News & Notes

Q&A with Sandra Deiana

Published April 18, 2024 | 5 min read

By Louis Golino

This is the fourth installment in a series of interviews with coin designers and medallic sculptors, including Heidi Wastweet, Beth Zaiken, and Chiara Principe.

Sandra Deiana is a multi-award-winning coin designer and sculptor from Sardinia. She began training in these fields in high school and then attended the Academy of Fine Arts and the famous School of the Art of the Medal, both in Rome. In 2012 she was among only 12 students accepted into the latter program.

Deiana has worked for some of the biggest mints in Europe. She has produced several coins for the Irish Central Bank. Her coins for the Royal Mint’s iconic Britannia series in 2022 showcased the allegorical figure as three women of different ages. Deiana has designed coins for San Marino since 2018 and has worked for many clients worldwide, including the Art Mint in 2022.

Last year, she created a medal for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, which was given in Belfast to Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, and others. Her talents include everything from drawing and painting to bas-relief sculpture and every stage of the coin-making process, from researching the design to plaster sculpting. 

Despite being under 40, Deiana has already received several major accolades for her work. In 2019 she earned the Standout Woman Award from the Italian Chamber of Deputies and a silver prize from the Shanghai Mint. Last year, she received a first-place award in the Japan Mint’s long-running International Coin Design Competition for her piece on the Sardinian legend of the Janas. The Japan Mint also awarded her a special jury prize in 2017 for her first submission to the competition.

Louis Golino: For those who have not seen your YouTube channel, please tell us about your creative process of creating a coin design and turning it into a finished product.

Sandra Deiana: Behind each of my projects, there is the precise request of a client, who entrusts me with a theme for which I have to create a design. It all starts with research on that concept. This process takes almost more time than the practical part. In the meantime, I start to create some ideas for possible composition, and then I collect more ideas and discuss them with the client. I then design some sketches, and the work becomes a compromise with the client, who may require modifications or have certain preferences. 

Once the final design is approved, we move on to the three-dimensional sculpture. I begin with a clay bas-relief, make the different plaster molds, and then create the final product with all the details. I then deliver this to the mint, which produces the piece in various finishes (proof, colored, etc.) that customers can choose from. The part of the process I prefer is, for sure, the sculpture of my designs. This gives me a lot of satisfaction, even if, unfortunately, plaster casts have been in less and less demand lately due to the new 3-D modeling technologies. I hope to always make them in the traditional way.

Watch Sandra Deiana create the Chancellor’s Award for Civic Leadership.

LG: Please give us a brief overview of your most recent projects.

SD: I recently designed a coin that the Royal Mint issued to commemorate singer George Michael’s career. This is part of the mint’s series dedicated to legendary British musicians. Working on this project was very exciting: I felt a certain responsibility toward the artist’s fans because he is very famous. And I have always listened to his songs with pleasure, even though I can’t really call myself a fan. I particularly love to have included a part of his famous song “Faith,” reproducing the exact frequencies of the chorus. 

Before this work, I participated in the International Coin Design Competition last year. I was surprised to learn that I had been awarded first place. I was very enthusiastic because I chose the legend of the Janas of Sardinia, where I was born, as a theme, from which it is said that my surname also derives. The medal will be minted this year, and I can’t wait to be able to hold it in my hands to see the result of my work.

The George Michael Royal Mint commemorative (left) features the frequencies of the chorus for “Faith,” the artist’s most recognizable hit. The 2022 Britannia coin features the allegorical figure at three stages of life. (Photos: Royal Mint & Olivia McCommons)

LG: You often depict female allegorical figures, like your San Marino 20-euro gold coin and popular American Virtues silver round. Please tell us about your work in this area and why it appeals to you.

SD: Allegories and symbolism have always been used in art to represent virtues and concepts; over time, specific figures have been created that different artists have chosen to reproduce in the same way in different eras. I’ve always admired the work of Czech painter Alphonse Mucha. He has always inspired me, and I think Art Nouveau is very elegant, especially the use of the female figure. Still, as an artist, I also try to create different figures and elements to combine tradition and contemporaneity.

Produced last year, this San Marino 20-euro coin (left) recognizes diplomacy between Italy and the Republic of San Marino with a Mucha-inspired design. Deiana also took inspiration from the Czech artist in her design for the Legend of the Janas coin. (Photos: Sandra Deiana & Olivia McCommons)

LG: Your work often returns to your Sardinian roots. Please tell us about the influence that has had on your artistic work.

SD: Often, when I have the opportunity to choose the design theme, I have to refer to Sardinia because it is my land. I am very attached to it, from the landscape to its traditions. Its ancient legends have always fascinated me, and I like the idea of being able to contribute to spreading them in this original way with my work. Also, personally, I wanted to carry on my project, which was dedicated to the Sardinian figure of the Accabadora.