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Creating a Patchwork Tarot Deck

I'm thrilled to introduce you to New Zealander Davina Powell, who's the author of this guest post. Davina began dreaming about her "perfect" Tarot deck--and went on to create a patchwork deck, with the permission of various publishers and artists. Is this a cool idea or what? I've admired Davina for quite awhile, because she is a dedicated Tarotist. She studies the cards, writes profound insights about them (for her personal use) and supports many Tarot artists. Without further ado, here's Davina!

Davina Cropped

How many of us have struggled to find THE perfect tarot deck, regardless of how many years we have been searching for that elusive grail?

How many times have you found what was CLOSE to the perfect deck, but there were a still a few cards that were more than a little... blurgghh?

And how many of us have now amassed a bit of a collection, knowing we only use a small percentage of decks on a regular basis?

I am one of those.  (Do we need to start a support group or something?  :) )

Well, I came up with the thought of creating my own, one of a kind, personal reading deck using images from across my collection.  I know I have favourites which could be put together to create, in effect, a personal patchwork deck.  This surely would be the closest I could get to owning THE perfect deck, at least according to my tastes.  I have spoken to an established tarot author who has also thought of doing something similar.  He would call it the Salad Bar tarot..... and you can see why.  (I do wonder though which card would represent the coleslaw, and which would represent the tomato).  There was also an important aspect to consider - I had to already own them.  If I was to show any integrity, I wanted to have this as my first stepping stone.

Salad bar smaller

Then I came across a fantastic site that prints cards, mouse-mats, journals and a whole lot of other stuff that is likely to get you itching to create something personal.  Reviews were good, and I tested the water on a freely offered set of cards available for free download.  Wow.  Quality was excellent, price as good and I had the choice of finish - either plastic or linen.  I already own a linen tarot deck and the sensation in the hand when shuffling is to die for.  Honestly if it is akin to sipping red wine with a chunk of Belgian chocolate whilst listening to LinkinPark.  In other words, delightful.

Now, the linen finish for this deck was not quit the same, but I liked the texture.  That was promptly out done by the plastic finish also offered by the same printing company.  I liked how it stayed totally flat, was robust, didn't feel anything like plastic but is so durable.  The colour was vibrant, and quality overall was incredibly high. I even tested it by running a card under the tap and then drying it off.  It was still in mint condition.  Phew.  So, there you have my choice.  Plastic (safe to have around that red wine or a cup of coffee), in bridge size.  (So I can slip it into my handbag and have it with me everywhere I go).

Emails sentThen came the second test - I could not knowingly use this without getting permission from publishers or creators.  What followed was a flurry of emails to various people around the planet.  I have known many through FB and Aeclectic tarot which may have helped in some way.   Suffice to say I was so humbled by the response.  One publisher who has been burned in the past with out and out pirating gave permission.  I would have totally understood if they had declined, so I was more than pleased when I was given the go-ahead but with provisos.  Another of the creators went one step further, and actually emailed to me original jpg's so that I could have high quality material for uploading.

In all, I was touched by the generosity by those I contacted.  There was an instance where the deck concerned was out of print, had been for some time, and the original publishers were no longer in business.   This was a bit of a quandry, but I did my best by contacting a company who may have taken them over, outlining my intent.  After two emails, I received no response and decided to go ahead, based on the assumption I had made clear my intent and had given them opportunity to decline.  They probably had no idea what I was on about...LOL.   

I had also researched the copyright law for NZ.  This always seems to be an area of confusion, as it appears laws vary depending on where you reside.  The fact it was one copy at a time, for private use etc I was okay.  So, my conscience felt clear.  I had the green light for 'go'.

Then came the time consuming part.  I took out all my decks and went through them all, choosing cards that sang out to me.  I was hoping to find in particular cards that were meaty, pleasing to the eye, told a story, had a few layers/angles going on, and were somewhat different to the RWS but within the system (if that make sense).  I have often groaned at how poor most court cards are. I have had more than enough of seeing a few people sitting on thrones holding the suit indicator - and that is about it. Come on now.  If these characters have personalities how about showing that aspect?  Get them doing something in keeping with their character.  Oops, just realised I have quietly got my soap box out.  Best put it away again, but before I do so, can I use it to say the same applies to a few of the Major Arcana.  Give me a decent World card please.  Surely someone has imagination to show some of these bland cards in a better light?

SoapboxSoap box now tucked back under the bed.

So, I now have my cards.  I also have a few extra.  Because I am aware some cards can go in different directions. For example:  Hanged Man.  He can ask me to see things from a different perspective, or he may be indicating a sacrifice is needed.  Then again, he may be advising me that things are on hold for a while.  So who says, in my own personal deck I can't have all three depictions, but on different cards?  So if he turns up I am not scratching my head as to which way I should go.  My deck, my rules - right?

So I have my selection.  Now for the scanning phase.  Wow, does that take time. And patience.  Each card is scanned at a high resolution, and is trimmed to fit the ratio of the eventual upload.  That is easier said than done.  Do you lose a little bit of detail in order to keep the ratio?  Or is the pay off to have a slightly out of ratio card (width vs height) so that all the detail is kept?  Decisions, decisions... As long as they don't look like they have been stretched or shrunk I have at times had to tweak the ratio in order to keep an important detail on the card.

Then the upload.  Now that is fun - not.  Once you have the size right it is quite a quick process.  But hang on - what about borders?  You see, they cannot guarantee cutting the card exactly centred.  They warn they may be out by a few pixels.  Which means I could lose some detail after all.  Arrghh... so back to the drawing board (well not for me obviously - I didn't draw the cards) whereby I re-enter the cards in the GIMP program and add a border.  That way if they do come down with a wonky blade, the border bites the dust, not the image.

Then everything is re-uploaded.  The online preview screen looks quite cool.  And it is a waiting game of approximately 10 days before I all but rugby tackle the postie to wrestle the box away from them.  The cards arrive shrink wrapped and well packaged.  And the end result?  I am happy.  The cut was actually very good.  No obvious off-centred borders.  It is a deck of 84 cards and is a little chunky compared to most decks but I have to say - I love it.

Davina Deck

Do I have any particular favourites?  Well, even though it is a definitive deck I have a soft spot for a few.  I did have an attempt at creating my own deck a few years ago, but sadly the artist who came on board as a partner (I paid for his boards and pencils to help him) just disappeared after a year with no warning and no further contact. I was left with 26 images and some of those have made their way into my patchwork deck.  So they for sure are favourites.  I do have others though:

Snowland Collage Davina smaller

Emperor (Snowland Deck). So square in his thinking (no grey areas with this guy).

Death (Snowland Deck).  I love how the snowman is smiling down on his changed form.

Hermit (Snowland Deck). I think the artist just did a great job on this card.  As an airbrusher myself I really appreciated how the Aurora Borealis was captured.

If I had my arm twisted and had to name a favourite deck, it is the Zombie Tarot; I have a couple in particular that make me smile.  Actually make that three. There are more but I was being strict with this prĂ©cis. 

Zombie davina smaller

Queen of Swords.  Granny with an uzi is a granny with attitude.  Love it.

Knight of Pentacles.  Slow and steady, so a car accident results more in dented pride than dented bodywork.

10 of Cups. Shows the zombie with a swim cap.  Genius.  But still a traditional portrayal of the 10 of Cups.  The zombie adds a bit of ... something though.

6 of coins from the Deirdre of the Sorrows deck.  Showing a pregnant woman giving money to a vagrant really makes you think of who has the real need.  The scene is set outside a charity shop which again - adds a new aspect to give pause for thought.

10 of swords from the Tarot of the 78 Doors Pulling the plug. How many times have we had that option to alleviate stress and cannot pull ourselves away from the screen and the cause of upset?

7 of swords from the Granny Jones Tarot.  Now this is a great deck and I love the different takes available in one simple image. In fact this describes my favourite style of artwork:

Simple, hand created, tells a story, has loads going on and is modern.  I like using decks that anyone can look at and not feel intimidated due to it being a bit too esoteric, or too heavy on symbolism.


Then I have the 8 of Coins from the Bright Idea Deck.

One of those incredibly underrated decks.  Mark McElroy has the rights reverted back to him and I hope he can do well with any future release.  This makes you consider what is the best approach - taking time to create something as a one off that is special, or creating the same thing over and over in mass quantities.

So there you have it.  The why, the how, and a bit more.

Oh of course I didn't just have cards. Oh no.  The journals looked awesome too.  So permission was requested for use of some really beautiful images for the cover and rear.  Permission was granted and I am now a proud owner of a couple of personalised journals.  Just perfect for writing up thoughts regarding my readings, musings and other general tarot stuff.  

Davina Fave Deck 2

Comments

Craig Conley

What a great post! :-D

Janet Boyer

Isn't that the coolest thing, Craig? Brilliant!

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