Pewabic Stands the Test of Time

April 22, 2020 1 Comment

Early exterior shot of Pewabic Pottery circa 1916 

As part of our throwback Thursday series, we look back on how Pewabic has stood the test of time. This 117 year old art institution has lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Detroit riot.

Our Co-Founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton pivoted the business during the Great Depression by selling small pots, ashtrays, and buttons. The historic bee pin depicted below alongside Pewabic’s present day rendition was designed in the late 1920s-1930s and sold in Pewabic’s gallery. 

Historic Pewabic bee pin (left) alongside Pewabic’s current Honey Bee Pin (right) 

Small jewel objects like this were sold to support gallery sales, but Pewabic’s primary source of income during this time came from a work program set up through the government to employ local artists and craftsmen during the Depression. Pewabic was commissioned for tile installations from school murals to drinking fountains.

Detail of a Pewabic fountain commissioned during the Great Depression 

During the 1940s World War II forced Pewabic to pivot again. Material shortages as a result of the war required Pewabic staff to adjust some of their longstanding practices and kiln firing techniques. Since the war was on the heels of the Great Depression, the economic climate was still rocky and Pewabic faced uncertain financial times. 

Pewabic started selling items on consignment like the pieces depicted below. These items were made on consignment by a few stores and galleries in Detroit and New York City. The two main stores were John Junge (NYC) and Hudson’s (Detroit).

Ad including Pewabic consignment ceramics pins from John Junge, New York City

These ads describe Pewabic’s “original and lovely forms” with “brilliant capricious glazes”. Ceramic pins were sold alongside hundreds of cigarette boxes during World War II. Architectural projects slowed, making these commissions a significant source or revenue during this time period.

Pewabic cigarette boxes ‘Prancing Deer’ (left) and fish (right)

Collection of Pewabic pins–– Calla Lily (left), Sunflower (middle), and Trilium (right)

Our debut 2020 Spring Collection pays homage to Pewabic’s past and present. These small ceramic pins are little reminders of the perseverance of art, the city we love, and the natural landscape. Our co-founder spent much of her time meticulously sculpting details inspired by nature. 

On this Earth Day, we are finding peace and reverence for life that is springing forth all around us. As we move toward a greener and more sustainable future, we keep the lessons of the season close to our hearts. It is astounding to think that small ceramic pieces such as the ones pictured above helped carry the pottery through such hardships. Sometimes the smallest things can make all the difference! 

 





1 Response

Sandrine Thomas
Sandrine Thomas

February 08, 2021

I want to purchase a Pewabic address sign

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Blog

Pewabic Speaks Out Against Hate
Pewabic Speaks Out Against Hate

April 02, 2021

Our hearts are heavy over the recent hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. These acts of hate are unacceptable. Members of the AAPI community have experienced discrimination in this country for too long. It is heartbreaking that anyone is living in fear.

View full article →

Clay Making Then and Now
Clay Making Then and Now

March 12, 2021 1 Comment

As we continue uncovering stories from Pewabic’s past we are reminded of how grateful we are for the present. The same methods, techniques, and equipment have been utilized in some capacity for over a century! Our steadfastness to keep things true to our early days is exemplified most prominently in our clay mixing process.

View full article →

Pewabic Celebrates 40 Years as a Nonprofit Organization
Pewabic Celebrates 40 Years as a Nonprofit Organization

February 11, 2021 7 Comments

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Pewabic Society Inc. taking ownership of the pottery. As we explore the past four decades of Pewabic’s history, we look to celebrate the artists, historians, educators, and supporters who banded together to carry Pewabic into the 21st century.

View full article →