In the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, The Royal Mint has released a beautiful and touching 2014 Remembrance Day coin that pays tribute to the brave service men and women who were lost in conflict. This year’s design builds on the iconic poppy image, with an evocative ‘falling poppies’ representation by Royal Mint Engraver, Laura Clancy. The design is also a further advance in The Royal Mint’s range of coloured coins, following the release of the ‘Portrait of Britain‘ collection to which Laura also contributed.
Laura’s Remembrance Day coin design is enhanced by the packaging, created by Royal Mint Designer, Dominique Evans, which builds on the falling poppies effect and the simplicity of the coin design.
In an interview with Laura we’ve gone ‘behind the design’ to get to know a little bit more about her and to find out more about the coin, the design and her inspiration.
Tell us a little bit about you…
I’m 36 and I’m from Cardiff. I studied for a 3D Arts degree at Brighton University, graduating in 2000. The degree involved woodwork, metalwork, ceramics and plastics, but I specialised in metalwork and plastics. I began work at The Royal Mint six years later, in 2006, as a Trainee Engraver/Designer. I saw the job, by chance, in the paper, and I thought ‘That is the job I’ve been looking for. That is perfect’. My training period lasted 18 months, but I was given my first ‘live’ project after six. It was quite an exciting one – it was to model the winning design from a children’s competition to design a medal for Her Majesty The Queen’s 80th birthday, which would be presented to her. I even delivered the medal to Buckingham Palace!
How did you feel about designing such a symbolic coin?
Several years ago, I designed a 65mm coin, for the Solomon Islands, and the title I was given was Remembrance. My design showed a large poppy, with an extract from the poem ’For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon, overlaid. I was fortunate enough to visit France and Belgium with The Royal Mint, as part of the research, to visit war sights, memorials, graves, battlefields and museums. It was a truly inspirational trip. So, it was great to be asked to do the 2014 Remembrance Day coin design because, having done the research before, I still had ideas from my previous poppy designs to explore. I still have ideas now, so I’m hoping they ask me again in a few years! It was a good project to work on, there’s lots of resource and lots to think about. I’d love to do it again.
Going to France and Belgium made a big difference to this project. Hearing ‘The Last Post‘, having looked around all the museums for two days – you’ve heard it before, you’ve done the two minute silence and you think about it – but suddenly you’re in the place and it all feels real. It’s very emotional, it brings tears to your eyes. There’s more meaning to it now than there would’ve been before I went.
It is such an emotive and moving subject. I tried to think of the different ways to portray it, such as the cenotaph or a wreath, but the red poppy has a such a strong association with remembrance – in a way, nothing else is needed. My job was to work with and add to that, hopefully in a sensitive, moving and artistic way.
What was the most challenging aspect of the design?
It was probably getting the colour right! The coin was produced using trichromatic colouring techniques and it’s not as simple as: “I’m going to do a red poppy”. There are lots of different tones of red – which do you choose? Then, because I was trying to give the impression that it’s a 3D poppy, I needed to include extra tones, exaggerating some bits as darker red and some bits as white – where they’re catching the light or casting shadows. It was definitely getting the colour right! I talked to one of my colleagues, Lee Jones, who is more experienced with colour; he helped me get the tones just right.
Did you use any images in particular for your inspiration?
The images from the Royal Albert Hall when they release the falling petals during the Festival of Remembrance and the images of the last flying Lancaster bomber that released the falling poppies over London both stand out. A lot of the images I used as inspiration were the photos from our visit to France, we had hundreds between us. The ones I think are most powerful are the images where you have lots of names and then one poppy. Or where you’ve got lots of poppies together – the idea of each poppy representing a person – a bit like the Tower of London installation where they’ve got over 800,000 poppies, each one representing a British fatality in the First World War.
888,246 ceramic poppies progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat in the Tower of London’s ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘ installation that commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
What did you want people to take from your coin design?
I wanted to get people thinking. I was hoping the design would remind people of the idea; that they would see it as falling poppies to mark the fallen (like the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and the last Lancaster bomber). I hope people can relate it to the fallen and find it a moving design.
What has been the response to your design so far?
I am so pleased it has been well received and that the coins are selling well – the Silver Proof has sold out and the Brilliant Uncirculated is going well. It is very special to me that people are connecting with the design.
Tell us something we don’t know about the design…
I modelled it on the computer, whereas the poppy design I did a few years ago was plaster modelled. It perhaps doesn’t say anything about the design but it’s how technology has come on in that time frame. Trying to sculpt on the computer five or six years ago was really hard work, but the technology has come a long way since then. It is now much closer to the physical sculpting experience.
How closely did you and Dominique work together on the packaging?
I did the coin first and I was still working on producing it while Dommie was doing the packaging, so we worked parallel to each other. Dommie was great at getting everything right, keeping it simple and so peaceful. She spent a lot of time matching her colours up to mine and was clever getting the poppies above the coin, so it looks like it was part of a bigger image. The packaging complements the coin so well, Dommie worked in a very sensitive way to create the same mood and feel as the coin.
Remembrance Day is such an important date for so many people. It’s a day where we pay tribute to the millions lost in conflict since the First World War by wearing the synonymous poppy, sparing a few minutes of silence and remembering their sacrifice. The coin inscription ‘Remember the Fallen’ inspires us all in the spirit of remembering, and, in the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, the need to remember is even more important.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Visit The Royal Mint website to see the coins that commemorate the Outbreak of the First World War and Remembrance Day 2014. With each Remembrance Day coin purchased, a donation will be made to the Imperial War Museum, to support their work in telling stories through its collections of how war can shape lives.