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Q. How can I restore an old porcelain figurine that recently had several pieces break off?

Q. I have an old but not wildly valuable porcelain figurine that recently met with an accident; several small pieces broke off, but I seem to have recovered all of them. Now what?

A. The damage done to your figurine is probably fixable-just resist the urge to try to glue the pieces back together yourself. A clumsy repair job makes it more difficult for a restoration professional to recreate the figurine for you. After a ceramic piece shatters, the best thing you can do is collect all the pieces you can find, including the tiniest fragments and dust particles, says Paul Shanks, who owns Recherché (3346 Main St., Skokie, 847-673-7172). Even the smallest pieces may be vital to making its restoration complete. Pick the pieces up by hand, wrap them in tissue, and store them in a box or plastic container. Try not to touch the broken edges and don’t attempt to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. Any extra touching that adds dirt and pressure to the fragments may compromise the final look. The repair process depends on the break, the type of object, and its function, Shanks says. His prices range from $75 to several thousand dollars, depending on what kind of work needs to be done.Whether your sculpture has broken into two or 102 pieces, it is fixable, says William Marhoefer, who, along with his wife, Michelle, owns Broken Art Restoration (1841 W. Chicago Ave., 312-226-8200; brokenartrestoration.com). In the business of repairing porcelain, ceramic, pottery, stone, marble, and jade pieces (they do not repair dinnerware) for more than 25 years, they typically offer clients two options-a simple repair or a total restoration.

Marhoefer has handled everything from objects of purely sentimental value to pieces worth many thousands of dollars. He typically recommends the simple repair, which generally runs from $50 to $100, for pieces in the first category. If you go with this option, expect the broken pieces to be reassembled and stabilized, cracks filled with epoxy, and chips touched up with a matching color. Want to go with a total restoration? That will cost you a little more (the most expensive repair job Marhoefer has done ran about $3,000). For this kind of work, Marhoefer reassembles the pieces, fills chips and cracks, and fabricates missing parts, if necessary. “If it’s a figurine that’s broken and parts of the fingers are missing, we would sculpt new fingers and then match the glazes and the colors and apply them over areas where the damage was,” Marhoefer says. “The glaze or finish matching is what makes the piece look as if it had never been damaged.”


Have a design or renovation question? E-mail us at chicagohome@chicagomag.com. Sorry, we cannot take questions by phone, or guarantee individual responses

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