In a reversal of the old fairy tale about turning straw into gold, artist Angela Mathis has turned money into fabric. With what she has named her Value project, the London-based designer explores the meaning of money in an increasingly technology-driven and economically complex world. After all, what is a dollar bill worth without its assigned value? It is, as the saying goes, worth little more than the paper on which it is printed. The average life of one bill is approximately 18 months, after which it is retired and burned.
Mathis is repurposing old, retired currency by turning it into textiles that can be applied to various upholstery needs. Her work is presented as cushions for a series of stools, each containing combinations of various currencies including the green American dollar, the purple English pound, brown Indonesian rupees and the color-dense euro. The result is a kaleidoscope of color and detail. Mathis creates the fabric by blending the old currency with water and a special glue that she developed. She applies a custom-made protective paint to make the textile shiny and more water-resistant. It can be sewn and laundered in a washing machine.
Each stool cushion measures 17-3/4 inches square and requires about 3.5 ounces of banknotes. Mathis estimates that the bills in the dollar fabric stool were worth about $350 before they were retired.