Press release

Double fracture fails to prevent Lucy’s big break

Published on 13 April 2023

A postgraduate researcher from the University of Dundee has battled through the agony of a severe double arm break, and the resulting challenges it caused her work, to win an award celebrating the art of medal making.

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Lucy Smith, a PhD student at the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, is the recipient of this year’s Michael Roberts Memorial Prize, part of the annual student competition run by the British Art Medal Society, an organisation dedicated to promoting medallic art.

This year’s BAMS student competition attracted a record 165 entries from 22 universities across the UK and Germany. Judging took place in the British Museum, and the accompanying exhibition of medals, including Lucy’s winning entry, will be open at Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, London, until May.

Lucy’s medal is directly related to her PhD project to develop immersive ways of teaching science through art. A 7ft-tall permanent sculpture – called The Analemma Sundial – that she created is in the process of being installed at the University of Dundee Botanic Garden and the medal, ‘Perihelion, Aphelion’ mirrors this installation on a miniature scale.

The chances of Lucy finishing the medal, let alone winning the prize seemed remote back on 5 January when she suffered fractures of the scaphoid wrist bone and radial elbow.

She explained, “After I broke my arm I was unable to access the workshops but luckily the preparatory pattern-making had been completed during the previous six months, and the Foundry staff at the University were able to do the bronze casting for me.

“I was able to handle my medal in my own workshop with assistance and supervision in using a vice to secure the medal. I was able to lightly sand some days at home, sitting down, a few hours at a time with my good hand just sanding back and polishing the high points in the relief work.

“I have been integrating bronze casting into my sculpture work for the last six years. The pandemic has caused us all to adapt our practice, and I found that I could turn to more digital processes in the pattern-making processes of bronze casting. The beauty of digital pattern-making is that you can scale up or down easily and that is what I was able to do with the designs I had already created for my sculpture.

“At BAMS they are very interested in the story behind the medal and the research that has been conducted, and in this instance the work contributes to my PhD research.”

Milestone historical ideas and discoveries in science influence the concepts in Lucy’s artworks. Key figures in the past have inspired Lucy, and her medal focusses on Johannes Kepler and his contribution to the understanding of planetary orbits.

The medal reverse depicts a low-relief 16-pointed sun. The central placement emphasises the importance of the sun to life and shows remaining bronze turbulence visible from heating and pouring, suggesting a dynamic sun. The four points of the compass allude to the geographically precise location of the project in Dundee.

Combining modern with ancient processes Lucy uses cutting-edge mathematical coding and contemporary 3D digital printing to make the medal patterns. These technologies offer enormous versatility in making large- or small-scale works.

The British Art Medal Society was formed 30 years ago. Its aim is to re-introduce a modern medal into contemporary art practice, jewellery, craft and metalworking to re-open an awareness of the possibilities of medallic art in bronze. It holds a student medal competition annually for artists and has gained popularity with its approach to art practice, specifically in casting bronze.

It has broadened its appeal, membership, and global outreach considerably over three decades and today the competition is included into the curriculum of many Art and Design institutions. The aim is that the medal can be held in the hand, and the three sides – obverse, reverse and edge are all designed to express the artistic possibilities in bronze and to tell a story.


Grant Hill

Senior Public Affairs Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768
Story category Alumni, Awards and accolades