May 24th, 2024

Local clay manufacturer expands business to meet demand

By BRENDAN MILLER on April 24, 2024.

The historic kiln at Plainsman Clays. The local clay manufacturer announced a significant expansion to its operations by purchasing a 25,000 square-foot manufacturing and retail facility.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

Plainsman Clays has expanded operations with the purchase of a second building and plans to ramp up production this year to meet growing demand for high-quality clay products.

Plainsman Clays has grown into Canada’s largest clay manufacturer and distributor since founded in Medicine Hat in 1962, and typically produces 104,000 boxes of clay every year, or 4.38 million pounds.

The company produces 42 different bodies of clay, from white to red products, as well as selling kiln and wheel kits for at-home pottery use.

In December, Plainsman Clay acquired the building formerly occupied by New Rock Developments located, just down the road from its current manufacturing facility, and has started setting up the 25,000 square-foot space for further manufacturing.

By the end of 2024, once the new manufacturing facility is online, Plainsman Clay will be able to produce 50 per cent more clay product

The new space will be used for offices, a studio for potters, as well as an expansion of retail space.

“So now we have a street presence,” says Stephen Dow, president and general manager. “We’re going to put up a sign here pretty soon and paint the building and build a new showroom so everybody can come in and buy clay and kilns and wheels and glazes and all the parts and pieces necessary for making pottery.”

Along with sourcing local materials, Plainsman Clays imports clay from the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. That material is then processed and used for industrial, cosmetics and by hobbyists, and has even been used for movie set production.

Dow says the business is having trouble keeping up with growing demand in the current space, noting the pandemic led many people into new hobbies like pottery.

“I think COVID actually helped us in that everybody was at home and needed something to do by themselves,” says Dow. “So they bought the kiln and the wheel and all the tools and stuff so they could make pottery.”

However, even prior to the pandemic, Dow says Plainsman Clays sold 100 per cent of its manufactured clay product since 2015. He says the expansion not only represents the company’s continued growth, but its commitment to a growing customer base.

“It allows us to get into other markets, not just pottery,” says Dow. “But other markets that we haven’t been able to get into because we’re constrained by production.”

Plainsmen Clays employs 30 full-time workers and once the second manufacturing plant is running later in 2024, Dow expects to have more positions available.

The new showroom for pottery enthusiasts is expected to be open by the end of the week. The expansion of its manufacturing capabilities is approximately six to eight months away from completion.

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