- What was your Gateway Deck?
My gateway deck to tarot and card reading in general was the Rider Waite, the classic. I had been around the Tarot de Marseille when I was young but it wasn’t until I met a tarot reader when I Was in my late teens that I had contact with the Rider Waite and started to seriously study card reading. As I learned more I became aware of the history and the whole world of other systems out there and whilst tarot is still a major part of my life, I was very much pulled to learning the history of other cards and how to use them. I started with Lenormand and Kipper, but when I tried out Sybilla and Gipsy cards, I definitely felt more at home with these and started to use them alongside the tarot.
- Do you still read with/have that deck?
I do still have that same Rider Waite deck, sat in a battered box but I use it regularly. There’s a wonderful nostalgic feel using those cards, they’re like an old friend. I don’t have many decks that I read with professionally, most of my unusual decks I use just for myself, but the Rider Waite is a staple for me. With the other decks, I use some of the Lenormand decks I created previously and my Sybilla decks.
- What are the pieces of you that you’ve imprinted in your cards and/or book?
My love of history and Victorian history in particular. I’ve always been a massive history geek and learning about the lesser known people and places is much more real and interesting to me. I do have an interest in the history of the Monarchy but it’s the lives of real people that I feel are relatable that I hope I’ve woven into the Devil’s Acre. I know there is history in my family of living in slum areas, though of Liverpool and not London, but there is a lot more written about and to work with in terms of material for London at the time. I could also include some of the landmarks too.
- What is your favorite/most learned from/most drawn to deck?
My first non-Tarot deck I learned most from was the Zigeuner Wahrsagekarten. This was the first deck I purchased which was totally different from everything I knew about card reading with the tarot. It was an inexpensive deck but I still use them now, I remember trying to find some material on the meanings and spreads, it was like a new world was opening up. I found a great YouTube channel which had some starter material, but the story-like snapshots were fantastic and I felt comfortable reading with them a lot quicker than I had with the tarot. It helped me engage my intuition a lot more and to trust it, which then fed back in to my tarot reading. I feel I’d been taught quite a rigid form of tarot reading at first and trying other systems, for me, helped me expand my tarot skills too. The Zigeuner have been reproduced and re-imagined many times and I do like collecting different takes on these now!
- What prompted you to create your own deck/book?
I’d created three Lenormand decks previously. I have a background in graphic design and art, and feeling so passionate about card reading I felt I wanted to create something myself to enjoy and to share with others. Ideally, I’d wanted to create a fortune-telling deck of my own making but I felt getting to know the processes of creation by using a ready-established system would be a better start for me. I wanted to still put a twist on the Lenormand but keep it visually traditional, so I created the Gaslight Parlour Lenormand firstly; this was a run of only 20 decks. Then I created the Rota Fortunae which was a medieval style deck and finally the Curious Chapiteau which centred around a Victorian circus. After this I felt more confident in what I wanted to do in terms of my own fortune telling cards, I had the setting and I just needed to devise the card titles, do the research and start creating the artwork. To make sure there was a fluidity and balance, I grabbed an old 36-card deck and wrote my card names on them so I could read with them until I was happy with the overall feel of the system.
- What is your favorite thing about your creation?
My favourite thing is definitely the feel of the cards and how I think they all tie in together across the scenes. I tried to ensure I kept in mind that this is a deck and a concept, rather than individual cards. I have incorporated little bits of imagery from one card into another in places, to try and build the feeling of this all happening at the same time in the same place, as if each is an illustration from the same novel. As the artwork developed, it did take on a darker feel and I really think this happened organically as I did more research on life in the Devil’s Acre itself. I really felt that when the sample cards arrived and I laid them out, that edgy feel I was aiming for had come out when they were laid together. Rainy skies, smoggy skylines and shady backstreets really give a feel of what it would have been like to walk those streets in those days.
- Where do you go for inspiration?
I watched documentaries, I read many books on the subjects and found some great accounts from the time which spoke about the Acre. For some cards it was more visual inspiration that I needed. I was halfway through the Apothecary card and I felt I Was stalling slightly, so I took the day off to drive to Haworth where there’s an amazing original Apothecary, which now sells all sorts of quirky gifts. The walls are lined with dark wood shelving and bottles, I took some pictures and just absorbed the feel of the place and that really spurred me on to finish it up! I also was very lucky to have gained a lot of inspiration from a very good friend who is a font of cartomancy knowledge. He was always there with nuggets of information from his long line of card-reading family traditions which I feel made the deck that little bit richer. He actually ended up being the model of the Enemy card, which I think he’s greatly enjoyed playing the slum ruffian!
- Tell us about your favorite card, please.
It’s hard to decide between a few that jump out, I particularly like the Opium Den and the Lodgings. I actually spent a lot of time watching Jeremy Brett in the Sherlock Holmes series, any excuse to watch that guy is welcomed actually! But The Opium Den really sprang to mind from there and it’s the hazy backstreet feel of even the middle and upper classes descending into the dark sides of London which I found intriguing in this card. The Lodgings I love just because it’s a warm family scene, even though there’s not much in that room, there’s a sense of all being by the hearth and it being a sense of security.
- What is the most difficult card in your deck, and what is the most difficult card for you to read for yourself?
I find a couple of cards difficult because they’re hard situations, but there was likely more hardships than anything back then. I did however make sure I planted a seed of light in the darker cards because I feel there’s always a way forwards. For instance, the Shinscraper, which was a slang word for the workhouse wheel, is a visually and conceptually dark card. For me, it’s stuck in a rut and monotony, but there’s a window above with with light coming through and it’s about doing all you can to break out of routines and that even if it feels you’re going nowhere and you’ve fallen into a bad place, there is always another chapter which would be discovered in the cards around it.
- Which card do you most identify with?
I love fortune, this is in a sense the crux of the deck for me. My initial concept came to me as I was thinking about the slums and talking about creating a deck around it with my partner. I began daydreaming about the Acre and created a character who resided in a small room high above the bustling streets. She read the cards and people would come to her to hear their fortunes for a penny. When I drew the Fortune card I made the backs of her cards the same as those I’d created for the deck itself, as if the cards were falling from her table out onto yours.
- What is your favorite part of the creation process?
It was definitely the research side. Drawing up the cards became so much more interesting and I built a deeper connection because I felt there was something real behind them, even though the characters were fabricated. That was until I received the actual cards, that was the next best bit. After almost a whole year working on them, changing and re-doing cards, swapping and altering the title list, actually having them in my hands and being able to see them in use was really very exciting. It’s amazing getting feedback from others too who enjoy the images as much as me.
- Where do your interests lie outside of tarot?
I love walking and enjoying nature, that’s a big thing for me. I need to be able to get out and enjoy the seasons. I work as a Digital Marketer so I naturally spend a lot of time behind a screen, so to get out and listen to music and just feel nature is very important. Other kinds of art are a part of my life also, I paint pet portraits on canvas so I can enjoy a more tactile form of creation as well as digital. I also have deep love of Astrology and I create birth charts and interpret them, both natal charts and those with a karmic flavour too. The idea that clues to our past lives lie in our charts is fascinating to me and I’ve had some amazing feedback from clients on those.
- What are things you’d like us to know about upcoming works?
I really think I’ll be taking a break for the moment from deck creation to focus on Astrology and my Tarot reading. So much time and love has gone into this deck that I’ve definitely not spent as much time working on other projects, really because I so wanted to share them and give it as much attention as I could. I definitely will be creating another one in the future however, I’ve enjoyed this one so much!
The Kickstarter campaign runs until 9th November 2018 and the decks are limited to 100, hand signed and numbered copies.