Pewabic's Educational Legacy

Posted by Frances Ma on

Education is at the heart of what we do. Our Co-Founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton founded the ceramics education programs at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan. She was given an honorary M.A. from U-M in 1930 and an honorary Ph.D. from WSU in 1933. She also played a major role in the development of the art department at the College for Creative Studies. Pewabic tile work can be found at Cranbrook, Michigan State University, The University of Michigan, and Wayne State University.  


Mary Chase wrote in her unpublished autobiography entitled Adventures in Ceramics, “...I was tremendously gratified and pleased that the work I had done should receive recognition in this way as “Inventive in design and happy in execution”, but even more, it made me rejoice in the name of all craftsmen and creative workers.”


Mary Chase receiving her honorary M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1930.Mary Chase receiving her honorary M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1930

Mary Chase's dedication to handcraft was a driving force in her life. She took on students and apprentices, imparting her love for ceramics arts to them. Many Pewabic staff members today have studied at the very institutions Mary Chase aided in establishing. 

Mary Chase was the only woman to receive an honorary degree the year she accepted her M.A from the University of Michigan. It was the first degree of its kind given by the university. Mary grew up in Ann Arbor––her father and brother both studied at U-M. Read more about her influence on the American Arts and Crafts movement and development of ceramic programming at the university here.


Two 4x4 tiles in a dark, glossy blue glaze and bright, glossy yellow glaze showcasing the U-M logo. There is also a true-blue ornament with an outline of the state of Michigan that reads "The Beauty and the Bounty".Our University of Michigan Tile in Midnight and Honey Gloss glaze options as featured in our Winter 2023 Collection alongside our Michigan Ornament



In 1932 was the year Mary Chase received her honorary Ph.D. from Wayne State University, then known as Wayne University. She went on to work as a lecturer and instructor of ceramics through the Education department in 1936. 

These classes took place at Pewabic Pottery. She taught over 1,000 students during her time teaching at the university. Many of her students who were actively pursuing degrees in education went on to establish ceramic art programs throughout metro Detroit.


Wayne State University students on the lawn of Pewabic Pottery in 1936.

Wayne State University students on the lawn of Pewabic Pottery in 1936


Classes at Pewabic proceeded through the late 1940s. WSU shifted their ceramics program into a full art program in 1948. A studio was added to the university campus in the early 1950s. Mary Chase assisted with the curriculum structure and equipment selection. 

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Frank Cody, Superintendent of the Detroit School System (which included WSU) in 1933 emphasizing the importance of Pewabic Pottery in education: 

“In connection with Pewabic Pottery and Mrs. Mary Chase Stratton, I will state that the school system has derived benefit and education both direct and indirect from this place. The ceramic development in Detroit has come almost entirely from this source, both from regular classes held at the Pottery and from instruction given to groups of students under the Art Teachers. In establishing ceramic departments in the public school system Mrs. Stratton is called upon almost daily for advice upon technical points.”




Pewabic’s connection to Michigan State University dates back to the 1920s. You can find Pewabic tile in various locations throughout the East Lansing campus, including the recent MSU Agricultural Mural featured in our virtual tile portfolio. MSU played a crucial role in Pewabic’s survival following the passing of Mary Chase Perry Stratton in 1961. 

In 1967 MSU took on Pewabic as an educational satellite, indelibly saving the pottery until 1981. At the time, MSU handed over operations to the Pewabic Society (formed in 1979) which continues to operate Michigan’s only National Historic Landmark pottery to this day. Read more about this incredible connection here


Our MSU Spartan Helmet tiles strewn across a black backdrop.MSU Spartan tile crafted to honor Pewabic’s ties with the university

    Image of our Michigan State University ornament (top-left) and tile (bottom-right) surrounded by holly berries and winter greens in a white, milky, Alabaster glaze. MSU Spartan Ornament and Tile in our Alabaster glaze


We put together a small collection of collegiate keepsakes featuring education institutions, and wanted to take a moment to share Pewabic’s strong ties with local universities. It is important to recognize that great strides have been made. The pursuit of art and education helps enrich our lives and bring us new, fresh perspectives. Cheers to all of the recent grads, and to those just starting their journey!

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  • I am a Wayne State graduate with a Bachelors in Art Education 1972 and Masters in1982. At this time I feel that I was in one of the best programs for Art Education. Looking at the pictures from Wayne Students the first name on the bottom is Murray. That is Dr. Murray Douglas who taught me ceramics. That is where I learned formulas for the clay’s and glazes. We actually had a bin filled with asbestos to mix with clay for Raku. What an experience!!! my first encounter with Pewabic was in High School in 1968 when Michigan State had it. Pewabic has always been part of my life! Thank you Mary!

    Kathleen Hilton on
  • I am 82 years old and live in New York City. I am unlikely to ever visit Detroit although I wish I could. Is there a book about Pewabic pottery? If not, why not? It seems to me that such a book would be a valuable addition to the literature of arts and crafts. I would certainly purchase and enjoy it.

    Karen Damore on
  • It is unfortunate her birth home in Hancock Michigan, which is still there, was never recognized as an historic site either nationally or from state of Michigan.

    Terry Braun on

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