Trade tokens: the best kind of friendly economy
I've been receiving notices from Leafcutter Designs for a long time, but recently went back to visit (finally), and was blown away by the creativity and joy in its wonderful pages. It's interesting, because it combines conceptual art and actual goods and services for sale. Really, a perfect example of someone getting creative in their work, and making art pay.
Lea Redmond is the driving force behind it, and runs it like the tiny business it is. The welcome says, "we live upstairs on top of this online shop and you can holler up to our kitchen window where a pie is sitting on the windowsill."
The items for sale started as small things she made for friends and family which became so popular that, as the website says, "we decided to make a bigger batch." The ideas are all ecologically sound, everything they present seems to have both a micro and macro emphasis (in other words, using tiny things to emphasize and talk about larger concepts), and every one of them is made or thought up with the idea of joy in mind - not the sale of joy, but actual joy, the kind where you do good things for other people and have fun doing it, or the kind where you simply get curious, get playful, and enjoy the basic physical wonders of living. Which is the main reason why I like them.
For example, she has created a series of conceptual knitting patterns. I like the sky scarf, where you buy a bunch of yarn in all the colors the sky could possibly be and then knit two lines of whichever color matches the sky every day. After a year you have a record of the sky - and a scarf!
Another favorite is the BART scarf, based on a local train system, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, in which you get yarns the color of the different BART lines and knit in that color whenever you are traveling on that line. Whenever you change lines, you change colors.
Other wonderful services and items are such as these:
- Earrings for Spontaneous Seeding: "You never know when an opportunity for planting might present itself." Refillable, of course.
- Recipe dice: Roll these to decide what ingredients to use in dinner. They are 5/8" across and "feature seasonal vegetables (different dice for each season), grains, meats, spices, herbs, and a few additional ingredients like lemon, ginger, and hot chiles."
- Wiggly Eye Dice: wooden dice with wiggly eyes for dots. Weird and fun.
- The World's Smallest Postal Service, which began as a tiny post office which Ms. Redmond set up in cafes and other places. If you gave her a letter, she would transcribe it "on a miniature desk in the tiniest of script, sealed with a miniscule wax seal with the sender's intial pressed into it, packaged up with a magnifying glass in a glassine envelope, and finished off with a large wax seal." Nowadays you can order the letters online (though they are no longer hand-written), and she has a variety of timely variations, such as Mother's Day cards. Imagine receiving a letter smaller than a quarter in the mail! Magical. Good for Tooth Fairies and other small creatures, as well.
You can also find out about the history of flour sack clothes, undergo creative courtship consulting (or tell stories of your own in the Project section), get poetry ribbon, and many other things. The Project section is full of broadcast-style art pieces where you can submit your own electronic postage stamp design, send her artifacts for the Game of Infinite Possibilities, make a rolodex card of something you love or think about for her rolodex machine, and several other participation-based fun art activities.
You can read Ms. Redmond's blog here.
The portable version of the Game of Infinite Possibilities