Medal design ideas – Hands as a motif

I have written in my previous post about the very difficult and problematic issue of needing to find a continuing theme or point of reference to use as imagery across my medals. One idea which has come to mind, and which I feel reasonably positive about, is the use of hands. Hands are something I have always been drawn to, and are something which I have spent a lot of my time drawing over the years, my own hands in particular. What I always have enjoyed about drawing my own hands are the fact that they are always an interesting and complex thing to draw, that are always with me, and produce satisfying and attractive imagery. Hands were even in fact the main focus of my medal project last year, looking at the idea of intimacy and touch between two people.

Not only this, but there is the inherent nature of hands that they are very personal and intimate things, which are not just part of our bodies but arguably one of the part we use the most, to interact with the world outside of ourselves. They are renowned for being one of the most expressive parts of the body, ranging from clear exaggerated gestures to very slight and subtle movements and gestures which directly reflect a person’s mood, thoughts and opinions. There is also the matter of relatablility,  in that we all have hands and understand the nature of them, our expressions are not unique but hard wired into the nature of being human, and are common to us all. Because of this, I feel there is a strong potential for using hands as an analogue in my medals. The degree of subtlety in expression is something I feel very strongly about in my work.

With this in mind I drew some hands onto a couple of my medal tests in order to see how the scale would work in terms of the imagery



I used a medium sized and a smaller medal, in order to get an idea of how the scale effects the image. While the larger size allows for a more prominent image, the smaller medal lead to a more simplistic line drawing. I was also attracted to the fact that with the smaller medal, the user was encouraged to hold it closer to their face in order to examine the image, which is a level of intimacy between object and person that I appreciate and would like to encourage. Even with this simple open palm image, which was not representational of any topic or idea, simply acting as an example of hand imagery on the medal, is very satisfying in itself.

hands holding

Thinking about using hands as a motif, and also of the idea of loss, I did some sketches to potentially represent it. A potent recent loss in my life is that of my dog, whom we had to give away to thankfully a loving home due to my mother having a debilitating stroke in the past year and being unable to adequately look after the dog, and I myself being unable to look after her due to not only due to the no pet policy of my flat, but the time and long term practicalities. While it may sound trite to say, I loved my dog very dearly and feel the void left in her absence quite profusely, and found the ordeal of having to re-home her very distressing. She was even the focus of my final major project on my foundation course where I painted a series of portraits of her illustrating the warm and loving relationship between myself and her.

Painting of my dog, acrylic on board

Painting of my dog, acrylic on board

In the sketches above, I am representing the transition between the state of having, and then subsequent loss, which is something which I would then look to repeat across the series of medals. This could be shown in a manner of ways, and would very heavily rely on the interplay between front and obverse sides as I have previously expressed is an important part of the medal design for me. Perhaps rather than having the subject, and loss, on the front and obverse of a single medal, it should instead transfer onto the next medal. This means that the set inherently has a reason to be viewed as part of a whole, as a continuing narrative, rather than simply a series of separate pieces which are made in a set. This is an idea I strongly feel has a lot of potential, and which I will likely look at developing.

Some of the issues I have with these designs however, is the question of subtlety. At the beginning of this post when talking about the initial idea in which to use hands as subject matter, I spoke of their strength in being able to very subtly show emotion and expression. However, when an object is thrown into the design, it forces the hand to become much more a matter of function in holding the object. While it can certainly be argued that the way in which we hold an object can indicate to an outsider your feelings about said object, the degree of care and tenderness you show towards an object it certainly is not coming across here. As it stands, the message currently strikes me as being extremely basic and limited, as “I had a dog and now I don’t and it is sad”. It is precisely what I do not want my work to be about, self indulgent pity which I spoke about in a previous post in relation to my life. This is the main issue with tackling the subject of loss, in doing so in terms of showing self development and change rather than self pity and attention seeking.


Despite this I do still think there is potential for subtlety here, it is simply a matter of working on and refining my ideas and imagery. Here are some designs which I do feel have worked well, of my hand holding my set of keys. You may not notice upon first glance, but the set of keys which I am holding in each hand is slightly different. In the left hand I am holding the key for my family home, and on the reverse I am holding the same set of keys but with the key to the flat where I am living currently in my hand. I think this works very well, representing the change and separation in my life between myself and home, independence and growth.


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