Historic Inspiration for Pewabic's Hex Paperweight
Our entire team was eager to reveal the newest hand-painted addition to our paperweight collection prior to the launch of this year’s 2020 Summer Catalog. The new Hex Paperweight was inspired by long-standing favorites piece from our archival collection, two glaze test hexagons.
Pewabic’s new hand-painted Hex Paperweight
Modeled after the multifaceted glaze samples dating back to the 1920s, this blast from the past exemplifies what makes Pewabic so special—the magic of Michigan’s only Historic Landmark Pottery and the artisans who continue the more than a century long tradition of handcrafting ceramics here in Detroit.
Pewabic artisan Ricky pressing the Hex Paperweight into its plaster mold
Pewabic Co-Founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton positioned herself at the forefront of glaze development in Michigan. You could say that pigment was a passion of hers! She managed to make a lasting impact with her Iridescent glaze formulas, formulas which laid the foundation of our iridescent glazes in production today.
Mary Chase Perry Stratton pictured with two glaze sample hexagons
Uranium was one of the chemical elements comprising the original iridescent formulation. As it was phased out of ceramics (for obvious safety reasons) by the 1940s, Pewabic had to figure out a safer way to continue producing its signature lustrous glaze. The varying hues found on the surface of our historic glaze sample tests have informed some of Pewabic’s current glaze colors for architectural and product design.
Pewabic glaze sample test circa 1930
The circular, center tile in this historic design is an example of a uranium orange glaze. There are at least four glaze sample hexagons in existence. Two of them reside in our archival collection, while the two others are part of private collections.
Sketch of glaze sample test coded by glaze color
Pewabic Glaze Development Specialist Alex advocated to revive this design for practical purposes. This gave him the opportunity to test various glaze combinations against one another, while exploring another functional object within his surface development experiments. While the design itself is visually striking, it also acts as a way for us to showcase popular colors from our glaze palette. Education Director Annie notes how exciting the prospect of “playing with the design more in the future” is to her and those who geek out over the science of glaze formulation.
The two historic glaze sample tests from Pewabic’s archival collection
We are so excited how this piece turned out and we hope that it can bring a bit of that joy into your home or office! While these times have proven to be especially challenging, we look forward to what the future holds. As we settle into a new way of living, this reimagined historic piece is a good reminder that life is colorful and full of surprises. Our goal at Pewabic and within our community is to create an environment where all feel welcomed, celebrated, and represented. Thank you for being a part of our community!
Interested in Pewabic product history? Check out our blog post "The Origins of the Snowdrop Vase".
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“Aretha Franklin, Rosa Parks, Gilda Radner, Martha Dodge, a list that screams Detroit’s defining women. Often one person is left off that list…Mary Stratton, the mother of Pewabic Pottery.” explains WWJ 950’s Zach Clark in a segment for International Women's Day this year. Zach Clark took a look at the century-long legacy of one of Michigan's finest artists with Pewabic’s Education Director and Archivist Annie Dennis and the Detroit Historical Society’s Manager of Education and Public Programs Kimmie Dobos Wolfe. You can listen to the full story here.
As we honor the 155th anniversary of Mary’s birth, we are thrilled to celebrate her life, legacy and impact on Detroit, Michigan, and beyond.