Sunburst’s Products - The Lethbridge Plant

Sunburst’s new lines had a distinctive look to them, often depicting, or in the shape of, the foods that were served on them. The designs that you can find include celery, asparagus, onions, corn and what may be artichokes. Shapes varied from rectangular to round and oval, and they were often compartmentalized. The vegetable designs stand out in sharp relief, and often the rim is finished in decorative flutes or scallops.

One serving plate in the shape of a fish used the fish’s eye to hold a small two-inch sauce bowl. Another, around one eleven inches in diameter, depicts a fish in low relief rather than being shaped like one. You can even find a dish in the shape of a scallop shell, and the one to serve escargot could not be anything but snail-shaped. Another dish, round in shape and with six moulded cups to hold the escargot, undoubtedly was used for cooking the snails as it came with a short stubby handle.

Sunburst, like Medalta, assigned style numbers to many of its pieces. These numbers, impressed into the clay, usually are found on the underside near the Sunburst trademark. Most of the numbered pieces have been ashtrays, but at least two vases and what I believe to be fruit bowls were assigned numbers as well. The fact that the numbers range from 8 to 118 leads me to believe that at least 118 distinctive items were produced. However, just a few of these have been seen, and only time will tell if there are truly that many different pieces.


Ashtrays: Nos. 8, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 22, 25, 32, 33, 35, 43, 52 
and 61: Fruit or Condiment bowls: Nos. 109, 110, 111 
and 118 and Vases: No. 115 and 117

Ashtrays came in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Many are what can only be described as leaf-shaped; others are irregular, rectangular, squarish, triangular, pear or even boat-shaped. The smallest one was only 5 1/4 inches long while the largest was 17 inches. A few were in solid colours such as cane, but most were a blend of colours. Various blends of greens and browns are most commonly found, but ones with blue, white and orange as part of the mixture also show up from time to time.

One ashtray, a pear-shaped one assigned style No. 22, is found with and without advertising. The fact that the advertising for the Auto Electric Service Company Limited is incorporated into the mould is unusual, as it means that a separate mould from the regular No. 22 was required to make this piece. This ashtray is also interesting as it celebrates the company’s 50th anniversary in 1968. So far this is the only evidence that the numbered items were made in the Lethbridge plant and not the Medicine Hat one.

Many items do not have style numbers on them including square, rectangular and lenticular-shaped ashtrays and one style of vase.

Sunburst also produced three types of small pedestalled trays that could have served as candy or nut bowls or even card trays. The first of these was a triangular-shaped dish measuring almost six inches on each side. The embossed decorations found on the inside of the trays are the provincial flowers as the trillium, wild rose, tiger lily and dogwood have all been found. The only other pattern found so far is the maple leaf, one of our national symbols. Some but not all of the trays have a pattern name on the bottom; both the “Dogwood” and “Wild Rose” have been found. Finally, you can find this style of tray holed through the pedestalled base for hanging it on the wall, or with felt or cork pads at each corner for resting in on furniture.

The second tray pattern is a square-shaped one, about six inches in size, and it like the triangular pattern often has protective pads on the base. So far, none have been found that were holed for hanging on a wall. The pattern names that you can find on these trays include Snowflake, Mountain, Grain and Forest.

The third pattern is a round tray measuring about six inches in diameter. The only pattern name found so far is “Moose”, but other designs include a goose and a pheasant. These like the square pattern may not have been holed for hanging on a wall.

You can also find a pedestalled cup with a parachute design on the side, perhaps used for serving sherbet or ice cream. Another item is decorated with an oriental design and the words “SIL GEN GUNG” on the side. They also made a jardiniere or planter, two styles of beer steins (one advertising “SHAW GMC TRUCKS”), a canister set, a cup and a fluted coffee pot with matching mugs. Their bowl line was expanded with the addition of three new styles which had decorative ribbing or scalloped edges, and they even made a Roman pot and a clay bread-baker.

Sunburst also made at least three different compartment plates that may have been used for serving condiments or to eat from. One had five compartments, four small arced around a larger one, while the other two had six around a larger central one. All can be found in a variety of solid colours including white, yellow, orange and two shades of green. Another plate, probably for TV dinners, was divided into two halves and had an embossed ring at one side to hold a four-inch diameter sauce bowl. It also came with a matching cup that could be set within the ring.

Sunburst made one set of dishes that was usually finished in a dark brown glaze. It is identified by the stick-like pattern around the border and by the “N. Grav” signature on the back. Neils Gravsen, who worked for Sunburst in 1963 and later in 1972-73, was the artist/designer of this set. The set includes a cup and saucer, 6, 8 and 10-inch round plates, a soup or cereal bowl, a 9-inch salad bowl, a cream and sugar set (the sugar having two handles) and at least two sizes of rectangular serving trays. To complete your table setting, you could also purchase the trays fitted within a brass frame.

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