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AMSA names American Medal of Year winner

A multipart medal has won the American Medallic Sculpture Association’s American Medal of the Year Award for 2015.

Richard Bonham’s innovative three-part medal, Season of the Crow, was announced as the winner by Mel Wacks, jury chair.

A jury of experts reviewed multiple entries to determine the annual winner. 

The runner up was another unorthodox medal — The Past Watching the Future Appear by Polly Purvis.

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Bonham graduated from Kutztown State College, majoring in Art Education, in Pennsylvania. He was hired by the Bloomsburg School District as an art teacher and spent the next 38 years teaching. Along with teaching, Bonham set up a bronze-casting foundry, produced sculpture and competed for sculpture commissions. 

In 1984 he saw an advertisement for the International Medallic Art Workshop organized by John Cook, professor of art and a fellow in the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

Not only was the workshop “a wonderful learning experience,” according to Bonham, but he had the opportunity to meet and work with people who are today some of the finest medallic sculptors. Bonham joined the American Medallic Sculpture Association and has participated in most of AMSA’s exhibitions since that time.

Bonham has also made metal prototype guns, swords, armor and anything else needed for the popular line of 12-inch G.I. Joe figures. Since most of the miniature prototypes created were of objects that were originally machined, not cast, and the one-sixth scale is so small, he found that sculpturing these objects from clay or wax was not a viable option. 

Bonham created prototypes by handcrafting dozens and sometimes 100 or so individual pieces of brass that were brazed and silver soldered together to form the final object. The prototypes would then be sent to China where a pantograph machining system would create injection molds to produce the final plastic toy. 

About this time Bonham became disenchanted with the bronze casting process. Sculpturing the original model, making a rubber mold, casting a wax model, making an investment mold, burning out the wax, casting bronze and then finishing the bronze was a long, tiring process. He decided to make one-of-a-kind medals using the same techniques used to make the toy prototypes. 

Bonham creates his sculptures from brass, bronze, copper, gold and silver. His main design influences are Meiji period Japanese metalworking designs and techniques. 

All of Bonham’s medals (including Season of the Crow) are unique and require many hours of work to create.

Season of the Crow is not for sale. 

Purvis’ The Past Watching the Future Appear medal was fabricated with found metals. Thus, there is no “edition” of the original available for purchase; however, a second “variation” that is similar to the original will be made available.

The American Medallic Sculpture Association is a group of sculptors, artists, collectors, and others with a common interest in promoting medallic art. 

AMSA publishes a quarterly newsletter and maintains a website; dues are $40 per year. 

For further information about AMSA or contact information for Richard Bonham or Polly Purvis, email AMSA. 

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