May 7, 2005

Pewabic Pottery & Detroit

Chuck & I drove out to Pewabic Pottery to drop off work yesterday, and I was thinking about our porcelain discussion and about art and culture. Going to Pewabic is usually an inspiring experience and this time was no exception. Here are some of my thoughts...

For those who don't know, Pewabic is a historical pottery that was in its heyday at the turn of the century and is known for its tile production. Many of the historical places in Detroit have Pewabic tile installed. The interesting thing about Pewabic is that somehow it has managed to stay alive all these years, and now it continues to produce tile and pottery in the Pewabic tradition. Also, a high class gallery, gift shop, and showroom is in the main building, with the functioning pottery throughout. Pewabic does so much for the art and clay community here, including teaching classes and offering exhibiting opportunities both in the gallery and gift shop as well as the tile fairs they host at locations throughout Metro Detroit.

So when I went yesterday, they had done some remodeling and it looked excellent! The Pewabic tile was available in the gift shop, as well as tile from other artists (like me) and pottery and jewelry and gifts ware all displayed around the ground floor. I saw in the jewelry showcase some of the most beautiful ceramic beads I have ever seen, by an artist named Michelle Henning, from Maine. They were full necklaces of porcelain, with a centerpiece of a green man type character peeking out from foliage.

Upstairs, they had transformed the space into an exhibition of three contemporary ceramic artists, all with beautiful and challenging work. One room was all large Raku vessels with amazing surfaces on them. Another was some really interesting vessels by John Murphy, made of translucent porcelain with dark black linear elements on the surface. The work was all about light and reflection, with the pieces placed so that light would shine through the clay and the patterns would be seen throughout he porcelain. Also there was the addition of a mirror finished gold leaf or luster, which would reflect the lines and designs in new ways. Really neat, challenging stuff. The last room was full of these incredible Nerikomi (sp?) vessels, made of colored clays layered together in the most amazing ways. The detail in those vessels was intense.

Anyways, on the ride home I was thinking about how lucky we are to have this in our area. And I was thinking about perceptions that people outside of Detroit have about the city. I think outsiders see Detroit as a violent and industrial city, and of course a huge city will have those elements. The race riots happened before I was born and when I was a child, so I just see the memories of that. There is no denying that this is the motor city, and the automotive industry is all pervasiveness the amazing thing is how much art and culture we have despite the reputation the city has. When I think of Detroit, I see the diverse culture, all the different people living here together, and the culture that comes from that. The Metro Detroit area is full of opportunity for artists. We have art fairs, galleries, and bead many that it is to the point of oversaturation. I think that the history of adversity here has created this environment of creativity and culture, turning a negative thing into a positive one. I hear about people in other parts of the country who have no resource for creativity and I feel so grateful to be in this community.


  1. hi melanie,
    it was real good to read your comments about the art scene in detroit. i am thinking of relocating there this fall from japan, where i currently live. i am studying pottery and want to continue working on that once in michigan. can you recommend a good pottery studio in the royal oak area? thanks for any tips!
    in japan

  2. Reni,
    Nice to meet you! There is a great ceramic studio in Royal Oak...on of the best in the state, in fact! OCC is a community college with an excellent ceramics program that produces many professional ceramic artists. If you want to talk more about the Detroit area and clay, feel free to email me at earthenwood at yahoo dot com.

    I would love to visit Japan.