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New workshop attracts artists to Medicine Hat

August 11, 2015

For Polly Johnson, a graphic design educator at the Ringling College of Art & Design (RCAD) in Sarasota, Florida the discovery of ceramic art was a fortunate accident. The art classes she was initially interested in attending were filled up, leaving two choices – surrealist slip casting or temporary tattooing. Johnson chose to explore clay- a medium new to her, but one she immediately fell in love with.

This passion took her and her husband on a seven day road trip to Medicine Hat, Alberta where they participated in the Bits to Atoms workshop hosted by Medalta and Medicine Hat College (MHC).

This ten day intensive workshop, held in July 2015, integrated the world of ceramics with the new digital movement. Participants, from throughout Canada and the United States were introduced to a sampling of digital rendering programs, 3D scanning, printing, mold-making, slip casting and firing. Throughout the workshop they spent time at both the college and Medalta, which Johnson explained was a unique opportunity.

“The collaboration between the college and Medalta is fantastic,” said Johnson. “When I first came here, I did not understand 3D modelling at all and now I’m able to make molds. I really learned a lot about the technical aspect of taking a 3D model from the computer and actually being able to create something.”

Johnson will be taking this knowledge back to her students in Florida, where she is hoping to start utilizing her institution’s 3D printer in their classroom. Something she attributes in part to the quality instructors who helped her understand this new technology, and the other artists who were open to sharing their experiences in design.  

Cathy Crockford, manager of continuing studies at MHC explained that she is happy with the turnout and felt fortunate to have the opportunity to drop-in throughout the ten days.

“The artists that attended this workshop all came with different backgrounds - including instructors, ceramic artists, graphic designers - but that’s one of the reasons this workshop was so successful, they not only learned from us, but also from each other,” said Crockford. “It was inspiring to see artists like Polly utilizing our technology to develop a concept and prototype and then see them later at Medalta finishing their ceramic mold.”

Crockford mentioned that this course was able to draw in people from outside of Canada due to its uniqueness, “We knew that this partnership was something very big. It was not only a way to showcase the technology and culture that exists here, but also a way to expose individuals to the uniqueness of our region. These artists made Medicine Hat their home for 10 days, and hopefully they will come back again soon.”

Due to the success of the Bits to Atoms workshop, Crockford is optimistic that similar workshops will be offered in the future.  

For more information on the programs offered at MHC visit To learn more about Medalta visit

View photos from the workshop

Bits to Atoms