Shortly after the Remembrance Day ceremony here at The Royal Mint, we caught up with Glyn Davies, designer of the 2015 Remembrance Day coin, to find out more about his design. This is Glyn’s first appearance on our blog and we’ve got lots to talk about as he has also recently designed the Battle of Agincourt coin as well as the Portrait of Britain collection.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I have a background in animation and I did a masters degree in video editing and post production. I’ve worked in animation for the likes of Cartoon Cymru and King Rollo films and have done a lot of work for AV companies doing corporate videos and graphics. Before joining The Royal Mint I also did work in the Millennium Stadium doing team sheets and video replays at half time on the big screen.
How did you find your way to The Royal Mint?
My partner found the job on an agency website and I also knew Royal Mint engraver Lee Jones and Chief Engraver Gordon Summers from a local life drawing evening class, so I decided to apply. That was three years ago now. I’ve worked with computers a lot in my previous jobs and I’ve done 3d graphics, motion graphics and animation, so I understood how to build something in 3d. I also had the drawing skills and the composition skills to understand what looks pretty. So it was just translating that into something small, rather than the big widescreen I was used to.
What projects have you worked on at The Royal Mint?
The first project I worked on, which was my favourite, was the Zooilogical Society medal. It’s my favourite because that was my first one that actually worked! It was a toned medal and the design was of a couple of okapis – they’re like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra. Then I won the competition with Laura Clancy to do the Portrait of Britain collection, which has been a godsend. As well as that, I’ve done a few other overseas projects for Oman, Jordan and Botswana. Then most recently I’ve designed the Battle of Agincourt and Remembrance Day coins.
What do you enjoy most about your job as a coin designer/engraver?
What do I enjoy most about it? It’s different every week. You get different briefs, different subjects – I haven’t had to do the same thing twice! Sometimes you get a subject that you’re interested in and you can explore it, take it apart, and find out more about it. Then other times, though they don’t initially appear that interesting when you see the brief, you get a new subject that you can get into and find out more about it. For example, I can’t say that I was always interested in the Battle of Agincourt – history is not something that ever used to interest me – but when you get into it and the details and find out what went on, it’s really interesting.
How do you start to design a coin?
Like most people, I start with a pencil and paper. Then when modelling, I prefer to work in clay and plaster rather than on the computer – I just find it easier to use my hands – but, having said that, I did do both the Battle of Agincourt and Remembrance Day coin designs on the computer.
How did you feel about designing a coin to mark as poignant a subject as Remembrance Day?
I started to take a similar approach to Laura Clancy and do something abstract. I was trying to capture the transience of something disappearing, life – you can’t keep hold of it forever. Then it was suggested to me that maybe I should take a different approach because it had been done in previous years. So, I wanted to try and find a story. I looked at the Flanders Fields poem, then imagery of battlefields and how poppies came about – the myth of all these fields full of poppies and that sometimes they grow and sometimes they don’t. And then I remembered my mum’s place. She had two and half acres of land – they were just fields and concrete. The first year we were there we dug up the concrete and moved it. Then the next year the field was full of poppies. The previous owners had planted them, and they were as surprised as we were that they’d all come up – it used to be a nursery so they used to grow fir trees and other stuff and they’d spread the poppy seeds down to see if they’d come up. Those poppies on the coin are from photos of the poppies in my mum’s field, so for me it’s all to do with remembering her as well.
How did you want the design to be received?
I wanted to get across the idea of change. In the initial design I had a battlefield on one side and a field of poppies on the other, like a changing landscape. In that design the clouds are changing – there’s either a storm coming or a storm going. There’s not meant to be a permanence to it. That’s what I was trying to get across.
What was the most challenging aspect of the design?
Using new software on the computer to model it had its own challenges. It’s OK having it in my head and as a drawing but translating it into 3D was challenging. I always knew how the poppies were going to work, but because I’m relatively new to the software I still don’t quite understand how to work things out, or how they’re going to look.
What has been the reaction to your coin design?
I think most people like it – as far as I know. My sister bought one and I gave my brother one for his birthday. I hope people like it and I hope my family like it because it was to do with my mum.
Is there anything we don’t know about the design?
I chose not to include my initials on the design as I thought it doesn’t belong to me, it’s not my remembrance, it’s a chance for everybody to remember. Also, my initial idea was the abstract design and it was the input from others that helped me to reach the final design.
Are you a coin collector?
I am now, I’ve been buying my own! When I was a kid I used to collect coins from change such as shillings and old pennies, although I had a habit of putting them down between the floorboards – so I probably put a lot of my parents money under the floorboards. To this day, I’m not sure why.
The coins I really want to get are the next set of Portrait of Britain coins as it will have Jody’s effigy on it, so it will have mine and Jody’s initials on it.
And finally, excluding your own coin design, what is your favourite coin?
On my first day at The Royal Mint I was shown around reception and I saw Emma Noble’s Remembrance Day coin design – that is one of my favourites!