Donna Weaver designs National Medal commemorating 10th anniversary of 9/11

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As the 10th anniversary of the attacks on America that occurred on September 11, 2001 approaches, Congress last year authorized the U.S. Mint to create a National Medal in observance of the anniversary. Proceeds from the sale of the medal will go to help support the memorial in New York City.

And Vevay’s Donna Weaver has played a prominent role in the medal.

Certified as a Master Designer through the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program, Donna Weaver was contracted by the mint to submit designs for the commemorative medal. Designs were also submitted by mint artisans and also by other members of the Artistic Infusion Program.

Donna Weaver’s designs were selected for both the obverse and reverse sides of the medal, which are now in production and available for order. The medals are expected to be shipped in September in observance of the anniversary; and two million of them will be produced.

Donna Weaver worked at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia from 2000-2006, serving as the designer and modeler for the reverse of the state quarters for Indiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon; as well as designing the reverse for the quarters for Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.

After retiring in 2006 and returning to Switzerland County, she applied for the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program in 2007, and was accepted. She currently is the only retired member of the U.S. Mint in the Artistic Infusion Program.

“You submit a batch of drawings and artwork, and you’re rated and you get in the program or you don’t,” Donna Weaver said. ‘I got in, and since then I’ve been designing only, because I’m not in house. If I were still in house, I’d be sculpting too. That kind of breaks my heart, because I would have loved to sculpt this medal. This one is special.”

Donna Weaver said that – although she still hasn’t seen the actual medal, just photos at this point – she is very happy with the medal and its design.

“I’m thrilled that they picked both sides,” she said. “That’s kind of unusual.”

Donna Weaver said that the process involves a designer being assigned a job, and then a task order is issued and the designer enters into a contract with the mint as an outside contractor to do a particular design. The artist is paid a set fee for their work, and the designer may then submit as many designs as they’d like for consideration.

Those designs are then looked over by an in house mint committee, which makes suggestions and revisions. Once the mint committee sees the revisions and approves it, the design is then sent out to other committees, including the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the Citizens Fine Arts Committee in Washington, D.C. Those committees then look at the design and offer suggestions; and then the design is sent to the sponsoring organization – which in this case is the 9/11 Memorial being created in New York City.

“Between all of those, usually, but not always, the mint will follow the committees’ recommendations, but not always,” Donna Weaver said. “It’s a system you learn to work through.”

Donna Weaver said she didn’t know how many designers submitted drawing to be considered for the 9/11 Medal, but said that there could have been as many as 20 in the Artistic Infusion Program and another 9-10 from in house designers currently worked at the mint.

“And each one could be submitting one, or three or four, or whatever,” She said. “So there could have been quite a few designs considered.”

Donna Weaver said many times the submission of one designer could be used on the obverse side of the coin or medal; while the work of another designer could be selected for the reverse.

In fact, for the 9/11 Medal, the two sides selected were not paired together when they were submitted.

“Usually we don’t submit them in pairs, but occasionally we do because sometimes it will work well with whatever the project is,” Donna Weaver said. “This one, they wanted us to make pairings, so I did.”

Donna Weaver said that the process began in late September of 2010; when two rounds of designs were considered. She was well into design at Christmas of last year.

The coin itself is cast in silver, and it 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Donna Weaver said that most of the medals are cast in bronze, but there have been other silver medals in the past.

On the obverse, Lady Liberty is shown holding the Lamp of Remembrance, and behind her beacons of light stretch skyward. A press release from the U.S. Mint says that, “…(Lady) Liberty, the lamp, and the light symbolize not just the immeasurable loss on that fateful day, but also the resiliency and triumph of those who persevered.”

Inscripted on the obverse of the medal are the words “Always Remember” and “2001-2011”.

The reverse of the coin, according to the press release, “…Depicts an eagle, symbolizing the strength of the survivors, families, and Nation, against a backdrop of cascading water. The flowing water is emblematic of peace, serenity, healing, and the continuity of life.”

Inscribed on the reverse side are the words “Honor” and “Hope”.

Because Donna Weaver may only submit designs as a member of the Artistic Infusion Program, the obverse was sculpted by Phebe Hemphill of the mint; while mint engraver Joseph Menna sculpted the reverse of the medal.

Donna Weaver said that there are many different medals and emblems for 9/11, but this medal is different because it was created by a law in Congress, which directed the mint to create the medal. Once the mint’s costs are covered by the sale of the medals, all proceeds will then go to maintaining the memorial.

“It’s that way on a lot of them,” Donna Weaver said. “The Boy Scout coin, I did the obverse of, the Boy Scouts got a surcharge to help with their programs. The same with commemorative coins. The sale of this medal will go to help the memorial keep going.”

Donna Weaver said that she got a narrative for the medal, and then sat about the task of finding emblems that symbolize that narrative.

“This was tough. It was a challenge,” Donna Weaver said.

The mint informed Donna Weaver that it was going to use her designs around March of this year; as the September anniversary driving the minting of the medal.

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Originally from Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, Donna Weaver found the U.S. Mint when she was “looking for an interesting job.”

She worked for Kenner Toys in Cincinnati for several years, doing sculpting of all sorts of children’s toys. When Hasbro Toys bought Kenner, about a year later Hasbro got rid of the entire girls toy department – which meant everyone, including Donna Weaver, lost their jobs.

That was about 1998, and Donna Weaver began looking online for her next challenge.

“Really, a freaky thing led me to the mint,” Donna Weaver said. “I was looking online for interesting cities and interesting jobs. I typed in ‘sculpture’ and ‘drawing’, and all those words. When I did I hit the two-week window that the job was offered. The mint only offers the jobs for a certain length of time.”

After submitting samples of her work, she went to Philadelphia for an interview, and got the job.

In the same way she found the mint, she found Switzerland County several years ago.

“I was looking for something interesting,” she said. “An interesting house. A nice town within an hour’s drive of Cincinnati and Louisville. We found the house down the road that needed a lot of work, and I’m getting done on it.”

Having sculpted in the past, Donna Weaver took that knowledge and applied it to her design work at the mint, trying to incorporate design elements to make it easier on the dye shop and people working on the line.

For the 9/11 Medal, Donna Weaver said that she talked with sculptors Phebe Hemphill and Joseph Menna, and noted that the fact that she knows both sculptors from her time at the mint helped a great deal. Donna Weaver sent the sculptors her artwork and photographs that she used in creating her design to give them more insight into what she was inspired to create.

“The photos I used for designing the obverse were of my grandson,” Donna Weaver said. “He posed for it. I’ve used him in the past because he does such a good job. He’s on the Boy Scout Commemorative Coin – he’s the Cub Scout.”

By contrast, Donna Weaver said that the reverse of the 9/11 Medal was comparatively simple, but her design incorporated some ‘frosting’ on it that enhanced the design.

“I understand it’s very nice looking, it sparkles,” Donna Weaver said. “I wanted it to sparkle. The pattern in the background comes from the memorial’s reflecting pool. They are using water to symbolize the continuity of life and rebirth. That’s a stylized water pattern, and I alternated frosting with a polished surface trying to get a sparkle and a movement to it.”

With her work appearing on a dozen of the state quarters, is it unusual for Donna Weaver to carry her art in her pocket?

“No, not at all,” she said. “I don’t give it a thought. I’m done with it. When I see it, I say ‘Oh, that’s mine’, and that brings back memories of the copy I used and things like that, but I’ve moved on from it.”

Donna Weaver said that one of the reasons that she enjoyed her work at the mint was that, with toys, her work ended up either in a landfill or under the bed, lost.

“With coins, people collect them and keep them. They have an intrinsic value,” she said.

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As much as she enjoyed her time at the mint, Donna Weaver decided that it was time to leave the mint and return to Switzerland County – where another ‘love’ is located.

“I came back here because of my house and because of Venoge,” She said, referring to Musee de Venoge, a living historical farmstead and museum that she has owned and been restoring for several years. “I loved Philadelphia, but I wanted to come back here.”

She is also known for her wax portraits sculpted in ‘bas relief’ and mounted on reverse-painted glass.

“The wax portraits helped me get the job at the mint,” Donna Weaver said, “Because it’s not everybody who can sculpt in low-relief. I had been doing those for three or four years before I applied at the mint. It’s an art form that was popular from about 1750 to about 1840. I got into wax, because my husband and I were doing living history, and I wanted an honest period trade.”

At Venoge, the restoration of the first floor has now been completed, and the home is open on Saturdays and Sundays for visitors during the summer, and Donna Weaver anticipates continuing that through the fall.

She is also researching the culture and the culture of the time.

“It’s just one room,” Donna Weaver said, “But it’s adorable. We want to know how people lived in a home like that. There’s no electric. No heat. No water. We have a kitchen garden that would have been representative of what they would have had at that period of time, except it’s much smaller.

Donna Weaver said that in 1828 Jacob Weaver lived in the house. He had married a Golay, who had come from New York state, and the couple lived in the home along with their seven children.

“How do you live in a house with nine people?” Donna Weaver asks. “It’s one room for everything. You’ve got to think about privacy or lack of; food preparation, teaching the kids. There’s a lot of things to try and get straight.”

Donna Weaver said that the home combined the French-Swiss culture that Jacob Weaver’s wife brought with her with his German background, making for a continually interesting ongoing research project.

“I want it to be a ‘time-warp’ when people walk in,” she said.

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Want more information on ordering a September 11 National Medal?

The 2011 September 11 National Medal is available for purchase at the United States Mint’s secure Web site, www.usmint.gov/catalog, at 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468), and at 1-888-321-MINT (6468), the United States Mint’s telephone ordering line for hearing- and speech-impaired customers with TTY equipment. The introductory sales price of $56.95 is in effect through August 18th, 2011, at 5 p.m. ET, when the regular price of $66.95 each goes into effect.

A $10 surcharge collected from the sale of each medal is authorized to be paid to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, a private not-for-profit organization overseeing the design and funding of the memorial and museum at the World Trade Center site. The funds will support the museum’s operations and maintenance once it is completed. Orders for the medal are expected to begin shipping on September 1st.