Over in Detroit’s East Village, a neighborhood down by the river on the city’s east side, you’ll find a working piece of machinery that’s been operating since the time of Henry Ford’s Model TThe Pewabic Pottery ceramics factory has been running its antiquated clay mixing machine since 1912. 

Pewabic makes vases, decorative and architectural tiles that emerged as part of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800s. You can find Pewabic’s ceramic work in buildings like the Guardian Building, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Comerica Park, and other places around the city. 

“We started at a time when this was really popular throughout the United States,” Pewabic Education Director Annie Dennis said, “We were really one of the oldest continuously operated historic potteries so there are not many more left like us.”

A worker at Pewabic Pottery

A Pewabic clay maker sketches designs into ceramic tiles at one of the nation’s oldest pottery and ceramics factories. | Photo by One Detroit

The original driving force behind Pewabic was Mary Chase Perry Stratton, who worked with other Detroit artisans and designers when the city started to grow as a manufacturing powerhouse. Dennis has been looking into Stratton’s past.

“We are finding she had connections to the Detroit suffrage movement,” Dennis said, “I think it was really inspiring for women artists to find a woman-run organization and that’s no different today.” 

One Detroit Senior Producer Bill Kubota visits Pewabic to learn about its storied past in ceramic art and design and how it’s still going strong today.

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