The computer might possibly be the “magic machine” for die engraving in the 21st century, much like the Janvier die-engraving pantograph was the magic machine of the 20th century. Computer engraving has come such a long way the Philadelphia Mint has mothballed all their Janvier machines and now rely entirely on the technology of computer engraving for all their needs in our national mint’s engraving department.
What’s more, they are phasing out all the “clay and plaster” modeling of coin and medal models. Two of the engraving staff now work, they tell me, exclusively on the computer. The other three clay and plaster modelers will continue, but will not be replaced by such artists in the future. All will model on the computer.
This hasn’t improved design or beauty of our coins and medals – they can just be produced faster is all. (I wrote of the U.S. Mint’s inherent design mediocrity here.) Design by computer only is certain to continue this trend.
Nevertheless, existing mint engravers encourage me not to sell computer engraving short – it is a major tool in their engraving toolbox. Not all engravers use it; not all understand it yet. That is but one reason I would like to propose a convention with the theme of computer engraving so more people – including myself – can learn more about the technique, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it can benefit future die engraving.
Here are some suggestions:
General chairman. John M Mercanti, former U.S. Mint Chief Engraver, resigned from the Mint December 31, 2010. He would make an ideal general chairman. He has stated he wants to stay in the field and is writing a book. We assume he has time now in his retirement to take on this responsibility.
An excellent co-chairman would be Donald Scarinci, who is also qualified and strongly involved in the art medal field. John has the contacts in the engraving field, Don has contacts in the art medal field.
Both gentlemen have administrative ability for this project.
Convention location. Both of these gentlemen live in New Jersey, which would make an ideal location for such a convention. Northern New Jersey has a number of venues, some near Newark airport, ideal for those who fly in. Also that location would be close to the international airports in New York City for those who come from other countries.
Length of convention. Three or four days. The days of the week would be determined by availability of the site.
Time of convention. Also determined by the availability of the site. Ideally Spring or Fall.
Dual concepts of the convention. Computer engraving is somewhat new, less than two decades old. But the technology has progressed from use at mints and medalmakers around the world. A major shortcoming is that the beauty or attractiveness of the designs being created has not increased, but mints are benefiting from the savings in time it affords. But not every medallic artist is using computer technology.
Combining an art medal show with computer engraving would instill in the minds of engravers, would be engravers, the artists who attend, that beauty should become more of a goal than time-saving. These craftsmen would be exposed to the best of the past, and learn what is currently being produced around the world.
Dual audience appeal of the convention. The target audience for the convention is likewise two fold – artists who create the coins and medals and those who collect and sell art medals. By bringing the two groups together, attendees learn the full scope of the field. Artists should learn what collectors want. Collectors should become appreciative of the effort that goes into creating coins and medals.
Workshops. These are mandatory to allow artists to get hands-on exposure to using the computer – and the software available for this technology – and would be a major function of the convention. Workshops would be conducted both by representatives of the software companies and by artists who are actively using this technology, who are experienced and qualified.
Two names come to my mind. Daniel Carr of Colorado is an independent medallist who has a decade of experience in using computer engraving for the medallic items he has created. The other is Joseph Menna of the U.S. Mint who has been using this technology even before he joined the Mint in 2005. Others would be added until at least two days of workshops would be filled.
Artists should bring their own laptops, software would be furnished, for some hands-on training in computer engraving design in the workshops.
Lectures. Obviously lectures and workshops would cover computer engraving technology and the art medal field. I think it important that both the “how to” use the technology be combined with “what has been created.” Experts from both fields would participate. In addition, art authorities should be invited to discuss what is good medallic art and how to achieve it in designs currently being created.
Also important is to have a sufficient number of lectures to fill every day of the convention.
Some Proposed Lecture Topics.
How to Add Charm and Beauty to Your Coin and Medal Designs.
How Computer Engraving Differs from Clay and Plaster Designs.
It’s Still Bas-Relief!
Ten Tips to Improve Your Coin and Medal Designs.
Taboos and Restrictions on Coin and Medal Designs: You Can’t Say
That! You Can’t Show That!
What Art Styles Are Appropriate to Medallic Art.
Why Graphic Artists Don’t Make Good Medallic Artists.
How To Think in Two-and-a-half Dimensions.
21 Things to Consider for Your Next Medallic Design
Add Texture, Contrast and Detail to Your Next Coin and Medal Design.
The Importance of Allegory and Symbolism.
Perfect Your Portrait Ability – You’ll Do Lots of Portraits.
Study Calligraphy To Improve Your Lettering.
Modern Art in Medals – Medallic Objects.
The Engravers Journal.
American Medallic Sculpture Association.
British Art Medal Society.
And similar medallic art organizations in Canada, Europe and Japan.
National Sculpture Society.
Token And Medal Society and its publication, TAMS Journal.
Medal Collectors of America and its publication, MCA Advisory.
American Numismatic Association and its publication The Numismatist.
American Numismatic Society and its many publications.
KR Publications, and its many publications.
National Mints around the World.
Private Mints in America.
Cooperation of World Mints. We can assume mints of the world would want to send their engravers and die making technicians. The scope of the convention for them would be more symposium where the attendees would learn the new technology and be exposed to beautiful medals of the past, as incentive to create more beautiful coins and medals in the future for their own country.
Perhaps the Mint Directors’ national meeting could be persuaded to meet at this same time and place. It would be to their benefit to know of this aspect of their mint activity. Also this would increase the number of exhibitors and booth rentals.
Booth rentals. Vendors of computer engraving software are obvious exhibitors (for booth rentals). Among art medals would be art medal dealers. This would be a first as there has never been a separate art medal convention with dealers vending their wares.
Financial considerations. Cost of the convention would be covered by booth rentals and registration of attendees of all kinds and classes.