Our latest interview is with Iara Cortes, the creator of the La Flora Tarot.- a botanical tarot deck based on the Rider Waite Smith system. It goes far beyond the aesthetics of plant drawings. La Flora Tarot is a true study on the correlation of plants and all the Tarot archetypes in a deep, meaningful way.
Stylistically, La Flora is based on a highly curated selection of centuries old drawing masterpieces originally created for scientific purposes but pushing the edge on the realm of pure art. Far from being a collage, these botanical masterpieces were beautifully reproduced using a drawing technique called stippling. In its purest form, a stippled image is composed exclusively of dots. One must look at it at a precise distance to genuinely appreciate its richness. As such, stippling became the common thread weaving together all the art in La Flora Tarot.
Kickstqrter - La Flora Tarot
Where in the world do you call home?
My husband and I were born in Brazil. We chose to immigrate to Canada where we became proud Canadian Citizens and parents to a wonderful two-year old boy. We live in Southern Ontario, and that’s where we are delighted to call home.
What was your first experience with oracles and / or tarot and when did you fall in love with it?
At 19, I bought a Tarot deck on a whim, at lunch break, while browsing a local esoteric store full of crystals, incenses and magic potions. At that time, I wanted to become a witch. I bought it with hopes of being able to glimpse into the future. The Tarot deck came with a guide for beginners. On the guide’s introductory pages, it stated that if you were a beginner, you should start with questions to which the answer should be a simple yes or no. I took the guide seriously and started practicing. Quickly I realized that formulating questions that lead to a yes or no answer was not simple at all. It made me think hard about why I was asking those questions. It made me strip down to the essence of what I was feeling at that time. To my surprise, the more I sat down with my Tarot to “get answers”, the more I was working on the questions. At one point I realized I was not going to get a glimpse into the future. Instead, here it was a gift that made me meditate, think clearer, make difficult questions and face my feelings with honesty. A lot of times I was surprised to find out that my true feelings were actually different from what I had believed them to be up to that point. I was discovering “my true self” through asking those questions. I was discovering what mattered to me and who I wanted to become at an early and confusing age, when you are supposed to make choices that will shape your future. It brought to light a more conscious, clear, practical and rational way of thinking that I had never experienced before. The Tarot was a tool I was using to be my own therapist so to speak. I am grateful to have discovered the Tarot then as I would not have found the same “guidance” around me at that time. Today, after reading and studying more about its history and archetypes, I use it as a tool to help me achieve a calm, meditative state of mind every time I sit down to get to know myself a little more.
What made you want to create your own tarot deck? What was your inspiration?
The thought of creating my own Tarot deck came naturally since it combined my love for plants, art and design with my constant search for personal growth. That is how I look at the Tarot: as a ludic but powerful tool for meditation, self-discovery and by consequence, growth. I know there are other beautiful botanical decks readily available, but I believe I am bringing something new to the botanical Tarot table.
I guess I should mention that the core inspiration for La Flora Tarot was the essay: “The Intelligence of the Flowers” by Maurice Maeterlinck. Once you read it, you can never unlearn the brutality of the plant world.
Aside from your own deck, do you have a favourite deck? If so, which one?
There is so much beauty out there. I adore everything UUSI studio has made this far but if I had to pick just one, that would be the “Carnival at the End of the World” by Kahn & Selesnick. The artwork at first seems old-world naïve, but then, looking closer, you will find so many layers and complexity. It is one of those things where you keep discovering new nuances every time. So much so that the French Laetitia @laetitia.cartomancy, who studied art history at Sorbonne and works as an intuitive counsellor, has created a workshop dedicated to the Carnival at the End of the World iconography.
Do you have a favourite card (either from your deck or just the card in general). If so, why is it your favourite?
This is silly but I do not have a favourite card, I have three (our four)! Since I discovered everyone has Tarot birth cards assigned to them and mine were The Sun, The Wheel of Fortune and The Magician, they became favourites. That said, I do have a soft spot for The Hermit card. I believe it is the one I identify myself with the most, especially the introversion and search aspects of it.
We are living in such crazy times. How has the pandemic affected your creativity?
When I first heard about it, I guess just like everybody else I was shocked and in disbelief. There were so many unanswered questions and real, practical fears. Having a small child on my arms made me feel even more vulnerable and worried for the future than I would have otherwise. Being or feeling creative surely took a hit because there were urgent matters to be faced and sorted out. At that time, or just before it, I was hoping to be ready to launch the Kickstarter campaign, but I wasn’t. It took me longer to get things to the level I envisioned them. I considered postponing the whole project indefinitely but, in the end, I have always believed that it is better to have a plan than no plan at all and it is even better if you have something to look forward to. I kept working on the deck and here I am now. The campaign is live!
What have been your challenges in creating this deck?
Undoubtedly, the most challenging and maybe as a consequence the most rewarding aspect of creating the deck was finding what I believed to be the perfect corresponding representation of each one of the very human archetypes represented in the Tarot card in the botanical world.
Apart from the creation process which to me is where the fun is, other challenges have been abundant. Understanding crowdfunding, working on sourcing, defining production and fulfilment strategies and being prepared for “different levels of success” of the campaign were and still are all very time consuming, challenging and intensive work. Luckily for me, Leonardo, my dear husband, is always here to support my endeavours. La Flora is my creation but without him, it would not have become a reality.
Why did you choose botanicals as the theme for this deck?
I am obsessed with plants. I could not have chosen any other subject because plants occupy a great deal of my daily thinking process. I am always gardening on my mind. I am always reading, researching and getting my hands occupied with plants as much as I possibly can.
How will you celebrate when the deck is finally published?
I will celebrate by contributing to an Organization I have long admired called Instituto Terra, in Brazil. Coincidentally located at the state I was born, Minas Gerais. It was created by Lélia and Sebastião Salgado, who is a documentary photographer of great prestige. The Instituto Terra has achieved an almost surreal recovery and “turned back the clock” by reforesting more than 600 hectares of Atlantic Forest and they continue to do so. The German publisher TASCHEN claims to have a zero-carbon footprint by partnering with them. Anyone interested in knowing more can do so by visiting https://institutoterra.org
What is on offer for people who pledge?
I guess this question is best answered by the campaign page itself since besides the deck, I ended up developing many complementary items and even went as far as creating LFX, the La Flora eXperience. I invite all your readers to go to Kickstarter to check it out, I promise they will not regret it!
To add this unique botanical deck to your collection click here:
Kickstqrter - La Flora Tarot