Warning: If the item is of great sentimental or financial value
- Don't try and attempt a pottery repair yourself as the results can often be disappointing and sometimes even result in damaging the piece further.
- Carefully pick up all the pieces and individually wrap them in tissue or bubble wrap.
- Contact a professional antique restorer. Search your area online (Google) or in the phone book for “pottery repair professionals” or “antique repair and restoration” or ”ceramic repairs”.
Types of Pottery Repairs
Often ceramic repair artists will ask what type of repair you would like. 3 common types are:
- Museum – item is carefully repaired but no attempt is made to hide the repair. Think of ancient museum sculptures where repairs are made but you can clearly see where the repair was. Often this is also the least costly repair.
- Tidy Repair – an excellent repair however the finished repair will likely be visible upon inspection. Typically this repair will be less costly.
- Invisible Repair – The best level of repair where the repaired area looks just like it did before the damage occurred. This is of course the most expensive repair as well.
When sending your piece for repair:
- Use 2 inches or more packing materials (bubble wrap and/or packing peanuts) between your item and the inside edge of the box. For very fragile items, double box with packing materials all around between inside and outside box.
- Label the exterior of the box “Fragile” (this helps sometimes but not always).
- Fully insure your item
Do-It-Yourself Pottery Repairs
Earthenware - Stoneware
If after reading the above warning, you decide to take on the repair yourself – Read on for Earthenware – Stoneware Pottery Repairs, or click here for China or Porcelain Repairs.
- Apply a clear polyvinyl acetate (PVA - like Elmer's Glue) adhesive to the back of the chip.
- Place and hold chip in its original position on the pottery piece for 60 seconds.
- Carefully scrape away any excess glue from your pottery repair with a knife
- Allow to dry for 12 hours before using.
How easy is that? But remember, repaired pieces are no longer as strong as the original, so avoid daily use, washing, soaking in water, and heating.
To Re-join Broken Pieces
- Apply a clear polyvinyl acetate (PVA - like Elmer's glue) adhesive to the edge of one of the pieces using a small brush. Use only enough PVA glue to cover the broken edge.
- Quickly press both pieces together and hold for 60 seconds.
- Note: If there were multiple repairs on the same piece, you can set the repaired piece in a container filled with dry rice or beans. This will help to support it evenly while it dries.
- Carefully scrape away any excess glue with a knife
- Set the glued pieces down on a flat surface, and allow to dry for 12 hours before using.
To Repair Chipped or Missing Pottery Piece
Supplies you will need:
- Epoxy putty. This can be purchased at hardware stores. It comes in two tubes that you will eventually mix together.
- Fine and medium sandpaper.
- Acrylic paints.
- Paintbrushes or linen pieces for applying color.
- Styrofoam plates (for mixing paint & putty)
- First, clean the area to be repaired, and let it dry.
- Mix your putty, according to the directions. The putty comes with two tubes that will be mixed together. You won't necessarily need the whole tube. The proper amount will depend on the size of the chip or fix.
- Gather a piece of the putty, and roll it in your fingers, to get it thicker, before applying to the chipped area. Do not use too much putty. Just enough to fill the surface in well. There should be a small amount of excess.
- Smooth and press it in to the chipped area forming it with your fingers to close in the area.
- Let the repair dry for at least 24 hours.
- Now sand the dried putty with medium sandpaper. Be careful to sand only the putty, not the surrounding original areas of the piece. It may help to tear a piece of the sand paper off and fold it into a small piece.
- As you get it sanded down to the surface of the original ceramic, switch to fine sandpaper. The idea is to sand until the surface is smooth and completely even with the rest of the pottery piece. To the touch, you should feel virtually no difference in the surface you puttied and the rest of the piece.
Painting Your Pottery Repair
Once the sanding is complete, it is time to touch up the area with paint. This part is a bit trickier and will require some experimenting to come up with just the right color. You can mix colors on a plate. Keep in mind that colors will be slightly different when they dry. Coloring is often the most difficult part of restoring pottery.
Use acrylic paints. Some you can buy in little bottles at craft stores, some you will need to buy in tubes of artist colors. There are of course many colors to choose from. You'll be best off starting with the basic colors that are dark and as pure as possible.
Here are ten colors that will give you a wide range of hues:
And below is a color mixing table to help you get your desired colors.
Pottery Repair Color Mixing Table:
|Burnt Umber + Rust
Some Tips on Painting:
- Colors dry darker. Apply a small patch of the color and then dry with a hairdryer to check if it is a good match. If it isn't, wipe it off with a damp cloth.
- Your finger tip covered with a piece of linen is one of the best applicators.
- When you've mixed the color and it isn't just right, add a touch of yellow ochre, or raw sienna. Many of the colors used by the makers of the more popular pottery colors have a little of those two colors mixed in. This is especially true if the color you're trying to match appears pink-ish.
- Get a little of your mixed paint on to the cloth and pat into the pottery repaired area. Blend it with the surrounding area.
- Crazing, (the network of fine lines that appear as thin cracks) can be created by using a sharp soft lead pencil. Lightly draw in some craze lines over the finished paint before the final coat is applied.
- After the paint has dried, apply a clear spray acrylic, which seals in the colors and adds a little gloss. The finish can be adjusted from glossy to satin to matte with very fine steel wool. This will make the repair nearly invisible.
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