Clay Making Then and Now

March 12, 2021 1 Comment

As we continue uncovering stories from Pewabic’s past we are reminded of how grateful we are for the present. The same methods, techniques, and equipment have been utilized in some capacity for over a century! Our steadfastness to keep things true to our early days is exemplified most prominently in our clay mixing process. We are still using the same belt-drive pugmill from the early 1900s. It seems that the only thing that’s mildly different present-day is the fashion!

Former Pewabic employees Ira Peters and Primo Valoni circa 1950s-60s working on mixing clay.

Ira Peters and Primo Valoni circa 1950s-60s

Current Pewabic artist Seamus loading ingredients into the clay mixer.

Present-day: Clay Mixer Seamus adding dry ingredients to the clay mixer

Meticulous documentation of historic processes combined with the expertise of our talented clay artists means we can continue crafting the foundation of all our work without sacrificing quality. Excerpts from the mixer’s original catalog states“...It is a typical heavy-duty mill, one that will withstand the strains of rough and constant service.” –– We can certainly attest to that over one hundred years later!   

Pewabic’s original staff members laid the groundwork for what would distinguish the pottery’s output. While Co-Founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton acted as mentor for many, Pewabic was also a collaborative and vibrant environment where expression and experimentation were encouraged. 

ewabic staffers Jerome (left), and John (right) circa 1983 pulling clay from the mixer.

Pewabic staffers Jerome (left), and John (right) circa 1983

We keep that spirit alive today. Each team member plays an integral role in our future. Without change, perseverance, and creativity, we would not be able to continue our mission to enrich the human experience through clay. We’d like to think our Co-Founders and the OG crew at Pewabic would be proud of how far we’ve come.

Original Pewabic team member Joseph Ender standing next to the clay mixer.

Original Pewabic team member Joseph Ender

Jerome and John pulling finished clay logs from the pug mill.

Jerome and John pulling finished clay logs from the pugmill

 In the months leading up to our 40th anniversary as a nonprofit organization we will remain diligent in sharing our #PewabicStory with you all, as you continue to share yours. Countless incredible artists have lended their time and knowledge to create a better Pewabic. If you’d like to share your stories, videos, and photos, please contact us as news@pewabic.org or through our social channels. We can’t wait to celebrate you and the people you hold dear who have spent time in our humble pottery! 





1 Response

Ken Thompson
Ken Thompson

April 02, 2021

In your first picture it looks like Primo Valoni with John Enders. It would be nice to have confirmation. I worked with Mr. Valoni from 1970 to 1973 making clay at Pewabic when it was part of MSU. I don’t have a picture of him although I have many things he made with old Pewabic press molds such as a little girl blowing out a candle and some small horses. Enjoyable memories,

Thank you,

Ken

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