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Project Aurum

Project Aurum

The first brant
along the edge of the moon
have come into sight...

In October 2000 I made the same pot twice. Two pots in case one of them would not survive the act of creation. The potter's dependence on the power of the elements makes him humble and it always means trembling and worrying until the door of the kiln is opened. Then success or failure is revealed.

In the case of the two pot siblings a gruesome sight was disclosed after opening the kiln. Both pots were cracked several times, all the beauty was gone, an attestation of total failure. (Kiln cracks, no cooling cracks. With kiln cracks the pot still has a good sound when knocking on it, with cooling cracks it clangs.)
All hopes and expectations I had for these pots were lost. A great disappointment enwrapped things silently.

I put one of the pots into my private collection however and gave the other one away.
During the following years many visitors came to my studio. Again and again, when they discovered the pot they said: „Oh, what a pity, the beautiful pot!“
Then I always told them about the impermanence of things.
Almost 12 years later I stood in front of this pot once more and thought about the idea to make a new one like it, it would have been easy. If you are an emotional person like me and develop and cultivate a sort of melancholy and a taste for little stories like this, you dream of the ineffable thing, in this case the restoration of the pot.
But how could so many large and small cracks be repaired? There were a few possibilities and what would be at risk, when almost everything was already lost.
The most simple restoration technique would be to fill the cracks with silicone or plastic material and finally paint it with gold bronze.
A more intricate technique – which is used in Japan – would be to fill the cracks with synthetic resin and dust the moist resin with gold powder.
More complex is the restoration with metals like copper or silver.
The most expensive technique, the optimum, is the restoration with gold.
It took a few days until I decided to choose the optimum, for the benefit of this pot.
This decision caused new problems, like how much gold would be needed and what would that cost? Is it possible to use this technique on such long cracks and who can do such a complicated restoration? Lots of questions.
Gold has been used for jewellery and ritualistic objects for thousands of years.
Gold is among the most noble metals people work with. It is a natural element and it does not corrode.

As the pot is decorated with a Chinese picture motif, I decided to use fine gold. The colour of fine gold is gentle and noble. It was already highly appreciated in ancient China.

About the restorer:
After some search I decided to entrust Mr. Kurt Wartenberg with the gold work. Mr. Wartenberg is wellknown for his most precise work with noble metal. As he has been caring for bonsai as a hobby for years the decision was easy.
Now everything took its course and the restoration began. By the mid of May 2012 the work was completed.
The word completion gets its full meaning when you hold this pot in your hands.

The failed work „Phoenix in the Ashes“

First work steps with gold.
For restoring the thin long cracks the casting technique was inapplicable especially for economic reasons. So the fine gold was driven into the cracks with a small hammer. This is a very difficult and „dangerous“ manual technique. The pot can break at any time or chipping can make the damage worse.

The word completion gets its full meaning when you hold this pot in your hands.
It is like „The Rise of the Phoenix“. Something worthless gains much higher value by the means of a perfect restoration.

The second view.

In the middle of the picture the end of the bottom crack is still clearly visible. Philosophically we could interpret this as „The reflection of the moon in waves of water“.

On the right side of the picture there is something special: just below the brant in the sky a little particle of fireclay propably has gone off and left a barely visible crater. The master has mended it with a goldnugget. It is unbelievable, this is restoration at its best. Philosophical interpretation: „The rising moon below the geese“.

The inside of the pot after restoration.

And this is the most perfect finish of the restoration. A small copper plate of 1,5 cm with the initials of the master „K W“.

On the back side of the plate a goldnugget was insertet, in which a mark is engraved. On the nugget the word „Aurum“ (gold) is written and on the plate the number 999,9 (gold fineness).
The copper plate was tied to two mammoth sticks with a handbraided string.
Technical data of the pot:
Measurements: 29 cm x 20,5 cm x 12 cm
Made in November 2000 – fired at ca. 1230° C – glaze painting

Technical data of the restoration:
8,7 g fine gold (999,9) for the pot
1,0 g nugget fine gold (999,9)  for the mark
restoration hours of work: 46 hours
Text: Peter Krebs
Photographs: Kurt Wartenberg and Peter Krebs
Translation: Heike van Gunst

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