Medalta on my mind

In Uncategorized by Lea

Three ceramic crocks on a kitchen bar.
Medalta crocks.

I’m having a little problem with Goodwill – I keep going and finding beautiful things that people don’t want. It all started when I had to bring my vehicle into the auto shop. The garage was a one-minute walk to the thrift store and so I went over there to kill time. The hour flew by, and when I returned to pick up the car, I had a couple armfuls of items. (Not all for me.)

The word things conjures up clutter and waste. There’s a lot of minimalism in design today and Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant, is telling everyone to get rid of stuff that doesn’t “spark joy.” Well, finding interesting stuff sparks joy for me.

On Saturday, I was at the Goodwill. It’s in a new location – 18715 Stony Plain Road in Edmonton. It’s many times larger and busier but still full of surprises. I bent down to see what was on the lowest shelf and lo and behold, were three almost identical crocks. I had been looking for a particular brand of antique crocks for a couple of years now and I held my breath as I turned over the smallest ceramic container … and there it was, encircled by old fuzzy green felt: Medalta Potteries Redcliff, Alta Canada.

Wow! For me, it was like finding an authentic Gucci handbag for $5. Except this is a heavy household item. Not only did I find one crock but three, all with lids and in pristine condition and around $10. I put my husband on guard while I went to get a cart. I rushed back and started lifting the heavy ceramics into the wiggly wagon.

The bottom of a crock. Says Medalta Potteries, Redcliff, Alta, Canada.

“Are those Medalta?” asked a woman, stopping to look at my find.

“Yes,” I said.

“Wow. You scored big.”

Medalta Potteries was an Alberta ceramics business based in Medicine Hat. In the early twentieth century, The Hat had two major natural resources advantages: natural gas and clay from the South Saskatchewan River. The gas fired massive beehive kilns for the jars, bowls and whatnot made out of the clay. The pieces made in the factory went all over Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Buying Medalta today can be costly. Crocks in antique stores (the ones that are surviving), Kijiji and eBay are expensive, starting at $50, and often damaged. To discover these three crocks in amazing shape at the Goodwill was awesome and I couldn’t wait to research them.

I started on my phone. There’s not a lot of information online about the pottery. I did find out that the name Medalta is the joining of Medicine Hat and Alberta. The original Medalta Potteries Limited factory in The Hat was in production from 1912 to 1954. There is a museum there now that also doubles as a studio for working contemporary artists. However, my pottery is marked Redcliff, Alberta. When I compared it to images online, the style seems to have been manufactured for the 75th anniversary of Alberta … in 1980.

I had to dig deeper. On my laptop at home, I turned up some information that I’m not sure is valid. On an eBay page, there was a Medalta Redcliff Alberta Canada Pottery pitcher being sold. The listing for the item says the original Medalta factory was in “Red Hat” and when it closed, there was an attempt to revive the business in the town of Redcliff, just outside of Medicine Hat. True? False? I’m not sure if I trust this blurb if s/he/they didn’t get the Medicine Hat part correct.

The organization responsible for the museum, the Friends of Medalta Society, are open to answering questions about the antique ceramics. I’m going to send them an e-mail with the dimensions and photos of my three crocks. Tomorrow, my vehicle has another appointment at the garage. It’s a good thing that the new Goodwill is a half-hour walk from there. I won’t be able to bring too much back.