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Fredrick von Engelhardt

Fredrick von EngelhardtSelf proclaimed "ceramist", Fredrick von Engelhardt's life was full of art and war. Growing up in Czarist Russia, his father was a farmer who specialized in forestry while attending university in Germany and Russia. As the state was closing in before the defeat of the Russian government, the family's land was expropriated, leaving his father to drive a taxi to make ends meet. As soon as the family realized the Russian state was going to further dissipate, they fled, seeking refuge in Germany. They were lucky, some did not get the opportunity to leave.

In Germany, Fredrick attended a school that focused particularly upon art, and once his talent was exposed, his teachers suggested he pursue a career in sculpting. However, as Fredrick’s parents did not feel sculpting to be a secure vocation in such an instable time, he instead chose to become educated as a librarian.

As the Second World War loomed over Germany, Fredrick was forced into joining the army. In his early thirties by the time the war was over, Fredrick fled East Germany for West Germany where he opened Salamander Ceramics, his first studio and ceramic business. Here he developed "chinastone", a high quality, handmade ceramic that combined the hardness of china with the beauty of the stone-like appearance of stoneware.

In 1952, Fredrick and his family immigrated to Alberta where he re-established his ceramic business. To begin with, however, he was able to work with ceramics only part time, working other jobs to support his family. But, slowly, with increased success, he was able to devote more to his artful passion.

Apparently the von Engelhardt home in Edmonton was a sight to behold. Fredrick converted the upstairs of their house, garage and basement to production facilities and a showroom for his business, which he called Alberta Chinastone.

Fredrick von Engelhardt working in his basementFifteen years after Fredrick moved to Alberta, he was working full time at his ceramic company. He was happily concentrating on developing improved glazes for his chinaware products when he was approached by a businessman wondering if he could make brick out industrial waste products. Determined to find the missing ingredients in a new type of brick composition, Fredrick took on the challenge.

What resulted was the utilization of mining byproducts in the composition of bricks. The invention was exceptionally useful in the production of bricks as it alleviated the problem of finding clay, the inherent cost of the material as well as its non-renewable nature. Instead of clay, von Engelhardt made use of what would otherwise be an industrial byproduct.

Though the invention was extremely efficient as well as environmentally conscious, it never went into production. There were meetings between von Engelhardt and potential investors to build production a plant, but apparently the initial financial outlay, estimated at $1 million proved to be too much for anyone to take such a risk on.

Throughout negotiations, Fredrick von Engelhardt insisted that any manufacturing of his bricks would be in Alberta. Coupled with the environmental importance of his invention, he can be considered an innovative and proud Albertan, satisfying many of today's federal and provincial environmental and entrepreneurial goals.

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