USA mosaic trip – part three – Detroit

In Detroit my dear friend Miriam Engstrom, psychologist, singer and actor, who I met at our posting in Ankara, showed me around this incredible interesting city. Miriam is from a three generation Detroit family – so she took me to the place her grandmother worked in.

The red brick building is the Guardian building (built 1928-29), the so called “Cathedral of finance” – an art deco office tower in downtown Detroit.

Inside the Guardian Building – colorful tiled comb structured vaults by Rookhook Ceramics (later restored by Pewabic Pottery) and cast iron gateEdit

Miriam in the main public hall. The ceiling is not brick – its canvas made out of horse hair painted in order to keep the sound low in this bank hall.

Later we visited the Pewabic Pottery established by Mary Chase Perry Stratton in the early 1900 in Detroit. The pottery workshop is one of the few renowned ceramic manufacturers in the US until today.


The pottery developed in swing with the arts and crafts movement in America as in Europe at the beginning of the 20st century. As Mary C. Stratton Perry came from a fine art degree and a career in painting china, she started making vessels. Later she became more and more a ceramic artist and fabricant for ceramic tiles and mosaic style art for architectural surfaces. In Detroit there are eight public buildings that hold the work of Pewabic Pottery architectural art. One of it is the Guardian building described above. Not only is Pewabic Pottery known in Detroit. The Crypt in the Basilica of the Shrine in Washington DC, of its mosaics I wrote about in the previous blog, is decorated with Pewabic tile mosaic designed by Mary Stratton. This commission was carried out between 1925-31 and is seen as Mary Strattons pinnacle in her career as a ceramicist.

A visit to the studio of German Artist Birgit Huttemann – Holz provided for continuation in visiting female artists work in Detroit. Birgit works with encaustic painting and gave us a demonstration in her rather refined technique of encaustic printing. I was impressed by her work and her spacious studio which she rents for a rather cheap price in a former industrial building. This is Detroit for you!

And Detroit although still suffering from high unemployment, failing education and race related social problems is developing new cool urban areas with fine restaurants, bars, art and crafts shops. One is the Eastern Market area. There we found the real street art – not only in graffiti but also in mosaic!

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