Pewabic Pottery of Detroit was founded by Mary Chase Perry Stratton and Horace James Caulkins in 1903. Ms. Stratton was an artist and teacher, raised on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan. Mr. Caulkins was an inventor, raised in Oshawa, Ontario. They met as neighbors in Detroit.
Among his accomplishments, Mr. Caulkins created the “Revelation,” a kiln capable of heating objects to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. He originally developed the forge as part of a process for creating enamels, glass varieties and other materials for dentistry.
A master ceramicist, Ms. Stratton immediately saw the Revelation’s potential for heating, hardening and transforming her china painting and pottery glazes. The high-temperature kiln also was ideal for firing and hardening specially formulated and treated clays for making strong vessels, architectural tiles, lamps, and other decorative and functional objects.
The partners named their establishment after the Pewabic copper mine and community in the Upper Peninsula where Ms. Perry Stratton was raised. The name “Pewabic” is a term originally derived from the Ojibwa (or Chippewa) language’s words, “wabic” for “metal” and “bewabic” for “iron” or “steel.” The metal-rich clays from the Keweenaw also served as inspiration for the unique iridescent glazes that make Pewabic Pottery instantly recognizable in extraordinary homes, public buildings and museums.
Installations of Pewabic Pottery today are found in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the Science Building at Rice University in Houston, Texas, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, and the Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit. Examples of Pewabic Pottery works are featured in the Freer Museum of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Louvre in Paris.