A New Workshop Completes a New Tour Experience
With the completion of the new tile pressing studio – and the expanded tour path that came with it – the time was right for the Pewabic Education Studio to introduce a new tile pressing workshop that better replicates Pewabic’s processes.
“The idea was to create a workshop that was a little more honed in to what we do here in our fabrication studio, right down to the molds being made by our master mold maker,” explains Lauren McCoy, onsite education manager. “Participants experience how we work downstairs in tile pressing and take home what they glazed here.”
Private workshops begin with a docent guiding visitors through the pottery’s history and the processes behind Pewabic clay-making, tile-pressing, glazing and firing. Students then head to the Education Studio to learn a little bit about how glaze works, and the transformation process when pieces are fired at 2300 degrees, says McCoy.
Next, participants try their hand at using an arbor press much like Pewabic tile pressers do and then press one of three geometric tiles designed by Pewabic Technical Designer Mario Lopez.
They set that tile aside to learn about the firing process that transforms raw clay tiles into bisque pieces. Students then choose a bisque ware tile to bulb glaze using glossy satin matte glazes created by Alyssa Burnham, education studio technician.
“It gets quiet. Glazing is really cathartic. People really enjoy that aspect of it,” McCoy says.
While the pressed tile stays at the pottery to be bisque fired and glazed by a later group, workshop attendees get to pick up the piece they glaze 4-6 weeks later, after it’s been fired.
For those who loved the previous workshop, where participants decorate a soft terra cotta slab tile and/or a luminary with tools and slip, don’t fret.
“We still find value in the other workshop and we still offer it for kids. It’s kind of like eating off the kid’s menu,” says McCoy, adding that the new workshop was built from an effort to diversify one-time interactions.
“It was a collaborative effort to help people understand our process here,” explains Annie Dennis, Education Director. “It gives people a greater appreciation of what Pewabic does. Before you didn’t walk away with that Pewabic connection. Now you do.”
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Pewabic’s relationship with Michigan State University dates back to the 1920s, when Pewabic tile began to appear throughout the Lansing campus. Some 40 years later, the connection became even more meaningful when MSU played a vital role in Pewabic’s very existence.