Pewabic Pottery

The American Arts and Crafts Movement Expressed in Clay

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Pub Date 01 May 2021 | Archive Date 28 May 2021

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Description

Pewabic Pottery is a significant manifestation of the international Arts and Crafts movement in Michigan. As ceramic expert Martin Eidelberg points out in his introductory essay, it was also a striking example of the coterie of talented American female ceramists who broke with traditional norms, seeking to excel both as artists and as entrepreneurs. Founded by Mary Chase Perry and Horace James Caulkins in Detroit at the turn of the twentieth century, Pewabic produced simple objects with unique glazes rooted in ceramic history, yet freshly made their own. This chronological history of Pewabic work—the most extensive study published to date—focuses primarily on the pottery as operated by Perry and Caulkins, and then goes up through the beginning of the Pewabic Society Inc. in 1979. It offers a fascinating, in-depth exploration of the various aspects of the history of Pewabic Pottery, from the personal lives of its founders and prominent potters to discussions of tiles and glazes and finally to Pewabic Pottery’s place at Michigan State University. Authored by the most recognized scholar on Pewabic Pottery, this study relies heavily on archival sources to achieve a comprehensive history of one of Michigan’s most interesting art studios.

Pewabic Pottery is a significant manifestation of the international Arts and Crafts movement in Michigan. As ceramic expert Martin Eidelberg points out in his introductory essay, it was also a...


Advance Praise

Thomas W. Brunk has written the definitive history of Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery. A meticulous researcher, he carefully reconstructs the chronological narrative by mining previously unavailable documents, including glaze notebooks, daybooks, and letters.

This is also the story of the determined and indomitable Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Pewabic Pottery’s founder. Martin Eidelberg’s foreword places Pewabic within the context of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Arts and Crafts potteries that were founded by women. We then meet Chase Perry, who learned the technical side of production from Horace J. Caulkins, Pewabic’s cofounder, and as a salesperson for the Revelation kiln used by china painters. Moving to Detroit, she was encouraged by Charles Lang Freer to replicate the lusters of ancient Islamic pottery. Her secret formulas, revealed here, made Pewabic’s pottery distinctive for its iridescence and textures. In time, she met, worked with, and married William B. Stratton, and together they developed the pottery, producing a wide range of art from handcrafted saleable items to architectural floor installations.

The book lays out in detail the scale, production, various locations, vicissitudes, and triumphs of the pottery. Information on gross sales compared with other potteries, as well as the contributions of Pewabic’s employees, proves that this was never a large commercial concern. The appendix on marks and labels as well as the profuse illustrations are especially helpful to collectors and scholars in dating and authenticating pieces.

The story continues through changing tastes and economic woes. After Mary Stratton’s death, her stalwart assistants struggled to keep Pewabic going. After briefly being owned by Michigan State University, it was turned over to the nonprofit that runs it now.

With his lifelong involvement with Pewabic as curator, archivist, and a founding member of the Pewabic Society that reinvigorated the pottery, Brunk was the right person to author this book. He provides a most deserving, engaging, and extensive recounting of its significance and exceptional resilience.

—Susan J. Bandes, professor of art history and museum studies, Michigan State University, and author of Mid-Michigan Modern: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Googie


Thomas W. Brunk has written the definitive history of Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery. A meticulous researcher, he carefully reconstructs the chronological narrative by mining previously unavailable...


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ISBN 9781611863864
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