National Historic Landmark - Pewabic Pottery, current day
Pewabic has seen it all. Established in 1903, the pottery has weathered through The Great Depression and two world wars. We are happy to be here today and we are proud to call Detroit our home.
We have been so lucky to connect with many of you for the first time during another uncertain time. This global pandemic has changed so much of the way we are used to interacting with each other.
Pewabic Pottery exterior pre-1912
Like countless other art organizations, we looked forward to showcasing our process and hosting annual events to celebrate the art we make. There’s nothing quite like connecting this historic place directly with the work and artisans who make it all possible.
We were happily surprised to see our online audience grow despite losing a key aspect of the experiences we strive to provide to our community and visitors. Each time we were tagged in your work from home photos, every beautiful seasonal arrangement shot in our vases, the comments and the outpouring of support for the preservation of the pottery, all provided a guiding light through a darker time.
Lead Vessel Maker Andrew with a finished Classic Vase in Frost
We can’t thank you enough for brightening our days and lifting our spirits. For those of you who connected with us for the first time, we wanted to share more about ourselves. For those of you who have been with us for years, you may learn something new about this beautifully, multifaceted place.
Pewabic stands today as Michigan’s only National Historic Landmark Pottery and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to enrich the human spirit through clay and to serve as a refuge of calm in a busy world. Throughout the years we have been lucky to collaborate with many talented individuals and organizations who all bring their own unique artistic perspectives to the table.
Pewabic Tile throughout time - featured in our new exhibition “Pewabic: Detroit’s Pottery”
Pewabic was founded with the idea of collaboration and discovery at the heart of it all. Co-founders Mary Chase Perry Stratton and Horace Caulkins did not start as production potters, but built a community of ceramic makers through sheer determination combined with prior proficiency in china painting and kiln manufacturing respectively. Learn more about Pewabic’s early years through our recent blog post.
Wayne State University students on the lawn of Pewabic Pottery in 1936
As Mary Chase went on to help build ceramic education programs at Wayne State University, College for Creative Studies, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan, she continued to be generous with her glaze formulations. More importantly, Mary remained very transparent about her struggles–– noting on many occasions that much trial and error occurred before producing anything “viable”.
After the passing of Pewabic’s co-founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Michigan State University took over the pottery as an educational satellite until the establishment of the Pewabic Society in 1981.
Pewabic Archivist and Education Director Annie holding one of Mary Chase’s early Iridescent pots from Pewabic’s archival collection
Detroit Arts and Crafts Society’s courtyard featuring Pewabic circa 1912
The founding of Pewabic at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement in America was no coincidence. Global industrialization threatened many craftspeople who immigrated to the States in hopes of finding employment working in tactile arts such as ceramics and metalwork. Pewabic was a place that brought these ceramic makers together under one roof, managing to pivot the business as new challenges arose to threaten the livelihood of the pottery industry.
In an increasingly digital age, getting back to handmade feels more important than ever. To this day, we continue to prioritize the hand of the maker. No vessel or tile that leaves the kiln room is alike. We still use the original clay mixer from 1912 to produce all of our production clay.
We are grateful for every opportunity to share what we do at the pottery with a wider audience online. Artists of the Arts and Crafts art movement in America did not reject new technology and industrialization completely, but leveraged these tools to make larger-scale production possible–– thus making their work more accessible. We are taking a page from that book and are excited to continue growing and learning from one another.
Ira Peters and Primo Valoni circa 1950s-60s using the clay mixer we still use today
Photo of our vessel-making team–– from left to right: Kayla, Andrew, Josh, and Steven
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