Friday, 28 August 2009

Repairing Ceramics – Reader’s comment

Gabriel Newfield gives his response to Murray Cheesman’s article, Repairing Ceramics, published in the latest issue of Ceramic Review.

Congratulations to Murray in packing so much good advice into just two pages. It’s a pity that, presumably owing to lack of space, some of his advice really ought to be qualified, and in one case is positively dangerous. Examples of advice that should be qualified: 1 True, epoxy adhesives like Araldite have their uses, but they do tend to yellow with age, which has a bearing on when and where it is appropriate to use them. 2 Soaking overnight in Biotex. Always best to soak first overnight in clean (preferably de-ionised) water before soaking in any detergent. Badly stained wares (especially earthenware) may need not just overnight, but days or even weeks in soak. And after soaking in detergent, soaking again in water, to remove excess detergent from the body, is essential, and again this may require many days, and several changes of water. The advice I would regard as dangerous concerns use of bleach 'as a last resort'. Most bleaches are chlorine-based and can be dangerous to pots, causing irreversible damage. Hydrogen peroxide as a bleach is less likely to do harm, but calls for great care in its use.

My own advice to would-be restorers/conservators of pots is – don’t rush in. Perhaps do a part-time course at a college, if one is available near where you live. Or get hold of an up-to-date book on the subject, such as Practical Ceramic Conservation by Lesley Acton and Natasha Smith, Crowood Press, 2003, ISBN 978-186126483-1, or Porcelain Repair and Restoration by Nigel Williams (2nd edition, revised by Loretta Hogan with the help of Myrtle Bruce-Mitford), British Museum Press, 2002, ISBN 978-071412757-6. Both are readily available in libraries, bookshops or via Amazon.

Happy mending! Gabriel Newfield

Repairing Ceramics was published in the Sep/Oct 2009 issue of Ceramic Review (CR239). For further details please visit:

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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Arts Minister

After having been in post as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for eighteen months, Andy Burnham has been booted upstairs as the new health secretary. He has been replaced by the urbane Ben Bradshaw, a slim, handsome, alert 48 year old who admits to bopping the night away to the strains of Grace Jones. Burnham, MP for Exeter, is one of few openly open gay MPs who recently had a civil partnership. In Who’s Who he lists music as one of his recreational activities; maybe not the Albert Hall kind. When I met him at the Art Fund Prize presentation (with the £100,000 awarded to the Wedgwood Museum) he assured me of his interest in crafts and his support – and praise – for the Devon Guild. Arts ministers seem to come and go with alarming regularity. If they’re talented they are moved on, if less bright they stay. Lets hope that Ben Bradshaw is both talented and a stayer. It must surely be one of the more enjoyable portfolios in government.