May 12, 2008

Steampunk Historical Inspiration: Innovator, Inventor, Imaginer

I have a big work day ahead of me, piles of bisque to not the best time to get wrapped up in craft history, which has the ability to grab my mind and pull me into depths of research and discovery for hours and hours. It will be a good challenge for me to be consise I guess. I wanted to write a little bit about my inspiration for the Alycia Von Kylnfyre steampunk persona I have been playing with. One of the most exciting things about steampunk is character development, and the connection to history. So this week I wanted to write about historical figures in craft history that I think are great inspirations for steampunk, as well as for daily life and work.
So, the first figure is a local one.

Mary Chase Perry Stratton, founder of Pewabic Pottery in Detroit. I have written about Pewabic a bit, here and here, so I won't go too much into detail today, but I wanted to make note of a few important things I learned when reading Stratton's biography. The one thing that really struck me was her inspiration for starting Pewabic. It was an epiphany she had on the beach one day, where she discovered a government flyer encouraging citizens to use the bounty of natural resources in the States to help boost the wartime economy. She was inspired by this, and immediately wanted to work with Michigan copper (in fact the name "Pewabic" is based on a Ojibwa word for copper) Copper eventually formed the basis of what became the classic Pewabic luster glazed pottery and tile. This glaze development was uncharted territory, and she was the original ceramic alchemist, learning chemistry and the physics of kiln firing and even developing her own lines of kilns.

I love seeing pictures of her, like the one above, in the full corseted and collared clothing of the time, firing kilns, mixing glazes, and setting tile. An amazing story, especially considering the challenges of a turn of the century woman. She is an inspiration to me, and I think of her and the drive she must have had, and wheat she accomplished, when I am feeling like I cannot do something, as an artisan and as a woman. So Mary Chase Perry Stratton is my main inspiration for my steampunk persona, I am thinking of her as a crafty superhero: part alchemist, part entrepreneur, and part artisan.


  1. Very cool Dear, the influence Pewabic has made on the tri-state area, still shows through in the ornamental fixtures of old buildings, and even in the work of contemporary tile & bead artists. :)

  2. yes it's true! Amazing stuff. We do have some great gems and history in this city, troubled as it is...