Designer Glass – Invest Medicine Hat

Designer Glass

Creative City / Opportunities / Reports

 Looking at Medicine Hat’s 20 year track record of attracting international ceramic artists, a city with a wealth of well-preserved industrial facilities, and low utility rates, Medicine Hat seems to have all the ingredients to emerge as a leader in the North American glass industry. Can a commercial glass blowing studio take off or is it just a bunch of hot air?

Energetic Culture

Medicine Hat’s early leaders had the foresight to retain natural gas mineral rights following its discovery in the early twentieth century. That kicked off a manufacturing boom in the area as factories arrived to take advantage of inexpensive energy.

Today, the same promise of inexpensive energy exists. In fact, Medicine Hat has among the lowest utility rates in Alberta, making a Medicine Hat-based glass studio a smart decision.

A commercial glass studio could fill a niche by providing studio spaces to glass designers and artists, having the effect of providing professional artists with the facilities they seek while tapping them to influence commercial design.

Such a model already exists elsewhere and could be replicated in Medicine Hat, with the right oversight.

The Opportunity

Canadian high net worth individuals are growing at a rapid rate, outpacing their American counterparts.

As wealth continues to grow, there will be increasing demand for designer products.

A Medicine Hat-based commercial glass studio offering studio space to artists would benefit from a sophisticated design influence while selling into luxury retail shops.

Medicine Hat’s tourism marketing organization would jump at the opportunity to offer glass studio tours.

There’s also the matter of Medicine Hat’s utilities, which are among the lowest in Western Canada – a huge benefit for the energy-intensive industry.

The Vision

Create a commercial glass studio in one of Medicine Hat’s underutilized factories.

Canada’s sunniest city already has an established ceramic studio facility that attracts artists from around the world.

Meanwhile, designer brands like Kohler and Czech-based glass studio Lasvit have artistic studio space built into their business model.

By relying on Medicine Hat’s inexpensive utility rates and a well-established network with North America’s best art and design schools, a glass studio would have a big head start in the designer glass market.

The Setup

For a commercial glass studio to be viable, certain requirements need to be met. Here’s how we see it playing out in Medicine Hat.

WHO | Artists, Designers

Through its ceramic arts studios, Medicine Hat has a well-established relationship with North America’s best design schools. Anyone trying to draw glass artists and designers to Canada’s sunniest city would benefit from that reputation.

WHERE | Artistic Utility

Combine an established creative pipeline with Western Canada’s low utility rates, inexpensive housing and available facilities and Medicine Hat emerges as an excellent place for a commercial and artistic glass studio.

WHAT | Art, Design, Commerce

Designer brands like Kohler long ago recognized the value of providing studio space to independent artists as a way to influence their own commercial designs. Combining art and design under one roof would immediately set a Medicine Hat glass studio apart.

WHEN | Rising Wealth

According to a Knight Frank wealth report, the group of Canadians with assets over $30 million is growing faster than their American equivalent. This growth will spur demand for luxury retail, creating market demand for designer glass products.

WHY | Rising Commercial Demand

Designer glass studios like the Corning Museum of Glass and Czech Republic-based Lasvit have proven there’s global demand for good design, growing staff from 4 to 300 in under 10 years.

Not Blowing Hot Air

“Students graduating from our program often travel to Australia, the United States or Toronto to continue their practice,” Says Alberta College of Art & Design (ACAD) Associate Professor Tyler Rock. “A glass studio would do well in Alberta.”

ACAD offers Canada’s only bachelor’s degree in glass design with the college’s Masters in Craft Media program offers a glass stream (Ontario’s Sheridan College offers an applied degree). With top talent forced to move out of province, a Medicine Hat studio would provide an opportunity for Canada’s best-trained glass designers to continue work.

Across Canada, approximately 30 people graduate from glass programs each year, with about ten coming out of ACAD with their bachelor’s degrees.

According to Rock, commercial studios offering space to artists and designers is becoming industry standard. He points to the Corning Museum of Glass as the largest example.

Corning, which reported over $9 billion in revenue in 2016, has established an artist residency program that provides artists with studio space and facilities. The artists and designers’ presence influences Corning’s commercial product, ensuring they stay ahead of the design curve.

While residency programs such as Corning’s provide value to the business, they also provide tremendous benefit to the artists. A typical studio setup can cost as much as $80,000, a big price tag for young, promising designers.

A cooperative arrangement between a commercial operation and artists would be mutually beneficial.