BAMS – Medal project – Thoughts

We have for our Subject brief been given the project of creating an artist medal, which can then be submitted to the British Art Medal Society (BAMS) for the competition that they run every year. If we want to submit for the competition, our medal must be finished by late February and while not specified, it should probably be made out of bronze or silver to have a chance of winning. However if you’re just aiming to submit for the course, you have until May and can be more experimental with the materials of your medal.

Personally, I would like to submit for the competition, which means I will have to be the best of my class as only one will be chosen, although only a few other members of my class will also be aiming to submit for February. This means I’m going to have to get the ball rolling with my ideas pretty quickly, considering that bronze casting is a pretty lengthy process and has the potential for things to go wrong and set you back quite easily, so I don’t want to leave it until the final hour.

While some other people in my class have already started sketching designs, I personally am trying to focus on a theme. I feel it is too early in the process to begin designing when I have no point to focus on, and the strongest works are the ones that have a solid concept behind the design. So with this in mind, I have tried to begin some basic research.

My first port of call was to go to the university library and look for some books regarding artist medals. However, all the books that were relevant to me had already been taken out, and were all to be returned on the same date, so I can only assume it is one person from my course who had the same idea as me, but was quicker off the mark than me. But I have at least reserved the books, so when they are returned by the 22nd of October, they can’t be renewed by the same person, so I will have to wait until then.

This lead me to look at the BAMS website instead, where they do in fact have an extensive gallery of medals. However, I’ve found the gallery is very poorly laid out and difficult to navigate, with the thumbnail of each image being too small on the page to give you more than a very vague idea of each medal, and even after clicking on the link to an individual medal’s page, the images are still unnecessarily small. If you click on those images, it then takes you a larger pop up, however even then you cannot navigate between the front and the back images. So I feel as if I have only seen a very small amount of the medals to any significant extent.

What I have learnt so far looking at the medals, is while they are made out of traditional materials, they can be extremely nontraditional in design or shape, with some medals being square, cones, cubes, dishes, or even containers. Many of them (or at least out of the ones I have looked at) have designs that seem to be based on a story or narrative of some form, which is interesting.

Personally, I would like to create something that is satisfying to hold in the hand, seeing as these are not pins or attached to ribbons like traditional medals. Also, I still find myself strongly influenced by the piece we were shown last year by Chloe Shaw, “This Living Hand”, and you can read my previous post on it here.

What I like most about it, and would like to be able to incorporate into my own medal, is the tactile nature which necessitates the person the form a bond with the object through interaction, and creates what I would personally describe as an emotional experience. This is what draws me to the object so much and makes me really desire one of my own, or seek to emulate it.

However, a drawback to it is that it is the same image on both sides of the medal, which works for that piece in particular, but personally I would like to be able to use the back and front of my medal. It can be used as a two panel story, or even as a punchline, but it is certainly an aspect of the medal I would like to use (as well as noting that all the medals on the website have used it also). I will also keep in mind that the medal could potentially have as many sides as I like using the edge surfaces creatively, although I think more than three sides (front, back edge) may be over complicating things, but we shall see how the design needs to fit around the ideas.

But I think my current thoughts on themes at least involve some form of expressing intimacy and connections between people. However this is a tricky thing to express as it is such a personal experience that is sparked between two people, and all to often I feel not fully experienced by many. I think if I can manage to capture this well, it has the potential to be a very strong piece conceptually and visually, but at the moment it’s a bit like trying to capture a cloud.


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