Earlier this year I started noticing a lot of jewellers on Instagram piercing small hands from brass and copper and writing about hand medals. I followed link after link to find out more. I soon discovered they were all part of the Hand Medal Project.
Each maker has to register to get involved. Through registering they are assigned a number which they then stamp onto each hand medal they make. This number is unique to each maker and is traceable and will allow recipients of Hand Medals to look up the maker of their medal on the project’s website.
I registered a while ago and it took a long time to get my number and information pack. The deadline is the end of October and so far I’ve managed to cut out and stamp 50 hand medals. I’ve yet to file and smooth the edges and finish them off with a ribbon, but I’m sure I’ll get them all finished on time.
What is the Hand Medal Project?
This project was conceived by friends and artists Iris Eichenberg and Jimena Ríos. They first collaborated on an exhibition which was inspired by ex-votos – handheld objects of devotion that honour a gratitude or a wish. They invited artists from around the world to create or contribute pieces inspired by ex-votos. The exhibition was entitled Verdadero Es lo Hecho: Ex Votos and Contemporary Jewellery and you can see the PDF catalogue here:
Neither of them knew that a global pandemic was around the corner and how the theme of this exhibition would soon develop and form into a project involving a global network of artists, jewellers, students and professionals, namely the Hand Medal Project.
Although the scope project is vast, its aim is straightforward: the project is a collective effort to acknowledge the work of front-line caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals are invited to register and craft medals in the shape of small hands. These medals will be collected and distributed to honour the service and sacrifice of these caregivers around the world in their response to fight Covid-19.
To implement the project, Eichenberg and Ríos have organised a global network of “Hand Keepers” – these are people who will collect the medals from individual makers across a huge number of participating countries. The medals will then be passed on to “Hand Givers” – these are people within the health care system, who will bestow the medals on individual health workers as a collective recognition of their dedication.
As the organisers write:
While we are all watching caregivers, nurses and doctors giving all they can to our communities, risking their lives for us, we want to find a way to honour them. They should all get a medal, a votive offering given in gratitude or devotion. At some point, this crisis will end and there will be a moment when we can thank them for all they do. We propose to present as many health workers as we can with a medal based on a traditional ex-voto, also to mark the moment when we can see a future.
So every night for the past week I’ve been sitting quietly at my bench until the early hours, sawing small hands out of brass sheet. It’s incredibly meditative. I love the repetitiveness of the movement and although I now have a rather saw arm, I’m pleased with the results.
I’ve made 50 and they’re all stamped with my personal registration number – 2318 – along with a few decorative details. I’m now ready to file and smooth the edges before I can add a pin and a ribbon to make them into medals.