I was finally was able to take some time to go on a pottery pilgrimage of sorts and visit the Medalta Historic Clay Museum and Artist Residency site in Medicine Hat, Alberta, while on our family holidays this summer. This has been a place on my bucket list of clay places to visit for quite some time, and with my clay supplier in the same place, I figured it was a pilgrimage worth taking. Doing an actual 1-3 month residency here requires the time, planning and family co-ordination that I haven't really been able to swing yet, but there's still lots to see and do in Medicine Hat that I managed to cram into 24 hours.
Above are a few photos from the actual museum portion of Medalta. As one of a few historic clay factory sites in that area (there's also a brick factory and the Hycroft factory), it is incredible to get an idea of the scale of this place, where the old beehive kilns were situated and what kind of tools and machines were once used to create ceramics in this scale and scope. Of course, it feels like such a Canadian thing to check out as well. I was reminded of so many pieces in my mom or grandma's cupboard in their collection and it was interesting to think about how the Hycroft and Medalta Potteries were part of the Canadian dinner table in the last century. Between the dinner table and the souvenir ware there were so many pots in one place that feel iconic to the Canadian identity.
After a tour around the Residency site and also checking out the back room full of donated pottery that's still being catalogued for their collection, the lovely Jenn Demke-Lange spent some time showing me the old Hycroft site. This is a space that's not yet open to the public and is currently a site for researching old tools, clay molds and methods, while restoring many of the molds (aka dusting, de-molding and scanning). As someone who often feels like I'm a little ceramic factory myself, this place felt huge. The amount of molds and tools (jiggers/jolly machines, ram-press machines, huge clay mixers and clay filtering machines, large banding stations) that are still at this site is incredible and kind of amazing. The check-in roster of over 100 employees meant that in it's hay-day, this place was hopping. It was also an eerie experience, being in these vast spaces where so much was kept after the factories closed. Every single second, every working mold, every bit of machinery and chair was left in this space.