Mary Chase Perry Stratton's 152nd birthday

March 15, 2019

Pewabic founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton turns a spry 152 years old today. We can only imagine what she’d think of today’s world, but we like to think that she’d be pleased that her pottery on East Jefferson is still a bastion of artisans dedicated to creating handcrafted tiles and ware and continue to encourage a love of ceramics.

It seems only fitting that Pewabic staff gathered yesterday for a tour of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in central Detroit to visit what’s believed to be one of the largest ecclesiastical installations of Pewabic tile, set in place in 1924. The low-fire glazed terra cotta tiles pave as far as the eye could see, not just the main chapel and a smaller one within the seminarian residences, but also corridors and vestibules.

As the artisans who make up Pewabic today examined the work of their predecessors – some of those architectural tiles are ones we still make today – it was easy to see how naturally history, present day and future possibilities come together. Even in this modern age, 58 years after her death, Perry Stratton is present. She’s in the tradition — that’s her clay mixer in fabrication – and you can almost feel her gaze before you glance up at the small window above the kiln room from where she kept an eye on the kilns.

True, times have changed. The current production kilns no longer need quite so watchful an eye now that they’re gas-fueled and electronically controlled, innovation Perry Stratton would embrace. She was cutting edge, herself, even as she espoused the Arts & Crafts tradition and eschewed automation. She wasn’t stagnant. She always strived to progress her craft, sometimes out of necessity, like when she turned to making smaller pieces including jewelry and eagerly bid on WPA jobs to keep the pottery operating and most importantly her employees employed after the Great Depression. Other innovation came to answer challenges, like when a friend doubted she could create a specific glaze hue. She did.

She’d be on board as Pewabic continues to make great strides, whether it’s in the development of a new glaze, our new fabrication space for the tile pressers to have some elbow room or even something she wouldn’t have ever considered: this new website that marries Pewabic’s two previous sites – one a web store and one everything else – into one cohesive site to better serve our visitors, customers and students.

We treasure our history as we embrace the current day and eagerly look toward the future. We can be both an iconic National Historic Landmark pottery and a cutting edge ceramics maker. Perry Stratton would no doubt ask so much of us.





Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Blog

Photo of a matte green glazed lamp from Pewabic's museum collection on display in the exhibition entitled
Pewabic's Early Years

September 09, 2022 4 Comments

Our new exhibition, “Pewabic: Detroit’s Pottery” explores Pewabic’s more than a century long history through to the present-day. One facet of the museum looks back on Pewabic’s early years before the construction of the pottery's iconic 1907 studio on the East Side of Detroit. 

View full article →

A historic Pewabic fireplace featuring an arrangement of multi-tonal iridescent glazed tiles. The hearth is lit, and there are Pewabic vases on the mantel which also features iridescent tile.
The Development of Pewabic's Iridescent Glazes

August 05, 2022 3 Comments

Iridescent glazes continue to be recognized as Pewabic Pottery’s most notable achievement over a century after their inception. The current Iridescent glaze roster includes: Blush, Matte Green, Copper, and Blue Iridescent for architectural tile.

View full article →

Garden Party guests gathering in the Pewabic courtyard.
Guide To Our 32nd Annual House & Garden Show Weekend

May 26, 2022

Help us welcome summer in Detroit as we host our 32nd annual House & Garden Show Thursday, June 9 - Sunday, June 12 presented by Detroit’s own–– Strategic Staffing Solutions.

View full article →