired in unusual and often artful ways." In other words, these are not the pitchers that you find at fancy-pantsy antiques shows. These are porcelain bodies with new leather or pewter handles...but "artful" pewter handles. In most retail, auction, and museum settings, repairs are valued only if they are done virtually invisibly. Here, these obvious repairs are valued because they are "artful"--because they fundamentally change the objects' aesthetics. Despite the handful of experts interviewed for the article who note a growing interest in make-dos, it is still taboo to collect things that are, well, broken and repaired in an obvious way. To each, his own, of course, but I learn more from objects that tell more layered stories.


  1. I think the idea of "make-dos" is fascinating, but I wonder about the implications of turning them into works of art rather than works of culture. I hope the collector in this article doesn't forget the stories behind the staples!

  2. I think that's a great point, Tyler.