One project that I completed last year, and am very pleased with, is my set of tarot cards. The project began after my exhibition in 2019, “The Hearltess Hurt Less” – for the advertising imagery I played with layering the drawings of the dead animals with some of the pattern work that I had scattered throughout the exhibit. The response to these digital collages was very positive and made me think about new ways to play with my drawings.
I’ve always been intrigued my tarot cards, and the culture that surrounds them. From sincere belief, to props in super cheesey Midsomer Murder type shows with a story line about the occult, to a fashion statement, it seemed to me that there was a lot of room to explore and play within a single deck of cards. The dead animals that I had been studying (and that had made up the bulk of my exhibition) seemed like a really unique but fitting set of images for a set of cards; they are a slightly unusual subject matter but tied in very well to the imagery of the tarot, and I felt I could create a fresh new take on these ancient cards.
When creating my set, I began with The Major Arcana – those are the cards that most people think of when tarot is mentioned (The Sun, The Star, Death, The Fool etc) – there are 22 Major Arcana cards in a deck – so I needed 22 different drawings of dead animals. I decided to keep continuity through the 5 suits (Major Arcana, Swords, Pentacles, Wands and Cups) by having the same repeat background pattern for each suit.
I put the backgrounds down in photoshop and then used my drawings to overlay on top; each drawing had to be re-rendered digitally so that it would lay down properly and then I played around for a while with layout and text until I was happy with the basic design of each of the cards.
All together it took about a year to draw all the different animals and then create every different card. I used the same drawing for each number across the suits but had a different one for each of the regal cards, so altogether I created 46 separate drawings and 5 individual backgrounds for the full set of 74 cards.
Once all of the cards had been digitally created, I started experimenting with the best ways to make them as physical sets. I printed off the designs onto card in various different sizes, which I compared against sets of cards I owned until I found the right size that was large enough to pick up on all of the detail in each design, but that would also be usable and ergonomic. It was also important to me that there was a background pattern, so I saved another pattern piece to print on the back of every card. For the project to work successfully, I felt that a very professional looking finish would be needed, so I purchased a laminator and experimented with both gloss and matte laminating pockets. I was pleased with both results, so both finishes are available to buy from my shop. Once all the cards were laminated, I had to trim them down to size. This is probably the hardest part of the process, as it needs to be very precise and I do it all by hand – whilst I aim to get every card as close to perfect as possible, they are handmade sets and so there may be a small size difference from pack to pack.
The last step of making the cards is to trim the corners to round them off and make sure there are no sharp edges. From there, I carefully package up the cards in brown paper and string, for a classic look, slip in a little business card and they’re ready to go!
The Tarot sets are on sale here – for £35. I also have some individual prints from the Major Arcana available, and if there is a card that is particularly important to you, please message me and I can make up a custom print. I hope you’re enjoyed reading about the process of making the tarot cards – it’s a project I’m very happy with and want to continue making up these fun sets. Please message me if you have any questions.