Congratulations to the organizers and artists involved with the Slow Holler Tarot… They kept to their Kickstarter timeline and produced their tarot deck just as envisioned. And quite a beautiful deck it truly is! Mine arrived in the mail just yesterday, and I’ve had some time to gawk and inspect and take some photos…so below is my first-impressions review of the southern queer artists’ collective project that has culminated in the Slow Holler Tarot…
The Priority package was soft (in other words, not a box), but items were packaged sufficiently with paper packing that the decks appeared unharmed by transportation and delivery by the postal system. My level of support for the Kickstarter project warranted me two decks. Each deck, along with its comparable-sized accompanying booklet (some might call this a “little white book,” but it’s a bit more than such), was wrapped in a black kerchief spread-reading cloth.
I’ll note that the reading cloth was an unexpected treat. It’s a little-bit-smaller-than-bandana-sized spread cloth, and it is screenprinted in gold with the artwork of Slow Holler contributing artist Vanessa Adams (who also designed three cards in the deck). I wrap most all of my decks in kerchief or spread-reading cloths in order to protect them better inside their deck bags…so this is great, and a nice touch. Each wrapped deck and booklet was bound with a satin red string.
The Slow Holler team have done a great—yea, amazing—job of keeping financial supporters abreast of progress during the project. I would even say, that the group performed as a titan example of how a Kickstarter project should unfold. Updates were available through multiple social media platforms, as well as by direct email notification throughout the production phases. I can’t praise that kind of responsible project management enough. Gold stars for everyone who saw that through.
Because I’d seen samples of the work in progress, not all the images in the deck were a sursprise. For instance, I knew what the card back was going to look like. I like it a lot; and while it’s not reversible, the card back design is complex enough to trick the eye and not make it such a big deal.
Card stock seems sufficient. I know it’s hard to please everyone on this criteria. This paper stock used for this deck is not too thick, but is certainly sturdy enough. I’m usually a thicker-paper stock preference kinda person, but the stock thickness of this deck allows for incredible riffle shuffling, and allows the deck to remain compact.
The deck I opened was so brand-spankin’ new that the glossy medium of the cards prevented me from being able to properly “fan”-out the cards…
One has to presume, though, that continued use of the deck will buff the gloss, and allow for some more supple friction and fingering between the cards. What this new-gloss surface means, is that the overhand shuffle method is less likely to be effective during early use of this deck, while riffle shuffling (half the deck in each hand and releasing a corner of each deck half with the thumb, essentially “waterfall-interweaving” the card into a central pile) works better. Since this is my preferred shuffle method, it won’t be an issue for me.
“Chipping” is also always another concern of new decks and depends a lot on card stock and printing method. In my initial inspection and shuffling of the new deck I did not notice any significant chipping. Early chipping is always a red flag for cheaply made decks. But since I haven’t noticed any in these early stages, I’m pretty satisfied.
Again, the imagery was not a surprise for the most part because of the updates on the project provided by the Slow Holler team. I knew what I was getting into with this deck. One has to expect—not unlike other artist collectives decks—that there can be a wide variety of styles represented, which in some instances can be jarring. For the most part, styles among all the artists are extremely complimentary. The color scheme for this deck helps…it is restricted to a palette of white, black, red, and gold. Shades of those colors can translate as grey and as pink, but it really sticks to the color combination.
In the above photo, I’ve laid-out the Major Arcana in the traditional three rows of seven format, which often makes it easier to note inter-relationships and complimentary themes among the 22 cards. Granted as a seasoned reader, I can invent some relationships among these cards, but with so many artists and styles represented, it’s hard to get an immediate visual correspondence among them. I had thought perhaps the color scheme might reveal something in this arrangement…but not so much. Still it’s a joy and valuable experience to observe and interpret the images.
The Court cards threw me for a loop when I was first perusing the deck. Traditional Court card names are traded for more esoteric titles. As arranged in the packaged deck, the sequence of court cards went thus: “Students”; “Travelers”; “Architects”; and “Visionaries.” Since I’ve been brainwashed by patriarchal social historiography, I made the assumption that cards were arranged in “traditional” Page-Knight-Queen-King order.
“Well,” I thought to myself, “I’ll probably read those differently during readings, because those ‘Architect’ cards seems much more outwardly probing and externally creating or fabricating (read: masculine energy); whereas those ‘Visionary’ cards are really more inwardly reflective and internally meditative (read: feminine energy). So I’ll probably just read the “Visionaries” as Queens, and the “Architects” as Kings.” …I’ve been known to switch designations while using other decks. But come to find out, after reading the accompanying booklet, that the designers intended for the “Queens” to sequentially appear above the “Kings” cards. So I had actually read them intuitively the correct way… And kudos for the reärrangement. If I’m not mistaken there were several historical German playing card decks that placed the Queen in superior sequential order over the kings…and why not?
Overall, some of my favorite cards appear in the pip cards (the minor arcana). Which you’ll have to see in the course of some of my future blog posts, perhaps. Or you can see if this deck is still available for your own purchase from the team of creators at Slow Holler.
The only frustrating thing about this deck is its deficiency in visually depicting people of color. I will say that during the early phases of this project I reached out to the project team with a request:
I just became a backer of your amazing project, and am also planning on promoting the Kickstarter campaign on my blog. Completely in love with the sample images, and completely, joyfully advocate the diversity and diverse array of artists. My question is… or maybe my wish is… to convey my hope that the resultant deck will contain character images representing ALL types of colors and ethnicities of people. I think the vast majority of commercial decks are sadly lacking in this facet of diversity, and the world needs decks with more representation of people of color.
The 18 completed sample cards appear to depict evident diversity in gender-differentiation and queer-positivity. As a gay person, I LOVE THAT. And while I know you have artists of color working on the project, I want to advocate for VISUAL representation of color and ethnic-diversification in the deck images, too.
With that said–again, it’s just my personal wish-dream–I first and foremost want to bless and thank the artists for their imagination and vision of beauty, NO MATTER HOW IT ACTUALIZES. I’m just happy that local and queer artists are participating and claiming their right to create art in the South and are joining together to make a beautiful deck. (I’m a UNCG graduate ’92.)
Blessings and all good things,
…and this was the response that I got:
Thanks so much for your positivity and for reaching out.
I think it’s very important that diversity of queerness and bodies are represented in the deck (whenever a card has human or human like forms) And as you said “VISUAL representation of color and ethnic-diversification in the deck images, too.”
This is something we will definitely discussing as a group moving forward with the deck. There is a lot of freedom for each artist to interpret the cards they are assigned in their own style and in a way that feels right to them. Sometimes no human form is on a particular card, which i think is awesome too. I’m going to initiate a conversation about the importance of visually seeing different identities in the deck.
Again. I’m so appreciative that you reached out, and took the time to express your thoughts so elegantly. I will be sharing what you said with the group when we have these discussions.
After seriously perusing through the deck for a while, I would like to introduce you to the only samples of visually-depicted people of color represented out of seventy-eight cards:
That’s a little bit disappointing when the opportunity existed to be a trailblazing deck in the realm of representation…particularly at this pregnant time in our history. As a deck of “dissent” diverging from the heteronormative and patriarchal standard, I can’t for the life of me understand why the artists wouldn’t have taken things to more poignant levels. I, for one, would’ve completely been in favor and admiration of that.
But as the response to my inquiry notes, the card images were completely at the whim and fancy of independent artists on the project. And while I believe that there is a market demand for tarot decks that more equitably—VISUALLY—represent people of color, it could be that the artists either felt they needed to market to a tarot community which is predominantly white, or that the artists subconsciously view the world as inherited by a white-dominated majority. I don’t fault them, necessarily, for that…we’re all brainwashed by that paradigm and by that systemic visual lie in our American society…but even more so particularly (and ironically) in the south. Which…was supposedly the whole point of this deck, I had thought.
Still, the artwork is stunning…there’s some magnificent talent in the pool of artists for this project. The most important facet of this deck is that it is created by LGBT and queer artists from the south…at a particular time when supporting queer artists in the south and highlighting their visionary contributions (as part of the greater diversity of American experience) is of utmost importance. Don’t buy this deck as an act of “affirmative action” in support of queer artists; buy this deck because it is a testament to the elementally intrinsic existence of queerness. Don’t simply acknowledge this deck as a sympathetic tribute to a flock of queer artists; recognize this deck as solidarity in dissent against heteronormative standardization and a demand for civic and social justice for queer people. This deck—like all tarot decks—is really just a bunch of minature works of art; but its heart calls out in a voice that the world needs to hear, jarring and consternating and beautiful…rebellious and sensitive and bright…
Stay tuned for future reading examples using this creative deck…