Extraordinarily, one year ago today, I'd never have dreamed that drawing and manufacturing a tarot deck would ever be in my future. I'd always dreamed of being a self-employed artist, but it certainly wasn't on my radar as something that was going to be happening imminently. I was working two jobs, taking care of my boys, doing my artwork on the side, and just sort of getting along with things. But in the year that has passed, less than a year actually, I have now created 2 tarot decks and 2 oracle decks that, combined, have sold almost 2,000 boxes across the world.
It has been unexpected, beautiful, weird, and very unusual path. As I sit here, preparing things to launch my latest oracle deck on a Kickstarter campaign (I've been hand sewing little felt potatoes, as you do) I've been doing a lot of reflecting. And I wondered if maybe there were a few of you out there who might be interested in the story behind the making of these decks, and how (and why) they've all happened so quickly... relatively speaking. And so here we are. The timeline of the decks, and a bit of a story behind the process.
Everybody's Tarot. Spring 2022.
I'd been studying tarot for a while, but in an unusal deck-less way. I had readings from friends who had a gift for them, but I didn't have my own deck. I never found one I really connected with... and to be honest I didn't look that hard. I was happy to focus on journalling study, which you can do with books, courses, and the internet. I found it very intimidating though, and I always felt like I was getting it "wrong" somehow, unable to fully memorise all the complicated imagery and multiple layers of meaning.
One day while I was journalling, I got incredibly frustrated and crossed everything out with a big black sharpie, and wrote "MAKE MY OWN DECK" in huge letters below it. And so I did. Surely, I thought, there was a way to study and understand these cards that ISN'T completely overwhelming. Surely each card can be simplified and distilled into core, basic meanings that don't leave me feeling over-stimulated, frustrated, and like I'm missing out on untouchably try-hard esotericism.
I got my iPad out, and drew the Hermit from the Everybody's Tarot deck. Which... at the time, wasn't called Everybody's Tarot because I never in a million years thought anyone would see it but me. To me the hermit meant a happy quiet place, the kind of isolation that comes with music and writing and candles. I thought of "The Fool on the Hill" by the Beatles. I came up with this card... and just kept on drawing. Always referencing the traditional Rider Waite Smith deck... but often drawing what felt authentic to the actual meaning of the card, rather than copying another artists interpretation.
So this deck began as personal study. In the private art group I run on Facebook, someone asked me if I'd ever thought of doing a tarot deck. I don't believe in coincidences, and there's no way this was one of those. Actually, I said... actually yes. I've been drawing one for myself. I showed a few photos, and I was really surprised by how many people said they'd buy one if I made it.
Ok... well, ok but... how on EARTH would I actually make one? So I stewed a little, and another friend recommended Kickstarter. I rejected the idea pretty quickly, remembering Kickstarter as a page that launched inventions. I hadn't realised it had evolved into this sort of cool creative community where tarot decks go to be born. I had absolutely no idea, actually. So I launched the deck, not having a clue what I was doing, pretty sure it wouldn't work and that I'd have to figure out another way to make the decks.
A month later, and one successful campaign later, my world had changed a bit. My first print of Everybody's Tarot was 250 decks. The stock I was able to hold onto sold out quickly, and I was able to do another small print run for the 2nd Edition. People asked me when my next one was. People sent me the most extraordinary messages of how they'd connected to my simple, bright, ridiculous artwork. People said the loved it for the reasons I'd made it... to be accessible. To take down all those barriers that were getting in my way. Barriers, as it turns out, that were also being felt by other people. And so, with this deck, I met the online tarot community and the crowdfunding process. And my goodness, did it give me some ideas.
Creatures Oracle. Autumn 2023
I knew pretty quickly that my next project would be an oracle deck. I love the freedom behind oracle decks, with no traditional scaffolding to work around. I wanted to share a different art style, I wanted a bigger canvas, I wanted to share my creatures. These creatures have shown up in my paintings and doodles as far back as a decade, and I loved the idea of collecting them together for something creatively meaningful. I didn't think it would do very well on Kickstarter, assuming people knew more about tarot decks than oracle decks. But I was proven wrong, and after a successful campaign I ended up printing 600 decks.
This deck came with logistical problems I wasn't expecting. My printer wasn't able to keep their quality consistent, and several boxes of the decks had small printing errors on them. Everyone was incredibly gracious about it, and I did end up replacing all of their decks, but it was incredibly deflating and I wasn't sure how I'd be able to carry on. I knew I wanted my printer to remain in England, as the carbon footprint of printing in China just never sat right with me. Luckily, I was able to find a new printer, with more printing options and better service.
The deck itself was an utter joy to make. I brought my love of nature into it, and kept it human free and as open to interpretations as possible. I kept the guidebook short - as I'd done with my first deck. And to my surprise... having made 155 cards in just a few months (from the two decks plus bonus cards) I still had LOADS of ideas. This is the deck that was my Fool moment, as in The Fool from the tarot. Taking a leap of faith off a cliff into new territory, confidently, bravely, ridiculously. I quit working, and put faith into being a self employed artist. I'd already started drawing my next tarot deck anyway!
Creatures Tarot. Winter 2024.
(And the Additional Arcana)
It felt like this deck actually poured out of me, almost with a mind of its own. I hadn't realised just how much of my energy I'd been giving away to other people, other projects, and other things. Now with a focus on myself, and an ability to spend my energy completely on being creative, ideas for cards were coming at me from every angle. In my sleep, as I was driving... this deck felt like pure, gorgeous, focused creative energy to me. I knew a bit more about what I was doing now. I made the box better, I changed the guidebook a bit, I took on feedback from the community of people who were supporting my decks. A community I'm both In and also Not In. I'm not a collector by any stretch, and so I'm coming to these decks from a creative view rather than a collecting view. I was able to take on feedback, sift through what felt right and what didn't, and adapt.
One of my favourite parts about creating this deck, was how it fit with the previous Oracle. I loved how it fit as a set, and could work on its own or together with it. I could also therefore see that I'd be revisiting my initial tarot deck and creating an oracle for it too! The ideas rolled out, the creativity flowed, and I put all my heart and full time energy into making something that clearly wanted to be made. There's another blog post in here about my death cards for this deck, and why there are two of them. The long story short is that I couldn't stop drawing! So there is an additional major arcana with this deck that I just loved too much to say no to. And even as I was finishing this, I could see the next deck coming. I was tired now, but I knew it was going to happen.
The deck was my most successful to date. Without having other jobs to take up my time, I was able to devote myself completely to the shipping process which meant the 4th deck could be launched sooner than I was expecting. I'd already made it! It was now waiting to be born.
Everybody's Oracle. Spring 2023
And here we are with my 4th deck, Everybody's Oracle, which will be launching in May on Kickstarter. It is my smallest deck, and felt like its been wanting to be made for a whole year. I've done new things with this one, continuing to adapt my artwork to meet my needs and those of the community who are bringing these decks home with them. This deck has a different type of book, and a lot more writing, for instance. It launches in May, there will be a link to it (and of course all my other decks when they're in print) in my shop.
If we're thinking about all of this from purely a marketing perspective, its probably not a good idea to have made so many big things in one year. Going slower, I'd have been able to focus on each deck and do fancy targeted ad campaigns and things like that. And I can see how some people might question how (or why) I've made so many.
It is difficult to describe how it feels when my creativity is free-flowing and nurtured. My creativity is my super power, but it has often been distracted or diffused by my circumstances in life. That's normal of course. What's new for me is this ability to really truly focus on it, to nurture it, to follow it, and to let it do what it wants to do. When people have asked me about my wooden artwork, asking how I came up with the intricate patterns on it, I often say "it sort of draws itself". Because that's how it feels when I'm creatively unencumbered. I feel more like a conduit than a creator, like something weird and beautiful is just using me as a stopping off point. When I am well, I'm able to create profusely and still maintain meaning and love behind it. I have dry spells like any other creative person, but I've been fortunate to have a year without one. And it turns out I had a lot that wanted to come out.
I have one more tarot deck in my head, that will probably come out in the Autumn. I also like the idea of having a ridiculously cute mini version of Everybody's Tarot one day. But I also have all my other artwork too... my market stalls, my commissioned work, my wood, my colouring books. All of that is getting infused with positive energy too, because of the time I'm now able to give them.
So that is how and why I've made so many decks in such a short time. I'll slow down... it is inevitable. But I hope to have these decks in print as much as possible, and to keep them as part of my creative life and work moving forward. They have been a beautiful blend of my spiritual side and my creative side, and in fact that's probably what has given them the energy they've got. It has been an absolute joy, and a completely life-altering journey, with a lot of strange things in the middle! But above all there has been connection, joy, creativity, sharing, and meaningful practice.
Thank you, to everyone who has been a part of it.