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Ceramics

Fashion Armour.With its large amount of clay deposits and natural gas resources, it's no surprise that Alberta was once the ceramics capital of Canada. Albertan interest in ceramics developed into an industry in the early 1900s and has survived both successful and lean times. Once a flourishing industry, employing hundreds, the pottery industry of today has since been completely reinvented.

In 1912, the Medicine Hat Pottery Company was created and the southern Alberta city became the epicentre of a burgeoning pottery industry. Three years later, the company changed hands and was renamed the Medalta Potteries Limited. Medalta developed into a large and diverse company that manufactured items such as bowls, churns, kegs and china. This company, along with other ceramic companies, caused Alberta's, and more specifically Medicine Hat's, economy to thrive. At the height of it's success, Medalta employed over 200 people.

The success of ceramic production in Alberta helped promote ceramics as a serious artistic endeavour. In 1946, Luke Lindoe began to teach ceramics courses at Calgary's Alberta College of Art and catapulted ceramics into being an accepted art form, not just a hobby.

Owl PotBy the mid 1940s, the success of the ceramics industry in Alberta had declined dramatically. Low-priced materials from Japan and England and the rising popularity of plastics were merely two contributors. The decrease in production forced most Alberta manufacturing plants to shut down and left numerous potters unemployed, many who shifted to independently producing handmade ceramic items. This happened during the arts and crafts movement, which focused a revival of producing original, handmade items rather than dull, unartistic machine-made items, which were becoming quite common. Many independent potters did quite well during this time period, while large-scale ceramic companies did not.

In the 1970s, what is now known as the contemporary period of pottery began. It started with the creation of the Alberta Potters Association (APA) in 1970. The APA focused on giving potters a unified voice, encouraging and fostering ceramics in Alberta. It also promoted many conferences, exhibitions and coverage for the pottery industry in Alberta.

Carved white stoneware table.Although the ceramics industry in Alberta has experienced somewhat of a resurgence, it is unlikely the province will ever witness an era of pottery popularity like it once did. Nonetheless, the art of pottery continues on through the artists of Alberta and organizations such as APA, whose interest in pottery supercede the industry's highs and lows.

Featured Audio
Featured Audio

John Robertson, president of the Alberta Potters Association, discusses the levels of pottery. Listen Now


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