The pig is the sixth design in our Lunar series, and is the twelfth sign of the Chinese zodiac, appearing once every 12 years. The traits of people born in the Year of the Pig are gentleness, selflessness and loyalty as well as diligence, compassion and generosity. Harry Brockway is the coin designer for The Royal Mint’s Lunar Year of the Pig coin which is part of the Shēngxiào Collection. We spoke with Harry to find out more about his interpretation of the Year of the Pig and how this translates into a beautiful design:
How does this coin differ from the others you have designed?
Design briefs for new coins that The Royal Mint are working on are usually quite precise but the brief for ‘The Lunar Year of the Pig’ was even more so. The designer was asked to reflect the homely aspect of those born within the Year of the Pig as well as their sense of loyalty. In Chinese culture the pig is regarded as a treasure for the family and the image of the pig needed to reflect this. As well as this, The Royal Mint wanted to include a feeling for the British countryside, so there was a lot to consider.
What was your inspiration for this coin?
Living in a rural area it was not difficult for me to find pigs to draw. They seemed most content when resting with their litter of piglets. This seemed like the obvious choice of image to reflect family and loyalty to which is portrayed on the coin.
How did you go about designing this coin? What did you do to research?
As well as a few basic ideas I started with the lettering. I always try out various arrangements and see which one offers the best option for incorporating the images I want to include. With so many elements to combine, the design had to be unique to fit it all in.
As well as drawing pigs I thought of my favourite British artists such as William Blake and Samuel Palmer. They both used the image of the moon in their work, usually a crescent moon appearing to rest on the brow of a hill in a typically British rolling landscape.
Talk us through the different elements of the coin
Beside the lop-eared pig lying contentedly as her piglets suckle, the design includes a traditional cottage with curls of smoke appearing from the chimney. This, I hope, reflects the homely aspect that was requested in the brief. The country home signifies the trait of feeling calm, through the drowsy night sky and smoke emanating from the warm fire within the home. The moon rests on the hilltop echoing the lunar year and the stars hint at the zodiac as well as being a useful decorative device.
I wanted all these elements to combine to give a feeling of homely contentment and a sense of all being well with the world.
Although I did not include any hint of the pen that the family pig would have been resting in I hope there is a feeling that the pig and her piglets lie safely within the protection of the small holding while the family who own the pig rest in their cottage.
What were your biggest challenges in approaching this design?
You have to be a big fan of pigs to find them the most beautiful of animals but the brief wanted the designer to come up with an attractive design. I felt that the lop-eared pig with her large and very characteristic ears was an image that most people would respond sympathetically to.