Pewabic Pottery: A Detroit Treasure

I have had the pleasure and the privilege to be a part of Pewabic Pottery’s storied history. I was lucky enough to get my first public relations job there after college where I was the Special Events and Membership Coordinator. One of my responsibilities was to lead tours throughout the Pottery which is where I fell in love with the story of its founder and Detroit legacy.

For those of you that have never heard of Pewabic Pottery, here is a brief history, you can read a more detailed history here. Pewabic was founded in 1903 by Mary Chase Perry Stratton and her partner, Horace Caulkins. Mary started out doing china painting and teamed up with Horace Caulkins who invented the Revelation Kiln. Together they traveled the country doing china painting workshops and promoting the kiln.

They were very successful and this eventually led them to start Pewabic Pottery. They moved to the building on 10125 East Jefferson in 1907, which was designed by Mary’s husband, William Buck Stratton.

Pewabic Pottery

Pewabic Pottery

Throughout its history, Pewabic Pottery produced vessels, tiles and public and private installations throughout the country. Mary Stratton is most famous for her iridescent glazes.

Mary Stratton Iridescent Vase c. 1920

Mary Stratton Iridescent Vase c. 1920

You can see Pewabic installations throughout the United States at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln, the Science Building at Rice University in Houston, and the Herald Square installation commissioned by the New York Metro Transit Authority.

In Detroit, some of the more notable installations include the Scott Fountain on Belle Isle Park, Detroit People Mover Stations, McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport (45,000 tiles), Comerica Park (325 tiles), Compuware headquarters and so many more.

Comerica Park Tiles

Comerica Park Tiles

Cadillac Station People Mover Tiles

Cadillac Station People Mover Tiles

 

In 1991, the building and its contents were designated a National Historic Landmark and today is Michigan’s only historic pottery.

I just love this story, how many women in the 1900’s went out on their own and started their own business? It’s such an inspiring story. 

Every year I come back to visit Pewabic for the annual Garden Party fundraiser which this year showcased new Pewabic giftware, ceramic art from more than 80 artists, live music from Ben Sharkey, a live visual art performance by sculptor Mark Chatterly and hors d’oeuvres & cocktails.

PEW_H&G_Postcard-print-1

I always have the best time visiting old friends and checking out all of the new items Pewabic has released. Here are some of my favorite pieces from this year’s Garden Party and some old favorites:

I was so excited to hear that Pewabic was finally able to create the old English “D” tile ($25). When I was a tour guide there, people always asked about it but Pewabic needed to get approval from Major League Baseball to use the image. This is going to be such a great seller. You can only purchase it at the Museum Store and it can only be direct-shipped within Tigers home broadcasting territory including Michigan and parts of northern Ohio and Indiana. I got two at the party and am sure I will get many more!

Detroit Tigers D Tile

Detroit Tigers D Tile

The new 12″x6″ Butterfly tile, designed by Glaze Technician Alex Thullen. Fresh from the kiln, ‘Butterfly’ designed by Glaze Technician Alex Thullen. I also saw this in a very cool black & white glaze. It won’t be available for online purchase until after the Garden Party, but I will update the post when it is.

Butterfly Tile

Butterfly Tile

The day after the annual Garden Party, the Belle Isle Conservancy  held a fundraiser at the Potter to restore the Pewabic tiles in the Scott Fountain. During the event, Pewabic released their new Sea Life tile with a portion of sales being donated to the Conservancy. As part of our Garden Party festivities in June, the is having their annual fundraiser to restore the Pewabic tiles in Scott Fountain.

Sea Life Tile

Sea Life Tile

This next piece has a special place in my heart because I witnessed this piece coming back to the Pottery when I worked there. The Iridescent Snowdrop vase returned to Pewabic after they bought it on Ebay in 2006. They purchased it from an antiques dealer in Montgomery, Alabama, who found it in a barn at an estate sale. I remember when the vase arrived at the Pottery and I got to witness the talented Sherlyn Hunter recreate it to be available in the museum store. This was an amazing process and it was such a cool experience. You can see the original in Pewabic’s Museum Collection. You can get it here in an iridescent glaze for $150.

Iridescent Snowdrop Vase

Iridescent Snowdrop Vase

Or here in a matte glaze for $75:

Matte Snowdrop Vase

Matte Snowdrop Vase

This is one of my favorites, the 4×4″ Botanical  Tree that was introduced in a series of tiles. You can get it in the matte glaze for $20, but I prefer the two-toned glaze which you have to get at the Pottery:

Botanical Tree Tile

Botanical Tree Tile

If you have never been to Pewabic I encourage you to attend one of their events. I could write hundreds of blog posts on different aspects of the Pottery, but it is really something you need to experience for yourself. If you love Pewabic as much as I do, consider becoming a member. You can get some great deals and access to special events.

Photos courtesy of Pewabic Pottery.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. As I read this, I stared at the 7 Pewabic tiles I have hanging on our wall…I LOVE them! I also am in love with the history. Such a neat little gem and great spot to support the arts in Detroit. Can’t wait to get my hands on the new D tile!