After a wonderful and tiring holiday show season, I did a bit of a creative cleanse. Instead of going right back to my dyes and yarn, I picked up a pencil and some wood gouges and put form to some of the ideas in the book Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein. My ongoing curiosity with alternative economics and my dis-ease with money as it is, brought me to the book some time ago. I ran the idea of creating the currency that would embody a sacred economic system by my friend John Vincent, who runs A Revolutionary Press in New Haven, Vermont. His press is a non-profit that prints broadsides with broad revolutionary themes and funnels all of its profits to front line social and environmental organizations. He encouraged me to explore the ideas visually, and when I had a design, we collaborated via email to set type to fill in the spaces of my woodblock print. On the frigid and beautiful day of January 11th, I drove up to his shop and we minted the first run of our currency. It was a 5-step, 12-hour process to print about 70 double-sided pieces with the woodblocks, letterpress type and die cut. Since then John has minted about 350 more.
There are a few major themes from Eisenstein's book that I focused on conveying. I highly recommend the book to delve deeper into these and more sacred/economic concepts and theories. You can actually get the full text here in a variety of languages and formats.
This sacred currency is the opposite of our current economics in all ways:
There are a few other design decisions that I thought about: The form of a paper bill is imperfect, but bridges the gap between what we are familiar with and something that could better represent an economics based in the less tangible qualities of our hearts and earth's nature. My intention was to print a run of these on sheets of handmade paper I made from polypore mushrooms that I foraged, but alas there were hard bits in that paper that dented the woodblocks. John asked me what would be the ideal paper for sacred currency? Something recycled. Something ethically and sustainably taken from nature. Definitely something as unprocessed as possible. Something handmade. Something sacred and/or unique to you or your community.. The folks at Peace Paper are doing amazing work making paper from old dollar bills, cow dung, military uniforms and other emotionally charged recycled fibers.
The motif of the rays emanating from the center echoes the sun as the original gift for life on our planet, and is also a play on “The Great Seal,” the masonic symbol on the US dollar. Look at the photo with John's eye in the cutout and you might see the resemblance... The cutout center, in addition to being a way to frame your own values, is also a bit of negative space in the whole symbology of money. Do we really need this stuff to intermediate between us and the real world? Could that hole get bigger and eventually disappear the whole "bill?"
I'd love to hear your responses, and more questions this whole thing raises, if you want to leave comments below or email me.
How would you use Sacred Currency?
About 300 of these currency prints have been mailed out to John's subscribers. (If you'd like details on A Revolutionary Press' affordable print subscriptions, contact John: firstname.lastname@example.org.) He'll also have them at the markets he does around northern Vermont, and I'm distributing a few more in person. I think it would be really beautiful to see photos of what you'd frame and how you'd like to use sacred currency. To make it easy to get your own sacred currency right now, you can download the scans below, print them front and back on your home printer, slice them up, cut out the centers, and play with it too! If you want to post photos on Instagram or other social media, you can tag them with #sacredcurrency so we can all see.