Ceramics case studies
Two step-by-step case studies looking at conserving a 17th century earthenware tile and restoring a 17th century stoneware mug.
Conserving a 17th century Earthenware Tile
This case study outlines the process used by conservators to treat a 17th century glazed earthenware Mughal tile.
Glazed earthenware Mughal tile, probably from Lahore
Glazed earthenware Mughal tile, probably from Lahore, about 1650. The tile is broken into a number of pieces. Museum no. IM.246-1923
Applying adhesive along the break lines. Museum no. IM.246-1923
Ceramics conservators choose an adhesive depending on the ceramic they are working on. Ideally the adhesive should be slightly weaker than the ceramic, so that if the ceramic is mishandled and breaks again, this will occur along the line of adhesive rather than causing fresh damage in the ceramic.
Conservators might use a barrier layer on porous ceramics, to prevent the adhesive being drawn into the body. This would be of a similar consistency to the adhesive used for the job.
A common mistake on home repairs is using far too much adhesive. Here, just enough adhesive was applied to coat the edges of the break.
Strips of self-adhesive tape placed at right angles to the break line. Museum no. IM.246-1923
Strips of tape were used to hold the join together in the right position while the adhesive dried. In some cases, this can take up to a week.
Retouching the fillings with an artist’s paintbrush. Museum no. IM.246-1923
Break lines are almost always chipped. In this case, they were filled and retouched to match the original. Conservators aim to disguise a fill but would not cover original surfaces, glazes or decoration when retouching.
Tile after treatment complete. Museum no. IM.246-1923
Tile after conservation. The damage associated with the break has been treated. It is not necessary to make good all damage, regardless of the cause.
In this case, old chips along the edges and the missing corner are considered acceptable on an object of this type and date.