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July 04, 2003 - Image 149

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-04

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charming book on Pewabic's history, writ--
ten by Marcy Heller Fisher of Bloomfield
Hills and illustrated by Marjorie Hecht
Simon of Huntington Woods, takes us through
the life of a young girl named Angie. Designed
for both children and adult readers, Fired Magic
(Wayne State University Press; $21.95
cloth/$14.95 paper) begins with Pewabic
Pottery's inception and ends with a fictitious class
tour of greater Detroit landmarks that include
Pewabic installations.
Utilizing Hecht's beautifill watercolor illustrations,
the book offers an in-depth explanation not only of
Pewabic but the process of
making handmade tile.
Fisher does a deft job
of weaving together a
myriad of detail— from.
the building that houses
Pewabic to its use of his-
toric designs in tiles to
visiting the pottery's gift
shop. She also notes
of Vetrofl'..,
Pewabic's wide scope of
activities and communi-
ty involvement.
It's a pleasure reading
about many, beloved
Detroit landmarks that
house Pewabic designs, from Cranbrook to the
Detroit Zoo, and those about to be built (Angie's
parents are building their new home and she's
lucky enough to be able to pick out Pewabic tiles
for her own bathroom).
The book comes out
. this summer and is avail-
able for advance purchase directly from Wayne
State University Press, (800) WSU-RWor
through www. ' ' -‘,414L


Rochelle Lieberman in one of the Pewabic-tiled bathrooms of her 1927-built
Bloomfield Hills home.

Before moving into their 1927 home, Dr. Arthur and Rochelle Lieberman
replaced the old, cracked tile in the vestibule with blue-and green-hued Pewabic.

The Renaissance Center station incorporates clas-
sic green Pewabic tiles, which also were used at the
Cadillac Center station at Campus Martius in a
design by Diana Pancioli.
In 1987, the Michigan Chapter of the American
Institute of Architects named Walt an honorary
member because of her work with the Detroit
People Mover, and the same year she was chosen
Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News.
In 1988, she received an honorary doctorate in
humane letters from Wayne State University for
her contribution to arts-related projects in Detroit.
"The People Mover was a great gift opportunity
to the pottery as it was the first major commission
of public art in our nonprofit era," says Ireland,
Pewabic's executive director. Pewabic's involvement
in a vigorous public project reminded people, says
Ireland, "that as Mark Twain said, 'Rumors of my
death have been greatly exaggerated.'"

Origins And Growth

Pewabic Pottery, founded by artist Mary Chase
Perry and businessman Horace Caulkins, began life
in 1903 on elegant Alfred Street in the "Stable
Studio," a carriage house rendered useless by auto-
mobiles (Pewabic, thought to be a Native American
word, was the name of a mine near Hancock,
Mich., Perry's birthplace).
Four years after the pottery's founding, it was
moved to 10125 East Jefferson, a Tudor Revival
building designed by William Buck Stratton, where
it remains (Perry eventually married the architect;
in 1991 the building was designated a National
Historic Landmark).
After her business partner's death a few years
after relocating, Stratton continued to run the
business, alone. When she died in 1961, she left
the pottery to her old business partner's family.
Stratton's devoted secretary ran it for five years;
then the Caulkins family donated Pewabic to
Michigan State University, which provided a safe
haven for the struggling facility.


In 1979, community members, recalling
Pewabic's heyday, helped turned Pewabic Pottery
into a nonprofit organization; Pewabic's public era
had begun.
Jump-started by the People Mover project,
Pewabic Pottery today is financially sound and
experiencing a resurgence. About half of the orga-
nization's $1.8 million budget comes from the sale
of its studio-created pottery, according to Ireland.
About 100 projects a year are commissioned, or
Numerous members of the Jewish community
have been active in the Pewabic Society, taking
ceramics classes, sitting on the board and serving
as trustees.

Former Jewish board members include Irene
Walt, Suzanne Hilberry and Ruth Ratner; current
trustees include Edith Briskin and Deborah
Goldman (whose respective spouses, Barry and Dr.
Sidney, are equally involved).
"I went to Kingswood and enjoyed Pewabic's
beauty all around me [on the Cranbrook campus],
although I didn't know its name," recalls Edith
Briskin. "I took ceramics all through high school.
When I learned Pewabic was a historic pottery, I
wanted to keep that spark — what Mary Stratton
accomplished — alive."
Pewabic also brings its talent and technique to
community projects, collaborating with the
Skillman Foundation to bring ceramic art to chil-
dren in Detroit Public Schools.
Also, "Pewabic will collaborate with schools in
designing murals, fountains or other projects with
students, like they did at Detroit Country Day
School and at Quarton and Pierce schools in
Birmingham," notes Marcy Heller Fisher, author of
a forthcoming book on the pottery (see sidebar).


Creating Judaica

Pewabic has trained some of the best ceramists
around, including local Jewish artists Sara Frank
and Deborah Hecht.


Mc:CY iit.%;er

There's both an onsite museum and three gal-
leries in the Pewabic facility, and classes are open to
the public. About 50,000 visitors come through
Pewabic every year.
Executive Director Ireland is excited that Pewabic
is expanding with a new line of Judaica. Israeli-born
People Mover artist Anat Shiftan, an instructor at
the College for Creative Studies whQworked at
Pewabic as a production manager and then as direc-
tor of education, is helping to design the line of
Judaica, which will be available for Chanukah 2003.
Two early Stratton images of Star of David tiles
are already sold during the holidays, usually in a
blue-and-white scheme. [DI

Pewabic Pottery is located at 10125 East Jefferson
in Detroit and is open to the public 10 a.m.-6
p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Admission is free. The
pottery offers classes and workshops and there is
an onsite museum store and gift gallery. A
"Student, Staff, Faculty Exhibition" runs July 25-
Aug. 30. There will be an opening reception 6-8
p.m. Friday, July 25. (313) 822-0954.

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