Our latest interview is with Craw Mahal, the creator of The Cats of Arx Tarot Deck - a project that started with Kelly drawing cats doing all kinds of things; scampering, sailing, drinking, playing, sleeping, cuddling, eating. As she drew these very personal felines, requests were made to include little symbols important to them, points of interest, meaningful suggestions of secrets, and hidden things. The more she did it, the more she thought, 'this could mean something.'
The cats soon ran rampant over her desk and her imagination, and the desire to tell more stories and share them only increased over the past year, She found herself drawing them out and including them in her orders.
Kickstarter -The Cats of Arx Tarot Deck
Where in the world do you call home? I currently reside in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, and after living all over the world and coming back, it finally feels like home. What was your first experience with tarot / oracle? When I was 17, my father gave me my first tarot deck and taught me how to read it, emphasizing the personal nature of symbols; what a card meant to one person wasn't always what it means to another. I was also taught that the best decks to use are the ones that are given to you, and so while I might have other decks, the one he gave me is the one I use 99% of the time. What would you say is unique about your deck? When I made the Kickstarter, I reached out to previous customers and asked what they'd think about having their cats (that I've previously illustrated) included in a tarot card deck. It's an opportunity for people to be directly involved in the creation of a deck, with recognizable characters they've chosen, and I'll admit I was surprised at the enthusiasm I was met with; it was wonderful! Even people that I hadn't worked for were interested. I know cats have been used in tarot decks before as a theme, but my style has always been considered playfully rich when it comes to my illustration. I used to think my simplistic drawings were too childish to be used in something as meaningful as a tarot deck, but the last few years have taught me that there can be a great deal of symbolism inherent with things like the use of color, expression, and line. I'm trying to convey these stories and meanings behind the cards using those things, illustrated in watercolor, using cats that are personally selected by backers. I think all of that together makes for a unique experience. What cardstock and finish will be used? This largely depends on where the Kickstarter ends and who we go with. We will likely use the traditional stock and finish, but I'll be putting up samples before I finalize. How long has it taken you to create this deck? I will be working all summer to complete this deck, and I'm hoping it will be ready to print before August. Where does the name Cats of Arx come from? There's an online community of collaborative storytellers, who create characters and stories together in a text-based medium. The name comes from them, as it's where the ideas and characters came from, and it's in honor of them that helped me begin this amazing journey. What card are you most proud of and why? The nature of the deck has restricted me from illustrating any of them yet, other than coming up with the layout. The images I sent you are older illustrations that are the same dimensions and exact style I'll be using for the cards. As each piece will be completed, the backers that put in for that reward will see them first, and then everyone else will see them after they're published. What impact would you like your deck to have on its readers? Tarot readings are very often depicted as serious, life-changing, and life-revealing. Life isn't always these things, and I think divination shouldn't always be regarded that way either. The universe has a sense of humor, having cards that channel that through readings, or even just by appearance, might spread some of that joyous perspective and positivity, both things everyone needs. Cats are a very popular theme for tarot cards. Why do you think that is? Cats have been objects of human fascination for thousands of years. I think that interest hasn't changed and will never change. Mercurial and loving, edged with sharp claws but capable of cuddling you on your worst day, playful, sometimes dangerous, as prone to disappearing on you as they are to arrive at your doorstep ready to claim you as their own. They're a mystery, unpredictable; the future is the same. It's fitting to have such a creature dance across your tarot cards, giving you a glimpse of what's to come. What have been your challenges in creating this deck? The biggest challenge was solved by my backers: what kind of cat to use for each card. By using that as a perk, I'm happy to say nearly every card has a breed of cat (and in some cases, even a personality type) assigned to it. While the design and illustration are up to me (and I've many long hours of that ahead), the hardest part is the idea that starts it all. By offering backers to choose a cat and a specific card, they did most of that for me. How will you celebrate when the deck is finally published?
I'm not sure! Hug everyone. Dance around. Maybe plan my next big project! What is on offer for people who pledge?
Initially, I offered a few things.
One perk offered a deck and the option to put a cat of your choice in the deck as a card, and another perk further up the rung let you put in that cat as a specific card. The perk above that was all of those things and the original art of your cat card.
All backers get exclusive previews of every card as they're illustrated.
To add some unique kitty love to your collection, click here:
Kickstarter -The Cats of Arx Tarot Deck