Milk Can Commission

Milk can complete


For those of you waiting to see how the milk can turned out, here it is. What an incredibly fun project. Many thanks to my patron who saw the beauty in its shape and wanted to give it a new life as a functional (dare I say FUNKtional?) art vessel for her family’s curling paraphernalia. It’s been rust-proofed to greatly reduce the chance of wet brooms causing havoc with the can.

Below is an overview of the steps that I took to complete the project.

Should you have an interesting art challenge for me, get in touch!

Further down, check out the sweet story submitted by the family that commissioned the work.


I had had a lot of interest in this project from many who had seen me working on it in the studio. So, when I completed it, I asked the family to submit a little background on what inspired their commission. Their mother provided this fantastic step back into our local history…

“Once upon a time, dairy farmers put their cows’ milk into these cans, which had a lid, and left them at the end of the farm driveway for the milk wagons to pick up and then deliver to the local dairy or cheese factory for processing. Each can had a name or number on it so that the farmer would get his/her own empties back on the next pick up. There were lots of small dairy/cheese factories spread out thru the countryside in Ontario and Quebec, and probably in other parts of Canada as well. This worked for everyone, but looking back, was hard work lifting the full cans onto the wagons. It would not have been easy to keep the contents cool on hot summer days (although the distance to take them was relatively short), and the cleaning process would probably not pass today’s food safety standards. That and ‘old time’ efficiency questions brought the emergence of large tanker trucks with the big glass or steel-lined coolers. They would pull right up to the milking parlor, and, through a large hose, move milk now stored in the farmer’s bulk cooler to the truck — no more milk cans. When the truck arrived, the milk would be tested for any bad product as well as MF (milk fat) prior to loading. The upside was the increased efficiency and safety of the product. The downside was the small local factories lost alot of the raw product to the big milk marketing companies and eventually went out of business (for example, Forfar Cheese no longer makes any cheese. They have stayed open but more as a country specialty store, and its label is put on cheese made in larger manufacturing plants and then returned to Forfar to sell). All of this was quite current when we moved to Lyndhurst in 1974. So for several years there were many milk cans not being used and gathering dust in barns. They became modern day antiques and ended up in homes and garages, used for different things or just held on to, for sentimental reasons. So we picked up a few from local farmers, not exactly sure which one(s) in particular, but it would be safe to say from “Leeds County”. So I am really glad that you found a good use for yours and that it now looks sooo neat!”

— Catherine McGregor

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