The Digital Media studio at NBCCD – a place where you see things that aren’t really there, build structures that have never before existed, and print three-dimensional objects that you designed in the virtual realm. It is a modern day magic show.

Luckily, there is no magic going on here. Each of these skills is mind-blowing, but learnable with the right teacher. Even traditional craft students from other parts of the College are embracing this new direction.

Through the active efforts of the faculty, the Digital Media department has made their technology available to more and more studios of the College. 3D printing in particular has usefulness for many students, with courses being developed and taught by instructor, Jamie Bergin within many different disciplines.

“I am able to explain difficult things to people in a way they can understand,” says Bergin. “Digital 3D design can be a bit overwhelming when you are not used to computers. I make sure everyone knows the basics. My favourite part is the lightbulb moments, when I see a student get to a new level of understanding.”

The most established of these inter-studio collaborations is within the Jewellery/Metal Arts program. Students learn to design using a specialty computer program called RhinoGold, creating jewellery components which are then printed with a laser-drawn resin printer. The resulting prints can be made into molds and cast in their metal of choice. Using the skills of strong functional design that have been learned by practiced hand-building, they are able to make amazing creations with the assistance of this technology.

Next year, the Diploma in Ceramics will introduce a spring semester and these students too will be learning how to digitally design in 3D. They will be creating stamps and molds for pottery design. We get a glimpse of the possibilities through 2017 graduate, Anasthasia More, who used handmade pottery molds to build her articulated dolls before it was part of the curriculum.

Fashion Design Diploma student, Patricia Barlow-Arcaro elected to take the Digital 3D Design course this year. Rather than teaching her the exact software used by Digital Media students, specialized fashion software, Marvelous Designer, was chosen, enabling her to design garments, complete with simulated drape of different fabrics. This allows Barlow-Arcaro to create highly realistic fashion illustrations, and  design garments for 3D-models in virtual environments – a totally new career possibility for a fashion designer.

With guidance from her instructors, Barlow-Arcaro has also learned to 3D print geometric studs directly onto cloth with stunning precision. Details like these were featured in her debut collection at this year’s 20th Annual Fashion Show.

Within every NBCCD studio, technology is alive and thriving. Students in the Textile Design Diploma utilize developments such as CAD (Computer-Assisted Design) knitting machines to design and ease execution of their knit creations. CAD looms help students to weave more elaborate and exciting patterns. Print designers build repeat patterns digitally with programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, and then print these designs onto cloth using an inkjet printer.

In the realm of fine craft, the advancement of technology is sometimes portrayed as a detriment. The accessibility of mass-produced goods and factory-made craft can seriously impede the livelihood of hardworking artisans. The NBCCD is teaching that technology can be viewed in another way – as a valuable tool in a designer’s repertoire, enhancing their chances of success in the marketplace.

Inviting advanced technology into a practice can lead to new hybrid artists. Rather than replacing or destroying craft, this type of integration can actually make it an appealing option to students who may not otherwise have considered these trades. Students who may have selected Digital Media may now also be drawn to fine craft, because they know they can fulfill both their hands-on interests and their digital leanings at the same time.

STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) receive a lot of funding and limelight in schools, and many students grow up feeling that the only choice of career is along one of these recognized paths. With time, and with the acceptance of new technology into old fields, more students will recognize that craft is a career that engages with the present day.

By merging technology with the hand techniques that have been passed down for thousands of years, the result is a new kind of master craftsperson with extraordinary skills to take the world by storm.

As seen in issue 2 of The Gem.