Medal Research

I’ve done some quick research on the basics of what defines a medal, the key points that I have picked out are below.

Medals are…

  • small, flat, round or ovoid.
  • sculpted/moulded/cast/struck/stamped/marked with an insignia, portrait or other artistic rendering.
  • awarded for sporting, military, scientific, academic or various other achievements.
  • used to commemorate individuals or events.
  • usually hung from a ribbon.

The back surface is not always used or left blank.
‘Medals’ in a rectangular shape are more correctly described as plaquettes.
Medallions are larger objects – usually too large to be worn comfortably.

I then began looking at as many different artist medals as possible, referring to the BAMS website and the V&A medallists. There were definite themes present within their collection, the most abundant of which was portraiture. Medals based on mythology also seemed to be quite popular, along with political or social messages. There even appeared to be a few medals that were simply based on geometric shapes or patterns. It seems the range of different themes that my medal could potentially occupy is actually quite great. Below are a few of my favourites from the BAMS website;


“Alas” – Deborah Sadler

This medal falls best within the portraiture category. The conventional circle has been thrown away in place of a skull. I really like the sculptural quality of this medal, the inverted sides work particularly well and means little effort has to go into the design of the edge, it almost become insignificant.

in profile

“In Profile” – Glenys Barton

This medal follows a similar theme to Sadler’s although I feel this medal puts much more of an emphasis on the dynamic between the two sides. The consistent central face encourages the audience to spot the difference between the two sides.

“Am I Skinny Enough?” – Lillian Pau

Whilst this medal remains figurative, it seems to have been made with a much more cultural message based on body image. In contrast to the other medals seen so far, the emphasis is strictly put upon the edge of the medal whilst the faces remain blank.

an undisturbed night

“An Undisturbed Night” – Irene Gunston

I particularly like the illustrative quality of this medal. The lines are beautifully drawn and the way the figure seems to have almost been crammed into the circle creates a really interesting aesthetic that makes use of the whole surface.

blessed are the merciful

“Blessed Are The Merciful For They Shall Obtain Mercy” – Brian McCann

This medal only makes use of one of its sides yet still remains visually eye-catching. The simple detail of the hair pin falling just out of the medal’s circle prevents it from becoming dull and boring. The soft lines flowing behind the pin, give the impression of hair and adds context to its placement.

destruction of the town

“Destruction of the Town” – Jacqueline Stieger

I really like the recurring theme of the cracks in this medal which form a stronger link between the two sides of the medal. Although I feel the cracks should have been replicated rather than have two different patterns that the cracks create.

i count goats

“I Count Goats” – Linda Crook

The artist writes that the medal is a reflection on insomnia; “I try counting sheep, but they keep jumping around, and they aren’t sheep at all but goats!”. It’s interesting to note that the medals can based on such a simple, comical idea. The medal itself could even be a narrative of some mythological story about metamorphosis, which works quite well with the duality of the medal.

I particularly like the fact the generic circle has become slightly altered.


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