Throughout 2016, The Royal Mint has been celebrating the wonderful world of Beatrix and her most-loved characters, marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter. Earlier this year, we announced that we would be marking the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter with a series of five coins, the first time that characters from children’s literature has appeared on UK coinage! The series began with a coin that honoured Beatrix herself, and continued with four of Beatrix’s characters, Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Squirrel Nutkin.
It was the task of Royal Mint coin designer and engraver, Emma Noble to bring the coin designs to life. While the coins are available in the plain-metal circulating and Brilliant Uncirculated versions, they are also available in colour-printed Silver Proof versions, which allows for a new perspective. Emma has made sure that Beatrix’s characters are instantly recognisable, with every whisker, spine or feature captured in fine detail, while the colour printing allows the designs to reflect the style of the original, much-loved illustrations.
Earlier this year we caught up with Linda Lear, a member of the Beatrix Potter Society, to tell us a little more about the lady behind the tales in our ‘Who was Beatrix Potter‘ blog. Today we’ve been speaking with the lady behind the coin designs, Emma Noble, to find out more about how she brought the characters from the cherished little tales to life in a series of coins.
So, first and foremost, tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Emma Noble, I am a member of The Royal Mint’s team of engravers and I am the designer behind the Beatrix Potter coin series.
I have worked at The Royal Mint for 19 years and have designed coins for several commemorative UK coins, such as the diamond wedding anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, The 60th Anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation and most recently The 1966 FIFA World Cup coin, marking fifty years since England won the World Cup.
How did you feel about designing the coin to mark this significant anniversary / event?
It is amazing to be given the opportunity to work with such famous and treasured literary characters. I really hope people are pleased with them as a set.
How did you go about designing these coins? Talk us through the process…
I initially draw small sketches and ideas out roughly to see what looks best and what sort of layout works. I need to think about the amount of detail and the inscription on the coin; we pay great consideration to the legibility of the design as it is greatly reduced to coin size. I then decide which design layouts work best and draw them up properly.
Then, I take my design and carve it on to plaster so that it’s three dimensional. It is very low relief but I have to make it as close to the original design as possible.
Once the plaster is approved it is then scanned using a laser and the information is sent to a computer. It’s then my job to add lettering, size the design, put form on and put an edge on. This is all done on computer and then the information is sent to the reducing room to be cut into steel at coin size. What is cut into the steel is called the master tooling. It is these tools that are used to make the dies that strike the coins.
Which coin is your favourite and was the most difficult to design?
My favourite coin from the collection has to be Peter Rabbit as he is the most instantly recognisable and iconic character. I really like the colours and think that he has a great silhouette. The most difficult to design was Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle as she doesn’t have as much shape so I had to spend longer working on this design.
Talk us through the different elements of the coin designs
I wanted to put Beatrix Potter’s illustrations to the forefront of my designs as they are lovely images and the characters are very well known. I felt they were strong enough to stand alone and I designed them in this way as I thought they would work best for both the coloured commemorative coins and plain-metal circulating coins.
What was the most challenging aspect of the designs?
Designing a coin for colour printing is particularly challenging, but the technique can help to bring a design to life, highlighting elements and adding a new perspective. For the Beatrix Potter series, I tried to carefully reflect the delicate water-colour style of the original, much-loved illustrations, created with such care and attention-to-detail by Beatrix herself.
Tell us something we don’t already know about the design… this could be a quirk in the design? Maybe a particular element that took a while to perfect? Or maybe something that happened while designing it?
I had to pay a lot of attention to Peter Rabbit’s whiskers as details as fine as they are tends to wear off during production if they are too weak or undefined.
How did you want your design to be received? And so far, has it been received as well as you’d hoped?
It’s been a very popular set so i’m extremely pleased that people like the series.
Have you seen your design in circulation yet? If not, are you looking forward to finding one in circulation?
I have found one Peter Rabbit 50p in my change so far, and I am looking forward to finding the other designs when they enter circulation later this year.
All five designs in the 2016 Beatrix Potter 50p series will enter circulation. Peter Rabbit has already hopped off the presses and made his way out there, while the other four designs will enter circulation throughout the remaining months of 2016! Have you found Peter yet? Let us know and share your images with us on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – and if you’re looking for a home then look no further as we have created a Beatrix Potter 50p Collector Album to house Peter and his little friends.