Editor's note: The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum at Saginaw Valley State University provided the following texts to Resource Library. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:
Pewabic Pottery: Patronage, Private Residences, Public Buildings, Sacred Spaces
June 1 - September 29,
Pewabic Pottery: Patronage, Private Residences, Public Buildings, Sacred Spaces opens at the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum June 1, 2007 and extends through September 29, 2007. The exhibition is curated by Thomas Brunk.
Brunk says: "Pewabic Pottery was one of Michigan's most important manifestations of the International Arts and Crafts Movement. Begun in Detroit at the turn of the 20th century, Pewabic set a standard in studio pottery. This exhibit presents an overview of Pewabic's significant contributions in a thematic manner with a section devoted to Pewabic tile work in the Saginaw Valley area. Most of the examples in the exhibit come from private collections. Some have not been exhibited in decades."
Exhbition catalogue essay:
Pewabic Pottery: Patronage, Private Residences, Public Buildings, Sacred Spaces
by Dr. Thomas W. Brunk
Pewabic Pottery was one of Michigan's most important manifestations of the International Arts and Crafts Movement. Begun in Detroit at the turn of the 20th century, Pewabic set a high standard in studio pottery. This exhibit presents an overview of Pewabic's significant contributions in a thematic manner with a section devoted to Pewabic installations in the Saginaw Valley area. Most of the examples in the exhibit come from private collections. Many of these objects have not been exhibited in decades.
The story of Pewabic Pottery is that of the collaboration of two highly motivated scientific and artistic individuals who joined their abilities in a common undertaking. Without the partnership of Horace James Caulkins and Mary Chase Perry there would be no Pewabic Pottery. Caulkins' Revelation China Kilns and Perry's artistic talents were the matrix from which Pewabic Pottery emerged.
The uniqueness of Pewabic Pottery lies in the empirical methodologies embraced by Perry and Caulkins. They traded on the novelty of glaze effects created by harnessing chemical mixtures and firing processes. Their goal was to achieve a certain dependability of production without an industrial control of the process.
"Painting with fire," as Perry called their work, is more than a cute phrase. This represents their artistic response to complicated mechanical and chemical processes, and further defines their Arts and Crafts ideal of creating useful and beautiful objects. Their work was standard enough to fit prescribed needs yet unique enough to stand respectfully defiant on their own merit, and in the face of an ocean of mass-produced art pottery.
Pewabic created simple objects with unique glazes rooted in ancient ceramic tradition, yet made freshly their own. Perry and Caulkins were not afraid to harness modern technology as a tool to be used by consummate crafts people without sacrifice of their artistic qualities.
Pewabic's governing aesthetic was profoundly influenced by friendships with Charles Lang Freer, Ernest Fenelossa, and Arthur Wesley Dow. Mary Chase Perry followed the credo that "simple shapes live throughout the ages." Experimentation, glaze development and embracing new technologies continued at Pewabic into the early 1950s. This synergy made Pewabic Pottery a conundrum from the beginning and remains part of its enduring charm.
Our vision of the challenges faced by Caulkins and Perry as aspiring studio potters is jaded by advanced technological innovation. Today, the ceramic process is quite different. While small in its output, the surviving jewels of Pewabic Pottery's creation remain as bright stars in a clear night sky -- beacons of the spirit of the American Art Pottery Movement.
Mary Chase Perry (1867-1961, later Mrs. William B. Stratton) was born in the remote mining village of Hancock in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her father was a physician and surgeon to the miners working the Pewabic, Franklin and Quincy copper mines. A series of events brought her family to Detroit in 1882 where she began her study of art in earnest with local artists. Five years later she embarked on a two-year study at the Cincinnati Art Academy under sculptor Louis T. Rebisso and others. Here she became acquainted with the women who began Rookwood Pottery and the ceramic art movement in Cincinnati.
Perry later was an influential member of the National League of Mineral Painters and Detroit's Keramic Art Colony. A prominent teacher of overglaze china decoration and drawing, she had a fine national reputation as an artist.
Always yearning to go beyond the primitive limitations of available technology in studio ceramic work, her break came when she met Detroit dental trade supplier Horace James Caulkins (1850-1923). Caulkins was marketing high-heat furnaces and kilns for the dental trade and was anxious to capture the growing market of china decorators. In 1896, Perry agreed to travel about the country calling upon her many ties in the national community of china decorators to demonstrate and sell Caulkins' Revelation Kiln. This enterprise was successful, but Perry wanted more.
Caulkins and his men continued to develop new kiln technology for pottery and underglaze firing. This was exactly the track Perry wanted to follow. By 1900 they established a laboratory in the basement of Caulkins' business where they experimented with clay bodies and firing techniques. After further studies and tours of commercial potteries in eastern states, Perry and Caulkins rented an unused carriage house where they established their atelier pottery works in 1901. Perry was the artistic force and Caulkins the kiln expert and businessman.
Perry held informal exhibitions of her work from time to time during the next years, and then in October of 1903, Pewabic Pottery was introduced to the public. Caulkins and Perry were proponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement and founding members of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts in 1906. The movement's principles guided their artistic endeavor. Pewabic Pottery never standardized their ware nor published any catalog of vessels or tile. Although Mary Chase Perry Stratton lived thirty-eight years longer than her business partner, the joint vision never dimmed.
This exhibit has no pretense of being comprehensive in its scope. The four themes-Patronage, Private Residences, Public Buildings, Sacred Spaces-allow a glimpse at larger groups of work. Interwoven is a chorus of vessels that speaks to a particular aspect of clay art. The "Pewabic Timeline" provides a guiding context for the various themes and groupings within the show.
Featured are some remarkable examples, including two rare Revelation Pottery vessels, Miss Perry's first successful iridescent glazed vessel, pieces from the collection of Charles Lang Freer, and a robust collection of William B. Stratton's ceramic art. The groupings present specific aspects of Pewabic's many artistic, technological and cultural contributions.
Gratitude goes to my long-time friend and colleague Marilyn Wheaton for asking me to be curator; to Thomas Trombley for his help with the Saginaw Valley Pewabic installations; to Tara and David Chicatelli for their personal support; and to Alvaro Jurado, Blake E. Ray, Robert J. Rucinski, David H. Spear, and the Pewabic Society, Inc. for lending generously from their collections. Finally, I thank my "learner" and friend Joaquin Guadarrama, Jr. for his careful restoration of the roundel from the Griswold House Hotel Bar.
I feel delight and great honor having been invited to organize and curate this show. I first met Marshall Fredericks in the mid-1950s as a small child through an "adopted" Danish aunt. Later in life, I had the pleasure of belonging to the Prismatic Club of Detroit with Marsh and enjoyed him on a very different level. William B. Stratton was a member of the club, and in the clubhouse there is a superb Pewabic Green tiled fireplace flanked by two spittoons made by Mr. Stratton for the Prismatic Club in 1934.
I sincerely hope that viewers will gain as much pleasure from the exhibit as I have had in organizing the show.
by Marilyn L. Wheaton
Pewabic Pottery is a studio for the design and production of custom architectural tile and vessels, and a center for the advancement of the ceramic arts. It was founded in 1903 by Mary Chase Perry (later Mrs. William Stratton) and her partner, Horace Caulkins, developer of the Revelation Kiln. The Pottery, a Tudor Revival building designed by William Buck Stratton, was built in 1907 on its current site at 10125 East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit.
Throughout the 1970s I worked in the Midwest Area Center of the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, which was housed in the Detroit Institute of Arts. One of the great collections of American art papers that were loaned for microfilming to the Archives during that period were the Pewabic Pottery records, 1891-1973. I had the good fortune of processing and cataloguing those historic records.
It was during the many weeks of sorting and reading correspondence to and from Mary Chase Perry Stratton, files on commissions, consignments and exhibitions, and looking at dozens of photographs of beautifully glazed ceramic art, interior and exterior views of the Pottery, and Stratton working in her studio that gave me my first glimpse of the importance and historic significance of Pewabic Pottery.
The day I returned the loaned records to Pewabic Pottery on East Jefferson, I fell in love with what I experienced: Heat emerging from indoor and outdoor kilns where ceramic art pieces were being produced; shelves in galleries filled with beautifully glazed pottery and tiles for sale; a sense of history in the making; and the knowledge that I could return to the Pottery anytime to purchase a work of art.
It was during this time I met Thomas Brunk, Curator of the exhibition, Pewabic Pottery:Patronage, Private Residences, Public Buildings, Sacred Spaces. Dr. Brunk, a top authority on the history of Mary Chase Perry Stratton and Pewabic Pottery, also has a stunning and extensive private collection of historic Pewabic pieces.
We are fortunate to have Dr. Brunk curating this exhibition, and I am grateful for his enthusiasm for the Museum's galleries where the exhibition is on display.
When I joined the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum as the Director in October 2006, one of the things I noticed immediately was a striking photo of Fredericks' Siberian Ram (located in the Detroit Renaissance Center People Mover Station). Irene Walt's Art In The Stations, The Detroit People Mover publication describes the art installation this way: "Michigan sculptor Marshall Fredericks' Siberian Ram stands before an elegant arched backdrop of Pewabic Pottery tile donated by the Stroh family. The artist coordinated the final bronzing of the piece to match the lush green hue of the historic tile. The silent strength and the soothing presence that emanates from the sculpture, enhanced by the merging tones of the tile and bronze, impart a sense of stability and endurance."
I knew that first day at the Museum that a historic Pewabic Pottery exhibition at the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum would bring honor to the artistry of both Marshall Fredericks and Mary Chase Perry Stratton, two of Michigan's most cherished artists.
The following individuals have my gratitude for their commitment to helping make this important exhibition a reality: Jill Allardyce, Thomas Brunk, David Chicatelli, Sara Clark, Geoffe Haney, Tim Inman, Terese Ireland, Andrea Ondish, Robert Rucinski, David Spear and Thomas Trombley.
Pew Section labels for the exhibition