Jane Austen published her first novel anonymously in 1811 entitled Sense and Sensibility, ‘by a Lady’. Although she remained almost entirely unknown during her lifetime, readers across the world began a love affair with her fiction that has endured for 200 years. Years later, Austen’s Regency-era manners and settings continue to charm readers and viewers – though sometimes classed as simple romances, in many ways Austen’s novels were revolutionary in their treatment of subjects such as love, marriage and money.
Throughout 2017 Austen’s creativity and talents are being remembered far and wide; there are walks, talks, exhibitions, festivals, there’s even the chance to ‘sit’ with Jane on a Book Bench trail! We’ve joined the celebrations by featuring Austen’s portrait on a UK £2 coin, designed by Royal Mint graphic designer Dominique Evans. For 12 years Dominique, has brought her talents to her role bringing to life the rich and interesting stories behind coins and medals and for Jane Austen there has been no change. Ahead of Austen’s anniversary on 18 July 2017, we caught up with Dominique to find out a little more about the inspiration for her Jane Austen £2 coin design.
Hi Dominique, tell us a bit about yourself…
Hi my name is Dominique Evans, known to many as Dommie, Doms. Only if I was in trouble (hardly ever of course) as a child was I called Dominique so it is rather nice to be called Dominique for a good reason this time!
I have always been a sketchy, crafty, type of person. I was always asking for glue, yoghurt pots, paper, string and was always happy being creative. I was definitely destined to be a graphic designer. Creativity has happily followed me through life and I have been lucky to have had such a varied career, fostering my love for fashion, interior design and product design while working across a variety of fields.
How did your journey with The Royal Mint begin?
I have worked at The Royal Mint as a designer for over 12 years, and even before then I worked in an agency in Cardiff where we did work for The Royal Mint. The Royal Mint has come to have a large place in my life and my heart.
How does coin design differ from your other work?
When I started working at The Royal Mint 12 years ago, my job was mainly working on the mailing pieces and adverts that would be sent out to customers and now we do so much more online activity which is faster paced. That, coupled with so many varied coin designs, exhibitions and The Royal Mint Experience onsite means that we are a much larger, busier team.
My work is generally two dimensional graphics wise but we could be working on packaging, a stand at a show, or a graphic for a building. My graphic design job does differ from coin design and we are so very lucky to have a Royal Mint engraving design team who have such a wealth of precious knowledge.
How did your design come to appear on the £2 coin ?
We are very lucky in the design team to be invited to submit designs for UK coins. I get very excited to find out which people and events we will be commemorating and celebrating, and now my love for history and current affairs is huge with lashings of passion.
Tell us about your research…
It was a delight to research Jane Austen’s life in detail, immersing myself in her books, the wealth of colourful characters and the romance. The Regency period is an especially elegant and rich one to admire.
I write a lot as it provides me with clarity of thought and helps spark and grow my ideas. Things can always be watered down and calmed a little but there is nothing quite like that spark of inspiration and excitement at the beginning and throughout a project.
Research is key too so I try to emerge myself in the subjects and at the same time let other influences take me places… such an exciting journey that you never know where you are going to end up. Plus, there may be five, ten, twenty or even more great possibilities.
How did you think of the Jane Austen design ?
Designers sometimes like to present a fresh take on things, to make things relevant to the here and now – but with history I very much let the subject and story lead everything I do. I placed Jane Austen at the heart of the design within a regency frame, set against wallpaper – I wanted to feel as if Jane was watching her characters walk by to attend a regency ball.
Talk us through the different elements of the coin
The elements of the coin are taken from artefacts relating to Jane Austen. A silhouette of Jane is central to the design. I thought it fitting to place a frame around her silhouette and, as this coin is bi-colour, it effortlessly lends itself to this feature. The silhouette is thought to be of Jane Austen and is at this very moment in the Mysterious Jane Austen Exhibition in Winchester. The signature across the coin is her signature that appears on her will and the frame is a regency frame and the wallpaper we kept simple to depict regency wallpaper.
I imagined the framed silhouette as if it were in one of the houses featured in Jane Austen’s books, on the wall of a corridor as guests pass by to attend a dance, perhaps in Pride and Prejudice, or on the wall in the home of Emma
How much has the coin design changed from your original submission, were there any challenges ?
At the beginning there was a quote on the coin but it was making the coin too busy and also at manufacture stage an intricate design could have caused a problem across precious metals and especially circulation coins. The frame also was slightly more intricate but with thorough research we felt that a plain frame was more befitting of the time. In the end the text of the quote was removed, the signature of Jane Austen made larger and to be honest I think it gives the silhouette of Jane Austen the grace that she deserves.
How have people responded to the design ?
The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. So many people have commented on how pretty they think the coin is, the authentic reference points that we have pulled from, for example the silhouette illustration, have given the coin an inherent beauty all of its own.
How did you feel when you found out you were designing a circulating coin?
I feel it is such an honour to be invited to submit designs to brief, let alone having my coin design travel through judging panels, palace reviews, making and manufacture to end up on a UK coin – I will be overjoyed for a lifetime. You know when you hear people say they have to pinch themselves as it does not seem real – that is exactly how I feel. To be told my design had been picked by the Royal Mint Advisory Committee was such an honour and a moment I will never forget. Two minutes later I was on the phone to my partner, mum, dad, sister, Nan!
So many people now have the Coin Hunt bug and it is growing week by week. I hear conversations from the supermarkets to vintage fairs, of people discussing their coin collections and which ones they have yet to find.
How much are you looking forward to celebrating ?
It is a very proud time for me yes, for my partner, family and friends and very much so for The Royal Mint. We are overjoyed to be part of such a worldwide celebration. I have screamed every time I have seen the coin in cabinets, in the post office, on the TV. All I can say is, when I see my first coin in circulation, to anyone nearby, hello, fab to meet you and wear ear plugs!
The Jane Austen £2 is available to buy now, in Brilliant Uncirculated, Silver Proof, Silver Proof Piedfort and Gold Proof – it will also be released into circulation later this month so be sure to look out for it on your #CoinHunt!