Shortly after the first email interview that Joan Marie at the Cult of Tarot forum kindly conducted with me, I was gearing up to release my latest Tarot Pack, the Crooked Way Tarot. Apparantly she thought this justified more blather from me, and so we had a second "email interview" exchange that appeared at the Forum shortly after. Here it is....
A few months ago I had a conversation with Doug Thornsjo, (a.k.a. Freder) of Duck Soup Productions as he was preparing for a re-release of two of his most popular decks, Tinker’s Damn Tarot & Mantegna.
But apparently the old saying is true, there is no rest for the wicked as our old friend has so many irons in the proverbial fire it must be 4-alarm by now. This is much to the delight of all of us here at Cult of Tarot!
And I’m just joking about “wicked.” Doug very graciously agreed to once again allow me a peek into his world to share with all of you news of his current projects and a some of what’s on his mind these days.
JM: Your just fresh off a very successful Kickstarter campaign for your re-mastered editions of Tinker’s Damn Tarot & Mantegna and already we are seeing previews of a simply magnificently luminous looking gothic deck you are calling “Crooked Way Tarot."
People already can’t wait to get their hands on it. Can you tell us anything about it yet?
DT: I’m a little over halfway through the project as a whole, although only 6 cards away from completing the Majors. I haven’t yet decided if there will be a print-on-demand release of the Majors alone — we’ll have to see how the designs go. But after the light-hearted TRICK OR TAROT deck I did last year, I thought that a full-on Gothic deck would be both challenging and fun.
It’s quite dark, and I enjoy that aspect of it. There’s a whole class of Tarot Readers out there, and I’m not knocking them, who like their decks to be all pretty and angelic and sweet and hearts-and-flowers, and I am deliberately challenging that viewpoint by making the deck as dark as I possibly can. Because Life is Not Nice, and this is definitely going to be a deck that reflects that. At the same time, the theme puts a unique spin on the symbolism. If I can get it done by then, most likely there will be another Kickstarter in the fourth quarter, and if that’s a success then this will have two nice offset editions exactly like the TRICK OR TAROT.
from Crooked Way Tarot
JM: The images you use in your decks are so strange and evocatively beautiful. I feel like all these interesting people and objects from the past have popped into the present to rattle us a little through your cards. People who refuse to be forgotten about as if to say, “Put down your phone dummy and see how we lived.” To me each card almost feels like a living thing.
How do you relate to all these characters you are creating?
DT: It’s interesting that you ask this because it’s something that I have been struggling with a little bit lately. These were all real people with real lives and I’m — using them. I’m “casting” them as if they were actors playing a part in a new production of a very old drama. Some of them really were actors and I don’t mind using them so much, but a lot of them weren’t.
It’s impossible to look at them without reflecting that their times were just as vital to them as the present day is to us, but now they are forgotten, and one day we will be forgotten, too. They were real people with hopes and troubles and I’m playing with them, sometimes in Not Very Nice Ways. When I get done with them, they’re not Who They Were, but who I think they Ought To Be. That said, all art is basically self-portraiture, and photo-collage is no exception. So all of these new characters are just as potent as if I was writing a novel about them, and just as much an aspect of me as if I was writing them.
from Crooked Way Tarot
JM: Do you frequent flea-markets? Antique shops?
DT: My mother was in the Antiques business and I got enough of that sort of thing while she was alive to last me a lifetime. Maybe. It’s been eight years since her death and I’m only just now wondering what it might be like to set foot in one of those places again. But I find them overwhelming and painful, as thick with attachments as a graveyard. Maybe thicker.
People don’t understand that objects you have lived with contain your essence. When you clear a lot of objects out of your house, you are sweeping away some part of yourself and your spirit. When I walk into one of those places I feel utterly inundated with emotions that generally don’t belong to me, because every single thing in there has a connection and a story to tell. And oftentimes those feelings are not pleasant ones.
JM: You have a new oracle deck, The Animal Children Oracle. It’s a very sweet deck but I have a feeling it goes much deeper than initially meets the eye. What do you think people are going to find when they work with this deck?
DT: I myself am still being surprised as I work with it. It has hidden depths, but it also seems to have a mischievous spirit. I am not finding that it’s good for Very Specific, Micro-Detailed Readings, but it seems to be uncannily on target for nailing down the Tone and Influence of any given moment. It definitely has a Trickster Spirit.
A lot of people look at the art and dismiss it as being a deck for children, but, and I say this with all earnestness, I would not give this deck to a child. It is subtle and sometimes feels capricious to me. In one case I asked it about a specific situation that was very distressing to me at the time, and it did give me a correct “Yes/No” answer, but it also showed me perfectly accurately what my feelings were about the situation and indicated that these feelings would not be changing soon, or perhaps ever. And all that from a three-card reading.
from The Animal Children Oracle
JM: You have another Oracle in the works, a Deck of Personality Types using old teddy bears. I find this concept amazing. Can you explain your thinking behind Teddy Bears and how they embody or exude personalities?
DT. While many Teddy Bears do have unique expressions and “personalities,” the real virtue of the Teddy is its mirror-like quality. As a dark-eyed empty vessel, the Teddy Bear reflects the qualities of its owner back at her. Its spirit is that of its owner. It is animated and informed by you, yourself. In the role of Playroom Confidante, the Teddy Bear is one of the earliest, simplest, and most efficient means of talking to your own Unconscious Self.
In a broad general way, the cards of the Teddy Bear Oracle are designed to align, in terms of meaning, with the Minor Arcana of the Tarot. Keeping that in mind, and using your knowledge of the classic tarot, the Old Bear Oracle can readily be used for both Divination and Self-Reflection. But as the cards are personality-based, the deck has particular usefulness for readings involving families or other groups of personages. It can also provide a wide array of Significators to be used with this or in conjunction with any other deck.
As an example, the 10 of Clubs, “Martin Bear,” coincides with the ten of Wands in Tarot, and carries the same meaning. However, he can also be used as a Significator to represent any uncomplaining, hard-working person that you know who labors under a large burden, or he can be taken as a sign that you need to strap on your work gear and shoulder up to the load.
Barring any of that, the cards follow the suits and numbers of normal playing cards, and the deck can be used as a striking, unique pack with which to play your favorite games.
from Old Bear Oracle
JM. Are you still looking for photos of beloved old bears to use? (full disclosure, I submitted some photos of old bears that belonged to my boyfriend and I think I recognise one of them on the Six of Clubs)
DT: No, the deck is done and should be out in the next few weeks. There is the possibility that I will turn it into a full Tarot down the road sometime, but even then — I’m thinking of just using the bears that I have; posing them and “costuming” them digitally as needed.
JM: Any other projects you want to tell us about?
DT: Tarot DADA is another full Tarot that I have in progress, you can see everything I’ve done for it at the site. It’s in the style of the DADA art movement of the early 20th century. The challenge is to create something that has the appearance of chaos, but still carries and presents the card meanings in an accurate way. I’m finding it a very enjoyable project, although I haven’t done any new designs for it in quite a few months.
from Tarot Dada
And the first of two companions to the Animal Children Oracle, called BIRD CHILDREN ORACLE, is on tap for later in the year. Other than that, there’s nothing that I can talk about at this stage— only because nothing is definite. I have many, many ideas for new decks on tap — and I mean MANY, if the tarot community will continue to tolerate my presence, I will be present for some years to come. Which one or ones I start next is still For The Future.
JM: I cannot imagine how busy you must be with all this artwork and printing and production and Kickstarters and keeping your web page updated with all you’re doing, etc. But I want to ask, have you been doing any writing?
DT: Very little. I have been trying to carve out an hour a day for that, but it’s very hard.
JM: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for us. Is there anything you’d like to add?
DT: Just to say a very heartfelt “thank you” to the members of the Tarot community who have supported and even embraced my projects. It still astonishes me, because I worked as a writer and cartoonist for so long without ever finding an audience, and now to be experiencing a level of support that I never dreamed was possible is something that I thank the goddess for every day. Life doesn’t get any easier, but now I have a reason for keeping on that I did not have four years ago. And incidentally, Carrie Paris was INSTRUMENTAL in getting me to this point. So I pretty much thank her, at least mentally, every day, too.
So that's it for now. Stop by Doug's wildly entertaining website, Duck Soup Productions and see more of his latest work. It really is full of surprises.