Amongst my chattels is a porcelain vase (figure 1) by the late ceramicist Jerome K. ‘Jerry’ Horning, of Watertown, South Dakota, and more saliently of the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Creighton University. He is not much celebrated by Creighton, but there was a feature about him in the magazine published by their development arm, Window, Winter 1990-91, pp. 12-17. He died about the time I arrived at Creighton in 2001.
I bought the vase because it was attractive, with Japanese styling details, and because it was competitively priced at Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum store. This was about 2003. Those who know me know that I have a pot addiction, and I found it irresistible to pick up a pot by a local artist; at the time I, too, worked at Creighton. I put it in a sheltered place on the lower shelf of a plant stand in my office which framed it nicely.
Some years later I returned from a trip to Rome to discover the vase in pieces on the desk in my office (figure 2). It turns out the gorillas Creighton hired to clean office windows while I was away had little sense about watching out for art pottery. In any event, I have no image of the vase when it was new, but you can get the general idea from the picture I took of the body and sherds.
It was always my plan to get the vase, which is, after all, a one-off objay darr by a name artist, repaired by a conservator, and so I kept the pieces and kept my eyes open.
Flash forward about 10 years, and by chance I came across the web presence of Lakeside Pottery Studio, which professionally conserves luckless ceramics. It is not my intention to write publicity for them, but I do think the fruits of my experience with them are interesting. In any event, I wrote away for a repair estimate, and when I received it, I thought it reasonable and mailed the vase and sherds to them following their strict instructions.
One of the things that quickly persuaded me to use their services is the fact that they practice the old Japanese craft of Kintsugi repair. In this method the breaks are repaired and missing fragments refashioned and glued in. These repairs are then made emphatic and beautiful by the application of gold dust over sticky lacquer painted over the repairs. I’d recently seen some of this in the Sackler in Washington, D.C., and I thought that given the Japanese spirit of Horning’s vase in the first place, Kintsugi was definitely the way to go.
The results were very good, indeed (figures 3, 4, 5, 6), even though I had opted for the “gold effect” rather than true gold dust work. They do both; but I saw no need to push the repair cost out to twice what I paid for the vase!
Figures 3 and 7 shows how the glaze, which was originally uniform in color, has not stood up well to sunlight. It’s faded and crazed where it was most exposed. Still, this has not bothered me through the years I’ve owned the vase, since it’s living and growing old with me (and now, in its ceramicky way, had something like the equivalent of a hip joint replacement).
However that may be, I’m delighted with the Lakeside Studio’s work, and pleased that I was lucky enough to stumble across a restoration process that has been sympathetic to the origins and inspiration of my Horning vase. I’m also very pleased to have my vase back where I can see it after ten years in cold storage!