“And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper.” ~ Mary Shelley
I confess to taking precious time away from gardening to hobble together broken pots. By hobble together, I mean glue the pieces back into the semblance of a pot able to hold a plant and its roots and the supporting soil mix.
I have named them Frankenpots…. born of frugality but also the challenge of giving something seemingly worthless, new life. I don’t remember when it began, but the WHY could only have stemmed from the dropping of a favorite pot. I was enabled, not by electricity, but the appearance of Gorilla glue at our local hardware store.
Resurrecting a broken pot is a crude 3D puzzle. We like puzzles. [Do you Wordle? The 274th (March 20, 2022) Wordle word was RENEW.] Taking pieces of a cracked clay pot and putting it back together is a satisfying endeavor. I imagine rebuilding a vintage bike feels like this, except way better.
I am the child of depression era parents. In our household we threw nothing away. Flash forward 50 years and, sure enough, my parents’ frugality lives on in me. Their struggles were passed down and around seasoning the generational Boomer soup. Sometimes strength, resilience, and a sensible way of being in the world result. Sometimes.
If a Frankenpot cracks, it is usually in a different place from the original break; the glued areas seem to hold up better and are stronger once set. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?
Glue has evolved in its ability to bind and in its refined textures as you can see in the photos. I am not sure if I like the more subtle repairs better than the oozy ones. Gorilla Super Glue dries clear and works quickly but is the least oozy. I have tried all kinds of glue. Avoid the ones that dry white. Awful.
The objective isn’t really “good as new” although with a clean simple break, the repairs can be very subtle. More often, the character of the vessel changes, sometimes leaving gaps that can be filled with moss or that allow roots to peak out for light and air. It looks craggy, worn, and imperfect. Kinda like the mirror in the morning.
This reminds of the Leonard Cohen Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Surely a Frankenpot is more interesting than a baby-faced new clay pot? Like a 90 years old countenance [from the old French contenir…to contain, and contenance…bearing, demeanor], there is a story here etched in mossy crevices and in the eyes. Yes, eyes. Frankenpots inevitably have eyes… irretrievable pieces…lost or too crushed to glue back in place.
It’s alive! You are the electric current breathing life back into your broken pot. No La-bore-a-tory or lightning storm needed. Your hideous progeny lives to house another root system. Isn’t it awfully wonderful!?
I grew up in the dawning of the age of municipal recycling. I can’t help but REUSE and repurpose. It makes vital sense. As a hoarder, stuff accumulates. Shells and seeds pods, interesting stones and rusty things. Why would I throw away good pot shards, especially if they can be reassembled?
Do you keep your pruning cuttings because you can’t throw them away? Here, those trimmings often end up in a vase, becoming rooted cuttings that may get replanted somewhere…maybe in a Frankenpot. Their holey-ness can house ferns; anything that develops runners (strawberries) will make a little magic. Using a bit of moss in the crevices can help prevent initial soil leakage, and looks rather nice.
Of course, there are Frankensaucers. Slow leaks are acceptable. Once in a terracotta moon it will be leak free.
I have a friend who has had many surgeries repairing and replacing joints and parts. She isn’t “good as new” but the repair work was enough that she gets by. I think she often feels like the Bride of Frankenstein.
Patience is one of the 2 glues that give Frankenpots new life. I am told I have no patience. Surely a carefully glued Frankenpot says differently?
I am overwhelmed by information. It is too much… this constant social input and information availability at the touch of a screen. The current cosmic weather says it all. As I write this, Mercury, planet of information and communication, is in Pisces— sign of dissipation. THINKING done. Time to take a break. I am in a DOING phase of life; gardening, cycling, and the occasional pot-rebuild are where it’s at.
Certainly there are other F-potters out there…lockdown glue wizards with time on their sticky hands. Have you created a monster? This could be the grounded distraction you need. Getcha some glue. There’s a GORILLA in the garden and he is stomping on the sunflowers.
You can add up the parts
But you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love will come
But like a refugee
More from Anthem by Leonard Cohen
Mary Vaananen is still DOING the 9-5 in the Jelitto Perennial Seeds North American office in Louisville, KY. How does she find the time?
Hmm, maybe I can bust my big blue hosta out of its big blue pot and divide it, then glue the pot back together.
That’s the spirit!
Mary – from another Mary – Gorilla Glue is tops! I glued my broken (not just cracked) ceramic ornamental oriental (sort of) garden “stool” together last year- still looks good!!
Perhaps add a bit of gold glitter and announce your pots are the cousins of Kintsugi.
My husband has filled his van with broken pots from a local nursery that never made it to the sales floor due to shipping breaks and cracks. Strategic placement and no-one knows.
Ah Kinsugi pottery….I have forgotten about it. Would have been a good layer to add to this. And gold glitter is easy to come by these days in the half off Mardi Gras bins.Thanks!
I have a pot that my mother glued together in the 1940’s. Daddy strengthened it with a tight wire around under the rim. Still working!!!! They were Depression kids, the time was right after WWII. Being frugal was a way of life.
Yours is truly a vintage Frankenpot! And a family collaboration at that. I am sure it is cherished. ❤️
These are absolutely lovely. It is heartbreaking to lose a favorite pot (I’m talking to you, Mailman, knocking over my pot with your huge mail bag, and not even owning up to it. I did glue it back together.) When my Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick died, I spray painted it a deep purple, and enjoyed my expensive looking garden “sculpture” for a few years before it eventually broke from brittleness. I love coming up with new ideas for things before I unthinkingly toss them.
Susan, we might have been separated at birth! Cheers to you.
Thanks for this lovely rant. I too am the child of depression parents. Although Gorilla glue did not hold my garden chart together, I’m going to give it a go on my my lovely succulent pot that I paid way too much for.
It is embarrassingly easy. Glad you are giving it a good.
I really enjoyed your post and have bits and pieces of pots that I reuse. Being creative is so much fun AND a good way to give the eyes a rest from the computer demands. I’m bless to work from home but the eyes can only take so much. Thank you for your fun post and inspiration to go glue something! 🙂 Blessings!
Go for it. Your eyes will thank you!
You are my kindred spirit. I share your pot/repair/glue propensity, though sometimes I try and convince myself I’m practicing kintsugi, sans gold. Thankfully Gorilla Glue is based here in Cincinnati and is readily available.
You are in the land of plenty! Kitsugi or Frankenpottery…. It is a good way to spend some time. Thanks!
Wonderful. From kintsugi to The Velveteen Rabbit, the old, cracked, worn, crumbling, creaky and decayed has always drawn me in so much more than anything new and shiny. Think squeaky floorboards in the village hardware store. Souls are earned with time and trials. The first forty or fifty years are at best an awkward phase of growing into the surroundings. I really don’t think I would survive very long in a new dwelling. Incidentally, my wife, a Dance/Movement Therapist, leads group exercises in rebuilding one’s shattered self, involving not just gluing broken clay pots together, but getting to smash them first.
Wow! I will never be able to say it better than you have here, Joe. Intrigued by your wife’s dance class. I can feel the liberation in the handle of the hammer! Thank you.
I am also the result of depression era parents. My mother never threw, and I do mean never, anything away if it could be repurposed. I keep pots, pieces of pots, stones, rocks. My garden pathway is being redone this spring with pieces of Terra cotta saved from pots that cracked and broke. I use bits and pieces for drainage in other pots. The bee water is an upcycled saucer. Covered with flat rocks. I myself am no longer shiny and new, and so I think I appreciate the same in my gardens as well.
Well said Charlotte! We are part of that generational soup. Savers and creators. I think I would love your garden. Thanks!
Lovely piece, could have used more flaws? Wink. I’ve only recently discovered the Japanese philosophy of wavi-sabi and this article connected all those pieces into new assemblages. Just yesterday collected the pieces of a beloved pot with a coppery glaze, and thinking I may tint oozing glue with verdigris tones to accent its scars.
Yes, to embracing the imperfections we see in our mirrors and our friends faces and extending that grace to what we wear and drive and sit upon. Down with the shiny and new, say I! Up with making more beauty with whatever is at hand. I’m happy to make this my 2022 mantra. Maybe it will also help me save money?
Thanks for writing this piece.
I have a sad tale to share. I had a pair of beautiful large terra cotta pots. One broke into four pieces. Armed with the aforementioned Gorilla glue, I began the re-creation. When placing the final piece, I bumped the pot off the workbench and watched as the entire pot shattered on the concrete into small shards and dust. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put that pot together again!
Oh! So sad! You were so close. Do you still have the orphan twin? Hopefully whole. Thanks for sharing.
Wink wink back atcha Carol! Tinted glue? I’m gonna make me a blue blooded Frankenpot!! I love your mantra and am making it mine, too. Cheers….to the beauty! Thanks.
Your writing is pure prose, I would love to see more articles written by you, you are so thought provoking and delightful to read.
Thanks JoAnne. Hope life in Asheville is wonderful! Let’s try again next time you are in Lville.
I’ve been Googling Gorilla glue, and find it’s available here in the UK. We’ve lost two terracotta pots to our window cleaner’s visits and I could have easily re-glued both. Likewise smaller breaks from frost damage. Thanks for the tip Mary.
Glad you can find it in the UK. Good luck!
Brilliant! I agree with the sentiment and practicality. I’m ready for the next break.
Thanks Mary Lou!
You lost me at “glue’. We don’t work well together. I get it EVERYWHERE. I embarrassed the children when I tried to help out at a craft day at school and used a glue gun for the first time. But love the pots and am a child of depression raised parents. Which was handy when I set up my own place because I didn’t have to buy anything.
Lol Tibs! I am not the tidiest with glue either. Sometimes it takes days to get fingers clean. Had to pry them apart the other day. Lost a fingerprint or two.
I also say “Brilliant!” Love your writing. Hope to see more
rants from you ♥
Many thanks Diane!
Nice piece of writing! Combines how-to with humor, pathos, poetry, history, wit, and Putin’s war – and hopeful to boot. Thanks!
Thanks for the kind words Ginger! Was wondering if anyone would click on the “stomping on the sunflowers” link.
I love your ideas, spirit and writing. I was gluing a pot made from a giant gourd yesterday and still picking glue off my fingers
Hi Mona! Hope you are doing ok. Thanks for the nice words. Cheers! It is spring.
Thank you for the Leonard Cohen lyrics. And for validating my “frugality.”
Cohen’s Anthem is perfection. Thanks for the nicer words, Ann.
From a fellow plant hoarder: terrific column, Mary! My parents, too, were Depression-raised. You and I and kindred spirits on here, were way ahead of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle craze. Which will help at least a bit to try to save our poor Mother Earth.
Love your writing
Diane in CO
Reusable Colorado?!!! You really are living it! Thanks for the kind words, Diane.
I feel quite disappointed that all pots currently in my possession are entirely whole. Maybe I’ll go throw one out of an upstairs window just for the fun of gluing it back together.
Yes to all of it! Broken ceramics make bright spots under the water barrel spigot. Shells line the small shade garden under the mulberry. “Use it up or wear it out, make it do or go without.” Recycling/repurposing is not new but it is fun. Thanks to all those Depression parents who taught us.
Hear hear, Kris!!!