An unloved piece of Antique Japanese Satsuma Ceramics.
One of the most enjoyable parts of what I do is scouring Auction houses, Junk Shops and during the Summer Car Boot Sales for objects of interest and potential. I have been visiting one of my local fairs for many months and had noted a piece of old Oriental ceramics which carried a high price tag despite extensive damage and repairs, a couple of weeks back and to my delight the dealer had reduced the price of the ceramic vase to a more realistic level. This is the story about an upcycling project based on a rather sorry-looking damaged and repaired larger Japanese Satsuma Vase.
Satsuma pottery originates from a distinct area of Japan, Satsuma pottery was made in or around Kagoshima in Kyushu Japan. And in the latter part of the 19th century and through to the early 1920s in Satsuma in southern Japan. High quality and good condition Antique Satsuma ceramics are highly valued and collected by enthusiasts across Japan, the USA and Europe.
This particular vase is quite an old piece, from the research of the mark it could be from the early 20th Century. What attracted me to the vase was the beautiful Blue cracked ice ground colour and the various and different scenes of young Japanese Scholars. The vase has several issues which in reality make it worthless as a piece of collectable Satsuma ware, The vase has extensive rubbing to gold borders and detailing and general signs of age and use. The main problem with the vase is damage to the base, including a long crack, this damage had been repaired and filled many years ago but with this damage, any value the vase has as a piece of Satsuma ware is lost.
I plan to turn this lovely old piece of Satsuma ware into an interesting, unique and one-off table lamp. Despite the damage, the vase has a solid bottom at the base and a heavy deep rim at the top making it a sound item for conversion.
Here is the Satsuma Vase as found.
The existing Damage and old Repairs.
New & Second Hand Parts.
The first thing that the vase needs for its upcycling into a lamp is a solid “lid”. Luckily I found a perfectly sized stepped brass lighting disc in my box of parts, the old disc was tried for size and was a perfect fit for the top of the vase. The next thing the vase needed was a base, for the base of this lamp I purchased a purpose-made light oak predrilled plinth which despite the cost makes the conversion easier and better looking when finished. The last thing needed to marry the base, lid and vase together is a long length of 10mm threaded lighting tube. This 10mm tube is an industry standard and is easily found online. Using 10mm nuts the wooden base and new brass lid of the lamp would be clamped together at each end of the vase using 10mm nuts as a clamping force.
Here are the 4 structural elements of the new lamp.
As with any ceramic conversion like this, the next stage was the riskiest and needed the most care. For the vase to become part of the new lamp the base needed drilling with a central 10mm clearance hole. Holes in thick sections of ceramics can be made using specialist glass ceramic drill bits. These holes must be made with real care, the drill bits must be left to make the hole without excess pressure and the cutting needs to be made with a slow drill speed. Luckily on this occasion, there were no problems.
Here is the newly drilled vase base and the 10mm Clearance drill bit that was used.
Putting it all together.
Now the vase was drilled the next step was to offer the parts up and gently tighten the threaded rod to get an idea of how the finished lamp would look. The vase looked good as a lamp base and was rotated so that the old damage and cracks would be at the back of the finished lamp.
The next step is to tighten the new lamp base and cut the oversize 10mm Tube to size, the top of the lamp was finished with a washer and a small second-hand turned brass section. When tightened and fully assembled the cable entry and exit points were protected with 10mm plastic grommets which are a safety feature that protects your cable from any potentially sharp edges on your 10mm Cable tubing.
This interesting piece of Satsuma Ware is now a piece of lighting, all it needs is new wiring and lighting fixtures and fittings.
When upcycling anything into lighting or restoring or rewiring any lamp there are several important safety points to remember.
- Always follow your local or national standards and only use components that meet your country’s regulations.
- In the UK lighting with metal parts as used on this lamp need to be earthed (grounded), check the wiring standards in your country.
- Always smooth down and fit protective plastic or rubber grommets to areas, such as tubing, where your cable passes.
- Always fit a cable-stay, point where the cable is fixed that will stop the wiring from being pulled out of your bulb holder in the event of the cable being pulled or the lamp dropped.
The wiring route on this Satsuma lamp was very straightforward, the wiring entry is at the side of the new wooden base straight up the new wiring tube to the bulb holder. A brass “safer” Bulb holder was wired up and fitted to the top of the new lamp. UK wiring is Green & Yellow for Earth – Blue for Neutral – Brown for Live.
Now a Unique Japanese Satsuma Table Lamp.
The lamp was tested and was given a final clean & protected with a final coat of wax. For this final protective coat, I use a top-quality wax which is called “Renaissance Micro Crystalline Wax Polish” This is the best wax finish for such a final finish and project like this as it cleans, protects and brings out texture and colour from any material, it is used and recommended by top museums. It is expensive but a little goes a long way and it is definitely worth the cost.
The finished lamp
In use and with a shade fitted the new Japanese lamp comes to life. Here we can see the lamp in use with a simple light blue pleated and lined shade, the light from the shade brings out the scholar scenes and the beautiful blue finish of the original vase. The damage that the vase had suffered is now lost in the overall look of the lamp. The vase is reborn and will provide many more years of enjoyment, the original satsuma vase is lost but the lamp has new life.
This was a short job that was fairly straightforward. I am really happy with the result and I am delighted to have provided this old forgotten piece of Japanese ceramics with new life, it’s a good feeling to save something and up-cycle a forgotten piece of history.
Earthed Wiring. Earthed switched Brass bulb holder. Grommets. Cable stay. 10mm threaded tubing. Second-hand lighting parts and a sheet of felt for the underside of the new wooden base. Various sundries.
Time Spent on the lamp – 3 Hours.
I have a varied range of Vintage and Antique lighting items for sale in my eBay shop here – Hertfordshire Lighting and Design
I would love to hear from anyone who has performed a similar refinishing project; it’s always great to share ideas with other people.
Even a simple restoration project like this can bring a great sense of satisfaction and is great fun. I would encourage anyone to bring new life to an old unloved item.
- Shop around.
- Find an item.
- Give it some thought.
- Do a bit of research.
- Antiques are Green.
If you have any questions or need advice on any item of Vintage lighting please contact me and I will do my best to help.
Michael Adkins. firstname.lastname@example.org