... from junk to priceless
I work both as a homemaker and hiring coordinator for a company in the Boston area. One day we received a call from one of our venders about obtaining help for an elderly disabled woman. She needed someone to help her pack to move. My ears perked up when I heard this call. I figured that might be an interesting case for ME to take. She needed help four hours a week until she was packed. As a hobby I've been studying antiques and thought I may be able to learn something from the experience. If I took the job, I could also help her out too.
I met this lovely, educated woman two weeks later. I worked with her on Saturdays for months and we built up a great rapport. I learned a lot from her and she said she learned a lot from me. I learned about her family, her life, and culture, and she learned about the history and prices of her knick-knacks and antiques. I looked up some of her things on EBAY and in my antiquing books for her. (I want to educate people, not to just throw things out and that they may be worth something. I also hate to see antiques being thrown away just to sit in a landfill for 100 or more years). There are lots of people out there who want to preserve history. I am one of them.
The last couple of weeks we got into packing things from the cellar and closets. We came across a box filled with rags and pieces of two large Chinese green statues with black bases. One was the shape of a man and one was a woman with a deer or fawn wrapped around the backs of their legs. They were in bad shape. One statue was broken at the knees and the other was intact and glued to a broken base. There was brown glue glopped and hardened over everything. The black bases were chipped in many places. It looked like something for the trash men to take. She told me they were in her parents “Chinese” room as she was growing up and through the years they got broken. As she told me the story and I saw her eyes tearing, I wondered if there was anything I could do to fix them. I fix my own Christmas collectibles-glue, repaint, etc. but have never done anyone else’s.
I thought about it for a moment and then took the box and said: “Do you trust me? Let me take them home and see what I can do to restore them.” I took them home and inspected them. They were in BAD shape! There were also cloth remnants hastily glued to the bottom of the bases.
I had the statues for a week. The statues themselves were filthy with years of dust, grime, and nicotine. I had looked them up on EBAY with no luck. I did find out they resembled Mud men pieces and they were most definitely Majolica. It took me a while to figure out what I could do. I soaked them separately in hot water to get off all of the old glue and cloth remnants. I washed each piece at least 2-3 times with a mild detergent, cosmetic sponges, and Q-tips. I worked with them for at least an hour each night for a week. After they were clean and dried I glued the girl statue together with super glue and afterward found green paint to cover the chips around the break. I had taken all of the brown glue off the pieces by soaking and using Q-tips (which came in quite handy). The bases were black. I didn't have any black paint in the house so I touched them up with a black Sharpie. They ended up displayed on my bureau until they totally dried.
They were beautiful! They looked new, and their green Majolica paint was so vibrant under all that grime. They didn't look like they did when they first came into my house broken in pieces in a box full of rags.
I wrapped them gently and placed them in a box and I brought them to my client’s house that Saturday. I told her she might need to sit down before I showed her. I took them out and placed them on the bases. The utter shock and delight on her face made my day. She said, “Oh my god! Are they the same pieces?” She picked up the girl figure and said, “I can't see the break. Where was it broken? They look new! Just like they did sitting in the Chinese room.” She had tears in her eyes and was quiet for a few seconds. She told me I had made them beautiful. She never imagined they could look like new again. She said that I should go to the Museum of Fine Arts to get a job restoring antiques. She said she would give me a reference!
My client moved last Sunday to New York. She left with a little bit more knowledge about the value of her parent’s legacy and a little bit happier. In the car with her, she had the box with two green Chinese statues intact from her family home 60 plus years ago. She plans to display them in her new home.
I continue to work as a homemaker with the knowledge I made someone happy. I've also realized I have a growing passion for restoring antiques.
October 5, 2007