Everyone seems to be talking about recycling. Thankfully the era of the disposable everything seems to be drawing to a close. There was a time (that I can still remember) when resources were so scarce through either availability or affordability that everything down to the shortest piece of string was jealously hoarded for reuse. It didn’t matter if plates had a chip or a scratch or, heaven forbid, didn’t match, if they were useable, they continued to be used. If they were repairable they were repaired. As the eldest of six children we handed down and recycled everything. I still ‘save’ all sorts of things ‘just in case’ I might need it one day.

Which leads me to admire the skill of the craftsmen who made some of those repairs. I have several items which I have purchased purely to allow me to do this, and to show other people and use as a chatting point. The first is a stunning hand painted Royal Staffordshire hexagonal shaped dessert set of six small bowls and a larger serving bowl. The set was made by Arthur J Wilkinson (Ltd) operating at the Royal Staffordshire Pottery in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent between 1886 and the early 1990’s. The pottery mark on this set would date it to the mid 1940’s, making the set about 65-70 years old and thereby classifying it as ‘vintage’. One of the bowls has had a corner broken. As high-quality glues were not available in the past, old time pottery and porcelain was repaired using staples or rivets. Rivets on porcelain (or metal clamp repair as it was once known) has its origins in China. Ceramic restoration was once the work of metal smiths and jewelers. It was a preferred method of repair in Europe from the 1600’s up until the 1960’s. It actually lasted longer in the West than it should have. With the advent of epoxy and polyester resins restorers were able to bond vitreous materials (porcelain and glass) without the aid of rivets or wire laces.

In my dessert bowl, holes were drilled on both sides of the break to insert the staples which hold the broken edges together. The repair is a work of art in itself. Two staples have been inserted from the front of the bowl through the purposed drilled holes, and bent around at the back before being soldered so that there is no visible join. While showing this repair and discussing the craftsmanship with an older couple, they mentioned that they had heard about staple repairs where you couldn’t see the staple at the back of the piece.

This led me to search for my next talking piece which is a Royal Worcester fine bone china egg cup. I would say the cup has been dropped as it was badly broken into five pieces. This piece has been repaired with staples which are only visible from the outside of the piece. Even though you can now see the adhesive on the inside of the cup, the repair itself is just beautiful.

A unique way of recycling has been taken up by a friend who loves the patterns and the history behind antique and vintage china. She has almost completed a setting for eight, calling it her ‘exquisite dinner service’. Each six piece place setting of large plate, smaller plate, side plate, soup bowl, and cup and saucer is from a different dinner set, but matches in tones. They all have a cream base, with different patterns with colours that blend with each other – it is exquisite.

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