The Charm of Make-Dos and Mends
During the 18th to early 20th centuries, when everyday items were broken they were often repaired or repurposed rather than discarded. Sometimes these early repairs were done by professionals such as tinsmiths and tinkers but many times they were simply done at home with the materials available at hand. The charm of collecting early make-dos and mends is in seeing the creativity that was used to repair or repurpose them. Each repaired or repurposed item is a one-of-a-kind antique that makes a truly unique addition to a collection.
A well-known example of a make-do is a lamp base converted into a pincushion. Using the base of a New England Sandwich glass lamp (circa 1830-1850) which commonly broke where the font was joined to the base, a wad of cotton was covered by a scrap or reused piece of fabric on top of the broken base to form a beautiful and practical pincushion. Another common make-do is a whale oil or other glass lamp top married to a wooden base.
Mends can be found in so many forms and on so many different types of items. Sometimes the mend itself is so beautiful it turns the antique into a work of art. However, most mend were simply practical; for instance a Staffordshire platter either soldered together with pewter or stapled together. A missing handle on a ceramic teapot might be replaced with a tin handle secured around the body of the teapot by an itinerant tinsmith. Mended bowls are common, many with tin or wood patches to repair holes and string or staples to repair cracks.
The elaborate repairs and creative repurposing of common items during the 18th to early 20th centuries reminds us that “waste not, want not” was a common saying and it was worth the time and effort to make these repairs. Finding make-do and mend antiques can be challenging; many of them were simply discarded over the years as not worthy of keeping. As collectors, today we delight in the ingenuity and are left to ponder the circumstances behind a make-do or mended antique.
To check out the charm of these antiques, search for make-dos (232 matches) and mends (64 matches) on Dig Antiques.
Over 50 wonderful make-dos and mended antiques will be on display at the California Country Antiques and Folk Art Show on June 12-13, 2010 in Los Altos, CA.
There are not a lot of references available on make-dos and mends. Here are the ones we've found: