The making of The Textured Tarot…
I’m not always comfortable talking or writing about the process involved in the making of my card decks, because I don’t know how to articulate what I do: intuitive art. It’s not that I am criticising my cards in any way. I love them and am delighted to have brought them into the world. It’s more that each card deck journey is so intuitive in-the-moment that I often have no idea how I get to a completed card design, or why certain decisions are made (apart from the specific meaning of a card). After my tarot card research, I have a basic visual outline of what is needed and seem to know what I want to do without always having a finished picture in my head. I am kind of artistically layering the story (about each card) that is in my head. I don’t worry if the ideas aren’t flowing; they come when they are ready. Between these productive times, I am comfortable with my blankness, reflection, or churned up mind. I am confident that the art inspiration will come. Then, I get caught up in its waves and don’t recall how I got to my final destination…ha ha…: bliss..;)
I will try and expand a little more in the next few sections…
Preparation and process
Although I research a lot, I tend to spend minimal time preparing my actual art. There are no demo sketches, or journal plans. I really don’t work that way. It snags me up somewhat: I feel a turmoil of impatience to start the actual card design as my body feels primed to just start. I just know what I want to do. I catch glimpses of a look or feel of the card with a basic outline of what I want to convey: there is a spontaneous response to the words that I read.
I often forget to photograph the key stages of my tarot card work in progress because I get so caught up in the magic of it all. I create spontaneously with the information and materials that are available.
I try not to alter the final image created, but sometimes I make minor adjustments if something rubs with me for the wrong reasons, or I am concerned how my card will be perceived. Sometimes, a social media comment prompts a change. Although I am hermit-like, I don’t mind sharing the rustic side of my art in social media and am open to constructive feedback. My social media style is ‘rustic’ and I am okay with that now…
I would describe my current work as mixed media, digitally collaged art. Plus, it is art created out of limitations of skill and space. I wholeheartedly embrace those limitations! I see them as my power tools! You see, I am a self-taught artist who has no desire to create perfect fine art representations of Nature etc. I like to flirt with the edges of my limitations: that is where the gold is and where unique art finds a way onto the paper. Of course, I love to develop my skills, but only in the service of my imperfection. The quirkier the art, the better. I often find my best visual representation when creating my art through the eyes of the ‘beginners mind’. I embrace my random curiosity and my art-style evolves over time. My technique is not practicing until things are just right…I just do it! I know that I am inspired by my surroundings (like we all are). For the tarot approach, I was motivated by textile art exhibitions and feeling the pull to bring more needlework to my art process
Some of my limitations have been practical. Since moving to London, I have lived in small flats where work and everyday living combine. With only a small table, art trolley, laptop and printer as my craft area, I have become used to working in small spaces. That is where my Photoshop collaging started. I scan in my paintings and drawings and collate them digitally to utilise and arrange on my card designs. I don’t have room to keep/store all my paintings and drawing layers. I just keep my favourites.
A downside for my business, is that I have difficulty staying with a product once I have created it. What I mean by that is, the continued re-invention of presenting a product in different ways such as mugs, cushions, fridge magnets, calendars etc, or marketing doesn’t appeal to me. Once my project is done, I prefer it to stand alone and organically move out into the world.
However, I might entertain the idea of digital prints of the tarot cards as there are always favourites that we relate to. But, I am usually catching the tail of another creative idea that distracts me from staying with one thing.
Research of the tarot
I wanted to find out more detail and background. I bought many books (a few favourites are represented in the photo on the left). The majority of my reading was about the Rider Smith Waite tarot. I had settled on that because I wanted to create a deck from the perspective of a person, like me, who is relatively new to tarot.
I started with the Majors, followed by the Court cards and finished with the Pips. I would spend a day or two with each card and read across a range of texts to get a sense of the meaning behind the card and what felt true. I would look at the imagery of some tarot decks that I own. Sometimes, I did not understand the visuals, so it was important for me to try and create a deck I could easily connect with. A deck where I felt represented and that was inclusive of diversity and infused with Nature. I seem to struggle to connect with single-themed decks.
Viewing other decks, I remained open to noticing how they made me feel. Did I feel repulsion, attraction, emotion etc? I questioned why I responded in the way that I did. I was very much connecting with the feeling of each card, how it moved me. Then my own imagery would start to enter my head. It is important to me to inject kindness into all my card decks. We live in a world where harsh criticism is normalised: which is toxic to wellbeing and meaningful connection.
The name ‘The Textured Tarot’ came to me after a visit to a textile exhibition. I wanted to convey the texture of materials and collaged art, against the backdrop of one’s complex textured life (the woven threads of life).
How did I work on the cards?
The cards are a combination of drawing, painting, stitching and collaged fragments of digital imagery (from e.g. Wiki Commons, licensed stock photographs and online digital photography) that fitted with what was in my head. I quickly developed a flow with the work. I would digitally collate the layers (scanned in or from online) into Photoshop and then mix them around in layers. It was my continued intention to use collaged fragments of digital photographs mixed in with my own handmade work to create something totally new and original. I love how photography meets textiles and my artwork in the Textured Tarot. My other card decks are made from a patchwork of my own handmade work. I will most likely return to that style next time.
I get super excited when collaging the layers together in Photoshop….adrenaline flushes through my bloodstream. I tend to keep going until the card feels completed. However, the details of the typography would be initiated after all the cards were finalised.
Unfortunately, after completing the Majors and Court cards, I hit a brick-wall. I was having health difficulties at the time and the volume of sewing for my Etsy shop pouches and wraps made using my hands difficult. I spent many months not able to function well. I was also grieving:(
So, now I had a new limitation to add into the mix: a limitation of functional ability! Back then, I remember spending much of my time playing with acrylic paints on Yupo paper. I have used this art for the backs of my tarot decks and the box (nothing wasted).
For the Pips, I had to take a different route, or the deck would remain unfinished for a long time: I needed to embrace the pivot! So, I decided to simplify the imagery a little more, injecting a more contemporary feel (by recycling scanned images of previous machine-stitched textiles), combined with patchwork photography. I like the way the cards have a different feel (whilst still remaining harmonised by the recycled textile fragments and colour choices). The deck certainly reflects my journey through the tarot with its many ups and downs through ebb and flow of life. I feel, the deck has ended up exactly as it is meant to be. I hope that the challenges and artistic approach facilitates your connection with the cards.
On the left here, you will see a video of how each piece of The Star collaged card was built. The two ‘jugs’ layers were merged in Photoshop to reduce the size of the file (they were made up of a mosaic of patterned fabric pieces). So, not all the stages are shown here in the video. I think it provides a general sense of how I put my artwork together.
Writing is not within my comfort zone, but I understood how people appreciated a little guidance. I decided to work within my limitations again, without trying to be something I am not. I chose a simpler route by accumulating words and phrases that particularly stood out for me, as I researched across many books. Sometimes there was a conflict in the words and interpretations. I left them in as I trust the reader will know intuitively (and in relation to the other cards pulled) what each card is trying to communicate in-the-moment.
On some of the cards (particularly the Court cards), a few weaknesses of the Court card are highlighted towards the bottom. No personality is one-sided right? We are a paradox of complexities!
Structured graphic design is not a strength of mine. Familiarising myself with InDesign and thinking through layouts and typography etc is an ongoing struggle. I looked for simple solutions in how I present my work. Nothing more, nothing less than that.
My (practical thinking) partner Paul is on hand to edit my written work. I tend to approach the writing in an overly self-critical way (he doesn’t edit my blogposts though!). I almost apologise for having a go at making a tarot deck: it must be that imposter syndrome again. He questions any negativity within the writing and gently coaches me to a shorter and more uplifting style. I trust that helps.
This is an extension from the booklet. I use a simple layout and try to describe the essence of what the deck is. I was not afraid to experiment with the background here. I must have created 5-6 different box background ideas (which is unusual for me). However, I will add that I went with my initial idea in the end.:)
Black and white signifies the dark and the windows of light with the never-ending grey of life…I love to see all the little faces in the tuck-box and on the back of the tarot cards. I don’t know how they got there, they just emerged through the layers of the artwork. The Yupo paper and acrylic ink paintings from last year was my background. I then selected one section of interest, duplicated it four times or more as a mirror reflection and then turned it greyscale in Photoshop. Then I added a diamond shaped variegated wallpaper texture and a photograph of lace was over-laid over the top. Voila!
Anyway, I hope you think my blogpost is useful in some way. I have enjoyed reflecting my thoughts and putting them down here. My tarot deck is currently on pre-orders in my Etsy shop, but my first stock is due for delivery on 30th May 2018. I would like to thank all of you who trusted me and have supported my opportunity to release this deck into the world. Thank you for actively promoting my work time and time again. I am deeply honoured.
The Textured Tarot is eclectic, a bit rustic, unpolished, full of love for life and a deep respect for the human experience in all it’s manifestations. Onwards and upwards my friends!