Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Visit to the Mint - It Makes Cents!

Isn't that a catchy title?!! It's the tagline on the tourist brochure for the Royal Australian Mint and I think no visit to Canberra would be complete without a visit to The Mint.

How's this for a staircase? Go on, take a closer look...... Can you see the coins?On closer inspection, you can see that the risers are completely filled with 5c coins!Now, take another look at the whole staircase. Notice how all the coins are tumbling down from the top of the staircase to fill the risers from the bottom up. How neat is that!

The staircase leads to the viewing gallery where you can watch the coins being made and learn all about the coin making process.

The first part of the process is really low tech and it occurred to me that it is similar to how I'd produce a design in my own studio. It starts out with an artist who sketches the design on paper and then carves it into a plaster disk the size of a plate. This is painstakingly refined until the design is perfected. Now, I might not carve my design but I'd certainly use plaster or polymer clay or something else that I could mould or sculpt to create my original.

The next stage is to create a rubber mould from the plaster disk so that the image is reversed. This would be the next step in my studio too: creating the mould from silicone. This one is really shallow but that's all that's needed for the next step.

And the bit that got me the most excited: they use epoxy resin to create a hard copy of the original plaster design! Wow, just like I would do in my own studio! At this point we leave the artist behind and computers and technology step in. But I was struck by how unsophisticated this part of the coin making process is - it is exactly what we, as artists and crafters, would do in our own studios.

And I just can't finish this post without commenting on how similar the resin coin above looks to the one in this post (before I aged it). Who'd have thought?!!

I'll be back soon with more coin related posts.

'Til next time.....

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