Dating back to the middle-ages ’pygg’ is an old English word used to describe a dense orange clay that was found in Western Europe and utilized to make earthenware containers, dishes, cookware, cups and jars. Pygg jars were used to store a variety of items including coins.

The Anglo-Saxon language evolved and the clay ”pygg” and the animal “pigge” came to be pronounced the same. In the 19th century English potters received requests for pygg banks and started producing banks shaped like pigs. Pygg clay origins were forgotten and the meaning of “pig” shifted to that of the animal and pygg jars became known as pygg banks.

Western Europeans were not the only ones making piggy banks. The first terracotta banks shaped like a pig were made in Java as far back as the 14th century with a slot on top for depositing coins. They had to be smashed to gain access to the coins. Unbroken Javanese piggy banks are extremely rare and valuable collector’s items.

Today piggy banks have become an enduring icon for financial literacy and a tool to teach children about the importance of saving money. The power of this symbol is so engrained in our culture that it now transcends physical coins.

Werecognize and identify with the power and evolution of pygg and the enduring icon of the piggy bank which symbolizes financial literacy, overall good fortune, wealth, honesty, and general prosperity.  

details of works 2023 by Gwen Anderson