Mary Chase Perry Stratton, Vase, c. 1920 UAC766

June 28, 2024

Mary Chase Perry Stratton (1867-1961) was a renowned ceramicist, community educator, and co-founder of Pewabic Pottery in Detroit; the latter remains dedicated to Stratton’s vision, guided by the mission of “enrich[ing] the human spirit through clay.”[1] Stratton (née Perry) was born in Hancock, Michigan and moved to Detroit by way of Ann Arbor during her teenage years. She played with clay from an early age, and her formal artistic education began with classes at the Art School of the Detroit Museum of Art, followed by studies at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. While Stratton’s legacy remains closely tied to Pewabic—the pottery received national acclaim under her direction—her contributions to the wider educational and artistic landscapes of Southeast Michigan are remarkable. She established the ceramics departments at the University of Michigan, the College for Creative Studies (CCS), and Wayne State University; she also taught at and received an honorary doctorate from the latter. Her dedication to the craft earned her the Charles Fergus Binns Medal in 1947, the highest award in the American ceramic field. Stratton was a charter member of the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors as well as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts (which later became CCS) and continued to influence the world of ceramics until her passing in 1961.[2]

Vase, created by Stratton circa 1920 and gifted to the university by Elaine L. Jacob in 1971, exemplifies the iridescence by which Stratton’s work (and Pewabic’s, by extension) came to be recognized. The vessel’s captivating sheen—the luminous flow of blues into purples, yellows, and greens—was the result of careful experimentations conducted by Stratton and her business partner Horace Caulkins, as well as their development of a new kiln that fired pottery at extremely high temperatures.[3] Her first satisfactory iridescent glaze was formulated in 1906, yet it took Stratton three more years to stabilize the firing process, which included new oil mixtures and fuming techniques. Though many of the more dangerous processes and elements have been phased out in favor of safer alternatives, Pewabic’s modeling, glazing, and firing processes continue to ensure that each finish is unique and reflective of Stratton’s early innovations.[4]  

Stratton’s work with Pewabic reflected the blend of art and technology that became a hallmark of the city’s contribution to the growing international Arts & Crafts movement of the early twentieth century.[5] Stratton’s praxis emerged in conversation with civic ideologies that prioritized public beauty, accessibility, and craftsmanship—an integration of art into everyday life—reframing notions of value in an increasingly industrialized world. Vase serves as a representative and reminder of such ideals, which continue to inform social and artistic city projects today.

 Written by Sarah Teppen




[3] Lillian Myers Pear, The Pewabic Pottery: A History of Its Products and Its People, 18-20.



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