Pewabic Reintroduction

October 28, 2022 1 Comment

Aerial photo of Pewabic Pottery on a bright, summer day.

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.

 

Black and white photo of Pewabic Pottery taken prior to the year 1912.

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.

 

Image of Pewabic's Lead Vessel Maker Andrew holding a Pewabic Classic Vase in a light-blue "Frost" glaze. There are shelves filled with pots waiting to be glazed behind him in our Firehouse work studio.

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.

 

Photo of Pewabic Tile installations throughout time in our upstairs gallery space. Featured projects include Detroit's People Mover Stations.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.

 

Black and white photo of Wayne State University students on the lawn of Pewabic Pottery in 1936.

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”.

 Pewabic Archivist and Education Director Annie holding one of Mary Chase’s early Iridescent pots from Pewabic’s archival collection.

 

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. 

You can learn more about our connection to MSU and other Metro Detroit universities in a previous blog post detailing Pewabic’s educational legacy. This year marks forty-one years since Pewabic was established as an arts nonprofit organization.

 

Pewabic Archivist and Education Director Annie holding one of Mary Chase’s early Iridescent pots from Pewabic’s archival collection

 

 

Sepia photo of the Detroit Arts and Crafts Society’s courtyard featuring Pewabic post circa 1912 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.

Black and white photo of early Pewabic staffers Ira Peters and Primo Valoni circa 1950s-60s using the clay mixer we still use today

 

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 StevenPhoto of our vessel-making team–– from left to right: Kayla, Andrew, Josh, and Steven





1 Response

Anne M Green
Anne M Green

November 21, 2022

I would love to dee how they make the vases and tiles! I ould love to bring a friend w me and make a day of it in Detroit.
Thank you. Anne

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