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MAKING MEDALS – the annual BAMS workshop

Every year the British Art Medal Society (BAMS) holds a weekend congress or study day.  Normally this means that those of us who just collect, get to explore the various techniques that are needed to produce the objects we covet.  These have included over the years such elements as design, engraving, working in intaglio, casting and patinating.

Cuttlefish mould and medal

Two-part medal mould, from a cuttlefish, with resulting medal, still with sprue

This year we were in Brighton (12-14 April) and on Saturday afternoon descended upon the Brighthelm Community Centre.  Normally the nursery occupied the space but we, like kids, played all afternoon in the workshop run by medallist Natasha Ratcliffe.  We were given a piece of cuttlefish bone, sliced in two with a channel to pour metal.  Cuttlefish bone has been used for centuries (documented since 8th century at least) to make jewellery and other small metal objects.  It has a lovely wavy texture which translates to the finished medal.  We used pencils, nails and other engraving tools to doodle/ seriously make our designs.  The moulds were taped together and then given to Natasha for the casting.

Pouring hot metal into moulds - Natasha Ratcliffe, workshop leader BAMS congress 2014

Pouring hot metal into moulds – Natasha Ratcliffe, workshop leader BAMS congress 2014

 Due to health and safety regulations, Natasha shut herself away from the rest of us, heated up some low melt metal and poured it oh-so-carefully into the moulds.  The metal cooled rapidly so we were soon able to see the results.  Howard had fashioned an H F monogram on one side of his medal and a spiral on the other.  The sprue formed from the metal pour was clipped off but the result is as you see in the photos here. A lovely memento from a good workshop – great fun!  And not so easy to accomplish.  Once again, my respect for sculptors and medallists is renewed.

HF monogram medal

Monogram medal, showing cuttlefish ‘waves’

Spiral medallet

Spiral medal cast from cuttlefish mould

2 Responses so far.

  1. John Herbert says:

    Can more than one casting be made from the cuttlefish mould or is it destroyed in the process?

    • SImmons says:

      You should be able to make more than one casting from the cuttlefish mould but the more you make the more likely this bony material will degenerate.

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