My Facebook friend Mark Watson recently conducted a series of informal interviews with a number of Tarot Creators, including Ciro Marchetti... and myself. He asked us all the same questions, and ran the final interviews in a tarot group on Facebook over the period of a week. Here's my contribution to the exercise:
1) Do you believe that deck designers must know how to read tarot in order to create a working tarot deck?
Yes. Full stop.
The only exception would be if the artist was working with someone like Barbara Moore, a collaborator who could provide the needed knowledge and background and the overall guidance. Understand that knowing the rules does not necessarily equate with slavishly sticking to them. But as better people than I am have often noted, you have to know the rules in order to know how to break them effectively. And it needs to be added that the reverse is also true. I know of several train-wreck tarot decks made by folks with tarot knowledge but no art or design experience. Unless you’re making a deck just for your own use, you need both.
2) There appears to be an increasing number of independent artists producing tarot decks these days, as evidenced from the number of decks on Kickstarter and Indegogo at any one time. What would be your advice to artists hoping to break into the tarot deck production scene?
First, be very certain of your motivations and know why it is you’re embarking on this path. Be realistic about what you expect out of it. Second, never stop researching. Never stop studying. Never stop looking at other people’s work. Know what’s in the market. Third, if you aren’t certain that you’re going to **LOVE** the Process, with a capital P that rhymes with T, stop right there. It takes, CONSERVATIVELY, six months to a year — and longer — of steady work to create a tarot deck. Being realistic about your expectations of the finished project, if you aren’t absolutely certain that you will LOVE the Process, you’re not going to create anything that will benefit or interest anyone.
3) The tarot scene, while growing exponentially in recent years, is still a niche market. Why then spend your time and energy on that market rather than something more lucrative?
You make it sound as if I had a choice.
4) There are many people in the tarot industry producing decks and writing about tarot. Do you have any thoughts on why some succeed commercially and some do not?
I think the answer to that is contained in my answers above. If you don’t know or trust tarot, if you don’t believe in it, if you don’t understand the basics of the symbolism and are unwilling to learn, you will fail. If you don’t have at least basic design skills, you will fail. If it’s just something you’re doing to make money — first of all, you’ll be disappointed, and second, you will fail. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you will fail. If you’re not interested in storytelling, you will fail. If you don’t have something to say (and it doesn’t have to be original, it just has to be REAL) —you will fail. On the other hand, if you’re in it because you love tarot, because you have a story to tell, because you have something to say, or because you want to reach out, in some way, to people who share your interests, you have a better chance of succeeding. But the odds are still stacked against you.
5) How much of your work is taken directly from existing traditions, how much is borrowed and further developed (albeit augmented or modified), and how much is self derived or original?
I don’t delude myself that I’ve created anything new or original. If I have any talent at all, it’s for making connections and processing symbols in slightly different ways.
6) What are misconceptions, misunderstandings, and/or stigmas you would like to address and see cleared up in regards to tarot?
I have a very good friend in the comic-book business who happens to be a devout Christian, and although he’s never said anything to me about it, I’m pretty well certain that he believes I’m doing The Devil’s Work. And I wish I could clear that up, with him and others like him. It’s not about Heaven and Hell, there is nothing Satanic about Tarot. Tarot is a Tool. Use it right, and it will make you a better person. Use it improperly and you get the spiritual version of smashing your thumb with a hammer. It’s not the hammer’s fault that you smashed your thumb. Self-delusion is the real danger, but it’s a danger that runs throughout everything in life. It’s true that you can damage your life by misreading the tarot, but you can also get yourself killed if you don’t know that Red means Stop. Annnnd…. I think that’s a red light I see up ahead.
7) What's next for you in regards to tarot as a whole? Do you have anything in the works that you'd like to discuss?
Oh my goodness gracious yes. I am nowhere near done. I am bursting with ideas and if the Tarot community will continue to tolerate me, I will be around for a long while to come. Most of what I’m thinking about is in too early stages to discuss, BUT, I’ve got a Kickstarter coming right up at the end of December for my full-on Gothic deck (CROOKED WAY TAROT), and I’m actively working on a Dada Tarot and a Zirkus Mägi Kipper, both of which have pages already up at my website… which is www.tarotbyducksoup.com . Thank you for asking me to participate in this, and I hope to see you in the cards!