Father Solanus Casey, the revered Detroit priest whose beatification Saturday brings him one step closer to sainthood, lived and died within five years and two miles of Pewabic, where founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton became well known for a ceramics prowess that included ecclesiastical installations. Commissioning Pewabic to create a tile commemorating the rare milestone seemed fitting to Lisa Stefoff, store manager of the Solanus Casey Gift Shop, located in the Detroit center that bears his name.
“We’ve used Pewabic throughout the Solanus Casey Center because of its connection with the city,” says Stefoff, adding that she believes the pottery’s history, quality and name recognition enhance the beauty of the tiles. “We like to be an example of Pewabic, not only with what we sell, but how it’s incorporated in our building. We love that we see all the places Pewabic is being used and we want to be part of the connection.”
From a water feature in the Creation Garden — now covered for the winter — to the 14 Works of Mercy, Pewabic accents the center named for the popular priest who rose from porter to blessed. Pewabic iridescent gold tiles outline Casey’s tomb and St. Bonaventure’s baptismal font, carrying through the religion’s meaningful connection between death and rebirth through baptism, says Stefoff. The font also features Pewabic designs within it.
Although the gift shop previously carried Pewabic devotional tiles and select others appropriate for ceremonial celebrations such as marriage, Stefoff decided Casey’s beatification warranted a special new commemorative tile, and worked with Pewabic Senior Designers Dave McGee and Genevieve Sylvia. McGee and Sylvia also collaborated on the center’s earlier Pewabic designs, installed in 2002.
What resulted is a 4×4-inch embossed tile of Casey available in ivy (an ode to Casey’s heritage), bark (to emulate the simplicity of the robes worn by the Capuchin Order), and a hand-painted multicolor tile. The tiles are available now – $84.95 for ivy and bark and $125.95 for the hand-painted multicolored ones – at the Solanus Casey Gift Shop.
“As a native Detroiter who grew up as a Catholic kid raised in churches with Pewabic floors, it is an honor to be able to contribute to this special tile, connected to such a momentous event,” says Sylvia.
Pewabic is currently at work on a 12×6-inch limited edition custom commemorative tile of Casey, with 300 of the 500 going to benefactors and sponsors. The Center will sell the remaining 200, which should be available in the new year.