Aitken’s Pewter

Martin Aitken from Aitken's Pewter

Aitken’s Pewter

The story of Aitken’s Pewter began in Fredericton in 1972 when 17-year-old Martin Aitken, after apprenticing with the renowned pewterer Dr. Ivan Crowell, opened his own workshop in the city.

Martin and Phillip Aitken
Martin and Philip Aitken

The following year, his father Philip joined him, marking the introduction of their signature ‘touchmark’—the triple A inside a circle.

Aitken's Pewter Logo

Four decades on, this emblem continues to signify the exceptional quality and craftsmanship embodied in every piece produced by Aitken’s Pewter. 

Martin Aitken, the early years
Martin Aitken

Over the years, the company has broadened its range of handcrafted pewter products—including bowls, mugs, and tea services—to cater to modern tastes while preserving the enduring allure of classic elegance.

From its humble beginnings in a small studio on Charlotte Street, Aitken’s Pewter has expanded to a studio store and workshop on McLeod Avenue in Fredericton. 

Aitken's Pewter Showroom, Fredericton
Aitken’s Pewter Showroom, Fredericton

Beyond his craft, Martin Aitken is also passionate about preserving and promoting the art of pewter craftsmanship. 

Martin Aitken’s dedication to his craft and his commitment to preserving the tradition of pewter craftsmanship, have made him a respected figure in the world of metalworking, with his work adorning homes and collections around the globe.  

Martin Aitken and Catherine Karnes Munn
Martin Aitken and Catherine Karnes Munn

Each year, Aitken’s Pewter produces a limited edition Christmas ornament. For 2024, in conjunction with Catherine Karnes Munn, Aitken’s Pewter will be reproducing a Catherine Karnes Munn original paintings on an ornament. The painting will be auctioned off to raise money for charity. 

 

Click here to watch the YouTube video of the full interview with Martin Aitken. 

Some history on Pewter

Pewter, a metal alloy similar to bronze (comprised of copper and tin), was likely discovered during the Bronze Age. From the early 1600s to the mid-1800s, it was a popular material for making domestic items like spoons, forks, and various small serving and eating utensils. Typically, pewter consists of around 80% tin and 20% copper. In North America, due to the scarcity of raw tin, pewterers often relied on recycled metal, which, when remelted and reshaped, was sometimes mixed with lead to extend the material, especially for objects that didn’t suffer wear, like organ pipes or candle molds.

Pewter is quite soft, so items made from it generally lasted only about five years in everyday use. Pewterers used two-piece bronze molds for common items and crafted their own molds for other products. In Québec, some older religious communities, such as the Congrégation de Notre Dame, still use pewter and possess molds for spoons and plates for periodic recasting.

During the French regime, both French and English pewter were widely used, with numerous pieces found at archaeological sites from Louisbourg to Montréal. Although no records exist of a commercial pewtering industry from that era, unmarked local cast pewter has been unearthed. Later, inhabitants of New France and early British North America mostly used imported pewter. Recognizable Canadian pewter marked with identifiers didn’t emerge until the early 19th century, primarily in Montréal and Québec. By the 1830s, the popularity of pewter declined with the rise of cheaper English ceramics and steelware.

Very few Canadian pewterers are known, with Thomas Menut of Montréal being a primary figure. He worked mainly between 1810 and 1850s, producing spoons and forks marked with “T.M.” and a beaver design. His son, Jean-Baptiste Menut, also worked in Montréal and used a mark featuring a spread-winged angel with his initials “I.M.” A few silversmiths in Montréal and Québec also dabbled in pewtering. Some pieces bear “Montréal” punchmarks, similar to those on silver items, but without corresponding maker’s stamps. Additionally, David Smellie of Québec City, active from 1780 to 1827, produced a modest amount of pewter. However, Britannia ware, a type of harder pewter finished on lathes, was not produced in Canada.

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