A few years ago I created a collage tarot deck, Frau Grand Duchess Tarot. Below is an interview I did with Beth Maiden of Little Red Tarot about that experience and the final deck.
How long ago was it published?
I started making the deck in the winter of 2012 and it was published in the summer of 2013. I did a Kickstarter campaign in April to raise the funds to print them and the decks arrived late July.
How long since you first found the index cards did it take you to put the whole deck together?
I think (looking back at Instagram photos to refresh my memory!) I started the actual deck in November of 2012. Because I found the index cards at this old amazing office supply shop in town in September and I was making weird little collages on them of other things. Then I went to a used bookstore and found Stuart Kaplan's Encyclopedia of Tarot (volume III) in the beginning of December. That's when I realized that some of the collages were based on tarot cards. There are some really amazing photos of collaged decks in there and they totally inspired me to keep going and make the full deck of 78 cards. So I was working on the card collages from late November to the beginning of March. I had a lot of time on my hands because I had quit my steady job of seven years, and then the new job I had landed didn't work out and the company dissolved. Collaging the cards was all I did aside from work on a few corporate graphic design jobs that really lacked in creativity.
How would you like people to use it?
I think the main thing to do when working with any deck that isn't an exact Rider-Waite-Smith clone is to keep an open mind. Take your time looking at the cards and draw your own conclusions. My main regret with the Frau Grand Duchess Tarot is that I was in such a hurry to publish it that I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked to on the Little White Book. If you're looking for all of the answers in there, you won't find them. Plus, while I did work with some traditional R-W-S imagery, I was really looking at the Medieval Scapini Tarot (based on the ancient Italian Visconti decks) for inspiration and direction. That was the main deck in my life for a long time and while it was a tough deck to study as a beginner, I was immediately drawn to it because of its intense symbolism. There are so many layers of messages hidden in those cards. Essentially I was playing a game of telephone, filtering my ideas through decks I admired and my own associations with each card, and then creating my card and having the final say. Some of them do stray from what people may imagine to be the accepted meaning of each card. But I go into all of this in depth in my blog (which I swear I am going to update this week). It's the best resource to understanding why I made each card the way I did. Eventually I will have written about all of the cards, and maybe then I could make a companion book that would be more helpful. Also, I included the Celtic Cross spread in the LWB which I think was a mistake. Another tarot friend pointed out that since this deck is different than what people are used to, starting with three card spreads is really the way to go. I totally agree.
Could you also tell me where the name came from?
This button, mostly... I spent some time in Germany and my nickname became Jenny Frau due to my own insistence as well as my newfound obsession with cooking giant German dinners. Before that I had been using some sort of Duchess alias, and my friend Jessy knew all about these things and since she has that amazing skill of finding the perfect things at thrift stores, she found me this button. Frau Grand Duchess became my full nickname/alias/moniker. I didn't even think twice when I named the deck.
Also, this is a weird aside, but the reason I made the box all white with black text stemmed from my experience at the grocery store as a kid. We had this isle that was all no-brand food. I think it was before large supermarkets did their own brands. It was kind of creepy but also beautiful to walk down because it was so stark. I had never created a tarot deck before, and I knew no one would know who I was, so I made the box as a sort of homage to that idea of having no brand. I should have just made it say "TAROT" though if I really wanted to take that idea all the way.
As a probably somewhat obvious footnote, someday when I can find the time I would love to create another tarot deck that is all hand-illustrated.