Metals faculty and students join global thank you to frontline caregivers

A hand made out of gold medal hanging from a red velvet medal is pinned to the pocket of a white button-down shirt

Students, faculty and alumni from the metals program in the Department of Craft/Material Studies recently participated in an international collaboration to make medals for frontline caregivers in appreciation of their service during the pandemic.

The Hand Medal Project was conceived by friends and artists Iris Eichenberg and Jimena Ríos, following a collaborative exhibition in Buenos Aires. The project was inspired by the idea of ex-votos—handheld objects of devotion that honor a gratitude or a wish.

Since April, more than 30,000 artists, jewelers, students, and professionals crafted medals to honor the service and sacrifice of health workers. Eichenberg and Ríos then organized a network of 145 “Hand Keepers,” who collected the medals from individuals across 66 participating countries. Approximately 70,000 medals were then passed on to “Hand Givers,” who presented them to their local medical communities in early November. Each medal has been registered with a number stamped on the back, allowing recipients to look up the maker of their medal on the Hand Medal Project website.

To underscore the unity of this collaborative effort, participants copied a template of the hand—meant to be simple enough for all skill levels, and easily replicated using any available metals. The design is drawn from a historical Argentinian ex-voto from Ríos’s collection, its meaning is forged in service.

“You make do with what you have to say thank you,” Eichenberg says. Fittingly, this singular hand design creates a collective voice, reinforcing the shared gratitude that is the project’s mission.