ted muehling vase splice

The other day, I accidentally knocked a treasured cup off a table and watched, in the slow motion of a car accident, as it crashed onto the stone floor. It was gone in a moment, an object whose beauty I’d enjoyed daily since my friend Suzanne Shaker had given it to me over a decade ago: Ted Muehling’s nymphenburg porcelain ‘convex’ cup, a wonder.

As it flew through the air, I found myself thinking “It’s only an object…Nothing terrible has happened…no lives lost, no illness. An object only.”  In the face of all the losses we’ve read about recently, that we’ve all seen in our own and other’s lives, it paled.I thought of the guy who remarked so matter-of-factly in the face of the huge beautiful trees blown over in the hurricane: “It’s Nature.”

I’m contemplating glueing the cup together, not to make perfect mends, or to make it anything like its former perfect self, rather to make the exact opposite, the fine porcelain pieces formed-together roughly, a reminder of the pleasure it held, the friendship that endures still, imperfection, and …change. And shit that just doesn’t matter.

Ted Muehling 'concave' cup Nymphenurg Porcelain
photo: sally schneider

Or perhaps I’ll throw the broken bits away and keep an image of the cup in my digital memory archive, my strategy for giving things away…letting them go while still having them.

ted muehling vase 1 394. 226 px

Related posts: kintsugi: the artful repair of damaged things
a jar of air + memory
keeping an instagram journal
a modernist island retreat (on a budget)
voyeur: suzanne shaker’s interiors
digital memory archive (photograph stuff then give it away)

If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

16 replies on “object lessons: some sh*t just doesn’t matter

  1. This is a piece of advice I always give new parents. Objects that you love are going to be broken and it really does not matter. Prepare yourself now so that you can respond appropriately to your child, who does matter.

  2. About seven years ago, while we were on vacation, some of the shelves in our living room fell down. Among the books and other tchokes on the floor when we came home was the stunning Dale Chihuly sea form Charlie gave me for my 50th birthday. The piece was broken. I was heartbroken. No way it could be repaired, but I didn’t want to part with it. I bought a clear (plastic!) container at the Container Store to hold the shards. Although it’s not the original piece, I still have my Chihuly.

  3. Your description of how you were feeling as it fell was perfect! How many thoughts can one fit into an instant!

    Perhaps another way to look at it is that shit does matter; it happens to everyone; it happens all the time. The wonder is that we can recognize that there are all different kinds of shit and that we can move on. I say glue it back together and keep it handy – a talisman of sorts.

  4. I had an early lesson in this—my mother died when I was 12, and I had a shirt and some earrings of hers which I wore constantly. The shirt, of course, eventually wore out, but more critically, I lost one of the earrings and was stricken. I felt the loss, but I also felt almost GUILTY. I really tortured myself over it.

    After making myself truly miserable, I decided I had to give it up, let it go, even though it meant one of the only links I felt I had to my mother. Of course, I soon found other, non-physical, links.

    It was a good lesson to learn—they are only things, even when they are things heavy with emotional significance. Life moves forward…….

  5. At first thought… “you are a Hoarder too, takes one to know one”

    Then Harriet has a good idea – if you can feature it WELL it becomes something else to treasure. It could be a “modern art statement” – have it suspended in a plexiglass cube with the pieces arranged so it appears to be in the moment of shattering.

    Too much effort not to be labeled a hoarder? 🙂 Recycle it.

  6. Maybe too many pieces for a repair, but I love that the Japanese repair revered tea vessels and gold-leaf the cracks.

  7. Ah: “other non-physical links”. That is the key, perfectly put. Thanks.

  8. This could be a sign: Come to Munich to so see the different versions of this nice little cup in the shop of the “Porzellan Manufaktur”. They call it “champagne cup” on the website. Maybe this is a way of improvising, too. If there is no glass, just take a cup for champagne.


    Kind regards from Munich 😉

  9. I love the idea of making s new not perfect version of something you love.

  10. Years ago I finally stumbled upon a glass float on the Oregon Coast beach. My boyfriend and I went back there this winter and had a splendid time amidst unpredictable sunshine. I did not buy any floats as a figured one was enough. Yesterday I knocked it off the windowsill as I tried to place a card from a friend between it and the window. I was at first much dismayed and then thought…. Well maybe we’ll go back again next winter! These things, these pretty things, are for my joy, not for my sorrow. Here’s to beautiful breakable treasures!

  11. Yes. Here’s to beautiful breakable treasures!!!

  12. In the fourth grade I broke a treasured cup, fine china, that had a meadow rock and wildflower motif. My mother had it set aside in a glass front corner cupboard. I decided it shouldn’t be wasted, so when my music teacher said we were to make a musical instrument, I tied the shards to the undercarriage of a faux golden carriage that held a gift of perfume. I thought it gave it the dignity it needed to be truly re-purposed. My art teacher must not have agreed. I think I got an F for it, but it might have been a D…an F to an A student…

    I do alot with found objects today…but i don’t get a grade on them. Some of them really satisfy my soul…

  13. Your art teacher was really misguided. I hope she didn’t put you off your great thinking…sounds like not, but whew!

  14. some years ago a guest knocked an entire stack of antique hand painted Bavarian dessert plates to the ground at my parents’ home. My mother was in tears. I made her keep the broken china and made a fabulous pique assiette tabletop which is now in my home and is one of my favorite things. My mother didn’t feel any better, but I did!

  15. Thank you for the story of transformation of the broken into something beautiful. One of our favorite themes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *