I was really excited when I found this hand drawn tarot deck via instagram. I like to search out really unique and hard to find tarot decks, and when I found this deck I instantly fell in love. It hadn't been released so I had to wait patiently for a few weeks till I could finally get my paws on it. As soon as I saw that this deck was available, I immediately purchased it!
This deck is so special because it is completely hand drawn with pen. The designs are so simple but completely full of character, and each card is so beautiful, I don't think I could say there is one boring card in the deck. Its amazing to find a deck that is so infused with pure loving intention and it really speaks volumes when even the guidebook is all hand written. I know from writing zines, it really is a labor of love to communicate using your own writing especially in such a technology driven age where its a lot easier to just type something out. I am really happy to be able to have this deck, and due to its smaller size, this is the perfect deck to carry with you in your bag and have spontaneous tarot readings at the park, or at a friends house! Oh and did I mention the back of the cards? Even the gorgeous floral motif is beautiful!
The first thing I noticed as I carefully flipped through each one of the cards (what I always do when I buy a new deck), is that the illustrations are completely unique. I couldn't really draw a straight connection to the original rider waite deck. Which is a GOOD thing! The cards I found a lot easier to interpret. They weren't so obscure that you absolutely had to use a guidebook. As I did my first reading I found that a lot of the meanings just spoke to me through the card. I have been doing tarot for years but I must admit I never fully learned each minor arcana card by memory. I still have to occasionally glance at a guidebook. I know these are going to be one of my favorite decks for a long time to come and I am tempted to buy some for everyone I know!
The talented creator of this deck, Mary Evans was kind enough to do an interview with me about her work and the creative process behind the conception of this deck.
Hi Mary! I found you a few weeks ago through Instagram and immediately fell in love with your deck! I couldn't wait until it came out, as soon as you announced it was available, I bought it. The cards are even more beautiful in person! How did you come up with the idea of designing a tarot deck? Have you always been interested in the occult?
The fact that you had such a reaction to my deck is more than I could have ever dreamed of when I started this project. I had wanted to make my own tarot deck for years but fear held me back. It seemed so daunting, so many drawings. On top of that, I felt like I had to be some tarot master to make my own deck. A friend of mine, Katie Oly, a very talented embroidery artist, suggested that the two of us put together a collaborative tarot themed art show. This was in late May and we booked the show for February. I love deadlines. I figured it would be just enough time for me to draw all 78 cards if I really buckled down to a schedule. So I jumped in! At this point I had been studying the tarot more in depth for a few years but was shaky on giving readings without my trusty tarot notebook. When I first started the major arcana it seemed like I bit off more than I could chew, but I was having fun, and learning a lot. That is one of the most valuable things about this project for me. Spending time with each card and drawing it how I really felt about it, I learned so much.
I do believe that I was interested in the occult at a very young age. My family was very religious and growing up, we went to an Episcopalian church. There are elements to those religions, the unexplained, ritual, that children can grasp onto. I remember always making potions, writing letters to fairies (which my mother so kindly responded to), and trying to make ouija boards out of clay (because my mother refused to buy me one). I think one thing that the religion my parents practiced lacked, was a power given to women, I think when I got old enough to learn about witchcraft and the occult I was attracted to the notion that women could have power as well. For a long time I was afraid to show my interest in the occult
I also saw on your website you make jewelry. Have you always been an illustrator and then got into making jewelry or the other way around? I started out making jewelry too then transitioned over to natural beauty but I still love making jewelry! Are you still designing new pieces?
Making jewelry is very new for me. There is a local community center here that offers a wonderful jewelry class at a very affordable fee. That is where I learned how to use a jewelers saw and a few other basic tools I use to make my pieces. I love collecting jewelry, I think that's what attracted me to making it. Recently, I have been making some jewelry, but Spirit Speak has been taking up most of my time. I see the jewelry that I make as protective amulets. Whenever I am scared in my house, I imagine a golden sphere surrounding it, that way anything terrifying that might want to come in will be repelled by its radiant shine. In my mind these pieces of brass are like the golden sphere, but for your body. My favorite thing is to make one-offs for the people I love. At the end of the day, drawing is my true passion.
What was the process like on this deck? Did you have an outline for the entire deck or did you just draw one card at a time? Was it drawn entirely with pen? Markers? Is this your favorite medium to work with?
I had a schedule for all of the cards. I think at first it was 3 cards a week. I decided to go in order because I didn't trust myself to hop around. The major cards took the most time. In the beginning I would draw out each card in my sketch book with pencil first and then pen. After that I would scale the drawing up to 9 1/2 x 11 sized paper. My father had just gifted me a beautiful leather sketchbook and I felt like it contained this very sweet and encouraging power. My father is a banker and incredibly smart, but he has struggled in the past to understand me as an artist. Its like that gesture, that notebook, was one of the elements that really helped me through it. As I got more into the project, they became rough pencil sketches, then VERY rough sketches. Once I got to the minor cards things went a lot more swimmingly, I could do 3-4 cards in a day instead of a week. They kind of flew by me. I felt like I could actually finish, which was a huge, huge, rush. I used pens for the whole project. I used to really love painting with oils. When I was in high school I always thought I would end up painting. Paints are expensive though, and paintings are not easy to store. I think as I got older I just found drawing to be easier in ways. I guess it is my favorite medium.
I love that your deck is so different from anything out there right now. I honestly think your deck is one of those very special decks that will become a cult classic. One of those decks decades later people search for the first edition and is coveted by all. Where did you draw on inspiration for this deck?
WOW! What a compliment!!!!!! I'm kind of speechless. It really touches my heart that you feel that way. I wanted to make the deck easy to read. I often found that with older decks, like the one I typically use, there was a lot of room for interpretation. The images in the deck I had been using were sourced from medieval art. The cards are beautiful. Not all of the messages were clear to me though. I had to really learn the symbolism in each card. And in this way, I could often hide from the truth of the cards. With my deck I wanted it to be easy, a feeling. I'm not sure if that comes across or not? [ it definitely does!] As far as inspiration, I tried to not look at other decks during the time of making Spirit Speak. I wanted to pull the images out of myself, and how I really felt about the cards. Sometimes it was really hard not to reference other decks. However I was inspired to create the deck by a few before me who had done it. Decks like The Collective Tarot and The Wild Unknown, sort of put the idea in my head, hey, I could do this!
I love that the accompanying guide is hand written. Seeing someone's handwriting is so personal and you can tell you really a poured your soul into this work. I also really appreciate that your interpretations aren't the standard generic representations. Your cards are really descriptive in a way a person new to tarot can sort of intuitively interpret them. Was this intentional?
Oh good! I wan't sure about the handwriting. I am NOT a writer. In fact I have many learning disabilities that make things like writing, spelling, and, grammar, very hard for me. But I wanted so badly to explain the reasons why I used the images I did. Making the cards easy to read was very important to me. For myself at first actually. I would get so down on myself when I would draw a card in a reading and totally blank. Just looking at it and not actually seeing. With this deck I wanted to give myself cheats, clues, and most of all feeling. When I see a card and I can feel it, its like oh DUH ok I get it. It was very intentional to make the cards easy to grasp.
How much did you draw inspiration from the original cards? I can see you really went your own way as far as making new illustrations for the cards instead of just modifying them. Art is highly intuitive work do you feel this way about how you came to design these cards?
I feel like because I learned on a deck that was based off the Rider Waite, there is some classic symbolism that I built the cards off of. But, I never used them as a model. I really tried to take my personal feelings and experiences with each card and work off of that. There are many valuable images in the original cards. I feel like what I did was manipulate them to suit me.
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about that you can tell us about? I'm sure you are excited to get this deck out into the world. Maybe you need a vacation instead! :)
Haha! I was actually just thinking about that. Now that I have finished the deck, I do want to start on new projects. I am not sure what will come next though. What I really loved about making Spirit Speak is that it is a tool and functional. It is a goal of mine to make more projects like this, art that people can interact with, on a frequent basis. I also would really love to travel around and give readings with the deck. I LOVE giving readings with my own deck. Its so, so fun! Maybe I will go on a tarot vacation :)
I had so much fun doing this interview and learning more about your process. Thank you so much for sharing a bit about of yourself and of course more about your amazing deck! I look forward to seeing other people get your deck and hopefully fall in love with it as much as I did!