Medal Maker

Vevay, Ind.’s Weaver creates winning design for Bicentennial

Her design will be used to create
the com-memorative medal

VEVAY, Ind. (December 2015) – Every minute detail is scrutinized by sculptor Donna Weaver when she creates her artwork. Whether working with wax or metal, Weaver is not satisfied until every component is perfect.
This Vevay, Ind., resident recently was chosen to create the commemorative Indiana Bicentennial Medal. Her artwork was picked from nearly 100 design concepts submitted by 50 artists across the state.

Photo provided

Switzerland County, Ind., artist Donna Weaver displays her winning design that was chosen for the Indiana Bicentennial commemorative medal that is being created.

Her design, “Indiana Revealed,” is the result of being “tasked with showing 200 years of Indiana history,” she said. The Indiana Bicentennial Commission, a 15-member group, sent out the call for artists to design the commemorative medal. The group is responsible for overseeing the planning and execution of a statewide celebration for Indian’s 200th birthday next year.
Her design is representative of “turning back the old time, while showing the new time. I had to try and describe the history I personally thought was important in the last 200 years. It’s crammed full of stuff. I had a lot of history to choose from,” she said.
The design includes references to the Civil War because of Indiana’s significant connection due to businessman James F.D. Lanier’s financial support during the war. Also depicted are references to farming, industry, medical research, the first capital in Corydon and George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes. 
A selection committee of seven from the Indiana Arts Commission (which is working in partnership with the Indiana Bicentennial Commission) went through three rounds of cuts before choosing the final design, based on artistic and historic aspects. The selection committee was comprised of graphic designers, members of the Indiana Historical Bureau and experts in the field.
“We wanted the result to be reflective of Indiana and encompass the feeling of Indiana history and its future as well in its artistic design,” said Perry Hammock, executive director of the 2016 Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
“We asked artists to pick out what reflects 200 years of Indiana history – things they can be proud of,” Hammock said. In Weaver’s case, “what it means to her personally.”
The final medal may differ slightly from Weaver’s originally submitted design. She now has to sculpt an eight-inch diameter clay piece to get the depth of the medal, said Hammock. Then a 3-D laser will scan it, and a computer program will be created to make the actual medal. “Donna’s real strength is in the sculpting.”
The medal is a really important part of the bicentennial celebration, Hammock said. “It’s a big thing.”
The final price has not been established yet, but he said it would be something well within reach of everybody’s budget who wants one. “It will be small enough to take with you” or be a keepsake piece to pass along to future generations.
The medal will be available for purchase in retail and online. An Indiana company will mint it.
The Indiana Bankers Association is underwriting the development and production of the Bicentennial Medal. They also participated in the presentation of the commemorative medal for Indiana’s Centennial in 1916. “I wear the 1916 medal every day on my belt,” said Hammock.
Before she retired in 2006, Weaver worked as a contract designer and engraver for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia where she designed coinage and medals. “I’ve always been interested in all kinds of art-painting, sculpting, etc.”
Weaver studied sculpting, painting and print-making at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, graduating in 1966 with a fine arts degree. To further enhance her skills, Weaver worked for several area toy companies, including Hasbro and Kenner Toys for 14 years.
Weaver, originally from northern Kentucky, worked for the U.S. Mint for five years as an in-house designer. She has more than 70 design credits, including 2007 state quarters for Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
Since retiring, the Artistic Infusion Program has allowed her to work on many significant projects in circulating and commemorative coinage, Congressional Gold medals and the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum Commemorative Medal. Weaver has completed sculpting projects for several bullion companies as well.
When not crafting coins and medals, this Indiana Artisan sculpts miniature wax portraits in bas relief of historical figures. This style of decorative artwork was popular in the mid-18th century. She begins the sculpting process by selecting the person she wants to portray, who is often an early American figure. It takes roughly about 30 hours to sculpt a positive image.
A mold is made, then wax is poured into it, and the resulting image (positive) is mounted to a piece of reverse painted glass and framed. Background colors include black, green, Prussian blue and Spanish brown.
Like coins and medals, wax portraits require a steady hand and offer very little room for creating depth. “When sculpting using low relief, all the visual tricks I have are used to create the illusion of depth, although most of my work is only 3/8 inch high,” Weaver said. Her wax portraits actually got her hired at the U.S. Mint when she showed them to an interviewer.
Weaver was named one of Early American Life magazine’s best artisans. She enjoys participating in living history events depicting the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812 periods of history.
As if this didn’t keep her busy enough, Weaver is also director of Switzerland County’s Musee de Venoge, a museum and nature park celebrating the French-Swiss heritage around Vevay. Weaver lives in a classic revival house on the Ohio River in Indiana built in 1836. Her studio is in a large room built originally as the library.

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