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Pewabic Pottery

Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Pewabic Pottery co-founder

Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Pewabic Pottery co-founder, with ceramic bowl. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public Library via nps.gov

Stratton and Caulkins Found Pewabic Pottery

Founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1903 by Mary Chase Perry Stratton and Horace James Caulkins, the Pewabic Pottery ceramic studio has a rich history of making decorative items and architectural tiles in the Arts and Crafts style. Stratton was a teacher with artistic flair and a keen sense of marketing. Her partner Caulkins was a high-heat and kiln expert who created a process for better revealing the innate properties of materials used in pottery production with his “Revelation kiln.”

Meaning of “Pewabic” and Signature Glazes

The name Pewabic derives from the Ojibwa/Chippewa term “bewabic” (i.e., iron or steel), with “Pewabic” referring specifically to a copper mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that Stratton frequented with her father. To the metals and clays that Stratton and Caulkins fashioned, they added various signature matte and iridescent glazes. In the early part of the 20th century, Pewabic Pottery expanded its team of designers to produce not only vases, bowls, and other vessels, but also lamps and architectural tiles.

Notable Pewabic Building Commissions

Some of the notable buildings featuring Pewabic tiles, especially brightly colored iridescent examples, and other decoration include: the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC; the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois; Herzstein Hall at Rice University in Houston, Texas; and several public buildings, libraries, schools, churches, performance halls, and fountains in Detroit and throughout Michigan.

Continuing Legacy of Pottery Making

In 1991, Pewabic Pottery was recognized as a National Historic Landmark and the studio still operates today in a 1907 Tudor Revival home as a non-profit center offering ceramics courses and selling a range of pottery items. Regular exhibits also highlight the important legacy of Pewabic Pottery within the American Arts and Crafts Movement and provide context on the center’s continued influence in the world of ceramics. Pewabic Pottery still actively produces decorative works and architectural tiles for Detroit-area companies and organizations. The collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in Washington DC also include pieces of Pewabic Pottery.

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