The V&A Wedgwood Collection has teamed up with 14 students from Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College for the new project.
Now the teenagers have been busy designing their pieces using Jasperware, the iconic stoneware used for the original medallion in 1787.
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They hope to raise awareness of Wedgwood’s role in the abolitionist movement and also link some of the issues to today’s fight against racism.
Catrin Jones, chief curator at the V&A Wedgwood Collection, based at Barlaston’s World of Wedgwood, said: “We were thinking of how we could tell the story in a way that resonates with a contemporary audience.
“Some of the students have never worked with clay before. It’s given them a chance to get hands-on.”
The students are drawn from A-level courses in art and design, graphic design, textiles and product design, and each of them has been tasked with coming up with an individual medallion.
Their final pieces will be fired and then exhibited at the World of Wedgwood, where the 18th century medallion is also on display.
Grace Barrett, from the anti-racism education organisation I Am Ally, is working with the students for the project, which is being supported by the Art Fund.
She said: “The idea is for the young people to use Wedgwood’s techniques and materials, but also to develop an understanding of the history and the relationship with anti-racism today.”
Wedgwood’s medallion came about after he asked his senior craftsman to design it to promote the anti-slavery cause among the general public.
Set in white Jasper, it featured a black African slave kneeling in chains. It also bore the words: “Am I not a man and a brother?”
The medallion went on to become one of Britain’s first fashion accessories linked to a social cause and adorned everything from brooches to snuffboxes.
Jimmy Wilson, who is studying product design, previously knew little of the pottery manufacturer’s role in the abolitionist campaign.
The 17-year-old, from Uttoxeter, said: “What we’re doing will help get it recognised by a wider audience.
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“My design is to do with broken chains. The chains have been broken for freedom.
“It feels like a real honour to think that something you’ve created will be exhibited. It could be seen by thousands of people who visit here.”
Graphic design student Amy Sproston described the project as an ‘amazing’ opportunity. The 17-year-old, from Endon, said: “I’ve learnt a lot from it.
“I’ve done a design with a black woman who has an afro. It says ‘black is beauty’. It’s to show empowerment.”
The modern-day medallions are set to be put into glass display cases near the gallery entrance later this year.
Rose Lane, who teaches product design at the college, said: “They will also be getting a bronze award through this.”
Georgia Haseldine, public engagement fellow with the V&A Museum, said: “This is a story that really needs to be told to more people. I really believe that the best way to do that is through young people.
“The designs have come from their ideas. They’ve put a lot of work into it.”
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