Kresge Art Museum Pewabic: A Century of Michigan's Art Pottery
Pewabic Detroit

 
 
Introduction
Online Tour
Tour Map
Printable Version of Walking Tour
Vocabulary
References

MSU:
Kresge Art Museum
Alumni Memorial Chapel
Kedzie Hall - North
MSU Union
Cowles House
Landon Hall
Yakeley Hall
Williams Hall
Shaw Hall
Other:
East Lansing Home
Hannah Community Center
Pewabic Pottery Vase
Mary Chase Perry (American, 1867-1961). Vase, early 1920s. Glazed earthenware with Babylonian Luster glaze, 22 inches. Gift of Henry L. Caulkins, Kresge Art Museum, MSU, 65.156

Introduction

In conjunction with the Kresge Art Museum exhibition, Pewabic: A Century of Michigan’s Art Pottery, we present this website of Pewabic installations on the MSU campus and in the East Lansing community. Pewabic on campus ranges from the striking medieval-style lobby of North Kedzie to simpler fireplace surrounds in a number of dormitories. Also, several sculptures by artists were glazed and fired at the pottery.

Pewabic is found mainly in older buildings from the 1920s, a few from the 1940s, and several from the 1950s. From 1926 until 1940, many campus buildings were completed primarily in the Collegiate Gothic style that was popular for university and college campuses across the country. During the war years, little construction occurred but when it resumed, the prominent International style with its geometric, severe, simpler modern lines replaced the earlier historic and symbolic architecture.

Background
In the early 1900s Mary Chase Perry (later Stratton) made many advances with glazes and pottery vessels. She also became interested in making tiles at this time, her own home being the first opportunity to apply her ideas. For her East Grand Boulevard house in Detroit, architect William B. Stratton asked Perry to create tiles for a fireplace. After making the first one by hand, a plaster mold she cast from the original was used to create the rest. Perry’s handmade tiles with rounded edges and varied surfaces appealed to Stratton and others, and orders for additional fireplace tiles came in.

With these orders the Pottery began to grow. In 1901 Perry began working from a carriage house on Alfred Street. She adopted the name Pewabic Pottery in 1905, and a new studio was built in 1907, the present day location, on East Jefferson Avenue. This building includes Pewabic tile on its chimneystack, the fireplace, windowsills, and floors. Over the years the Pottery created fireplaces, floors, fountains and other architectural pieces for a variety of private and public buildings among them churches, monuments, schools, libraries, and museums in Detroit and the surrounding area, East Lansing, Ann Arbor, and elsewhere throughout the United States including the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Mary Chase Perry Stratton’s death in 1961 did not immediately result in the closure of the Pottery as her assistant oversaw production through 1966. Henry Lewis Caulkins, son of Pewabic’s co-founder, inherited the Pottery after Mrs. Stratton’s death and began to explore the possibility of its donation to MSU. This was completed in 1965.

In 1979 the private, non-profit Pewabic Society was founded and two years later MSU transferred ownership to the Society, which continues to run the Pottery today. The Pewabic Society was responsible for the restoration of the Jefferson Building and reviving the Pottery’s fabrication program. Today the Pottery continues to produce work and installations for both private and public institutions. Recent downtown Detroit installations include work in the People Mover Stations, tiles that line the exterior of Comerica Park, and a large commission for CompuServe’s new world headquarters.

This website offers the online visitor a chance to see examples of the Pottery’s installations in buildings at Michigan State University and other tile installations in East Lansing. For campus visitors, the walking tour takes approximately 1½ hours.

Tour compiled by Julie Thomson based on research by Thomas Brunk. Additional information about MSU architecture was adapted from MSU Campus Buildings, Places, Spaces by Linda O. Stanford and C. Kurt Dewhurst (2002, Michigan State University Press).
Photography: Kevin Henley and Marion Siebert
Website design: Justin Sailor
Editor: Susan J. Bandes