Our latest interview is with Jennifer Starling Dukehart, the creator of the Trash PandaTarot - a 78-card Tarot Deck, featuring trash pandas and all of their wonderful chaos. The illustrations are fun and playful and emphasize emotional depth, readability, and trash panda takes on classic tarot symbolism. (A careful eye will reveal nods to popular raccoon memes.)
Jennifer is an artist and researcher based in Northern Vermont. She has always loved raccoons (the tiny paws! the cute memes! the chonk!) and all things tarot, and she spent the last year creating the Trash Panda Tarot Deck. Her project began as a novelty but quickly revealed surprising unexpected depths.
Kickstarter - Trash Panda Tarot
Where in the world do you call home?
North-central Vermont! I have a little woodsy homestead in the shadows of the Green Mountains. I grew up in the Midwest and spent the last few years in grad school in Austin, TX, so I am loving being back to fall leaves and snowy winters.
What was your first experience with tarot?
Getting lost in the New Age section in the bookstore as a kid. My mom would take me and let me wander; I’d get a little chai tea and sit on the floor and flip through a pile of tarot books, getting lost in all of the beautiful art. I came back to tarot after finishing school when I was looking for ways to recalibrate and ground myself.
What would you say is unique about your deck?
My deck shows raccoons through the lens of Rider-Waite symbolism as the raccoons might interpret it. (For example – the Seven of Wands is stealing off with his Wands, and with an armful of ketchup packets. The Wheel of Fortune is, of course, a pizza.) It blends pop culture references and recognizable raccoon tropes with traditional symbolism and depth, so the result is fun and playful, but with the emotional weight that the cards carry as well.
How long has it taken you to create this deck?
Almost exactly a year. I began last January, as a way to unwind in the evenings. It gets dark early here in Vermont, and given the stress of the pandemic, this gave me something creative to focus my energy on.
Here in Australia, we don’t have raccoons, so trash panda is a new term for me. Why are they called trash pandas?
Their eye markings are a bit similar to giant pandas, and urban raccoons in North America have a tendency to forage through garbage bins for food. Keeping them out of your bins can be a challenge!
What card are you most proud of and why?
The Empress and Tower are my favorite cards, because of the iconic imagery. But I am probably most proud of the Five of Pentacles – two injured raccoons out in the cold winter night, not seeing the lights and shelter behind them. Raccoons are so cute – capturing the emotion of the lighter cards came naturally. This one was a test of the deck’s depth and range, and I’m proud of how it turned out.
What impact would you like your deck to have on it’s readers?
I’d like it to make readers smile and catch them by surprise when they find unexpected layers and hidden visual treats. I hope that newer readers find it charming and accessible, with symbolism that draws them to learn more about tarot.
What have been your challenges in creating this deck?
Keeping momentum during the pandemic – everything feels so heavy sometimes, it’s hard to make space to be creative. I’m a statistician, and my work focuses on equity, health care policy, women’s health, and COVID-19 – I love my work, but definitely not light topics this year. :-) I also moved recently, which always comes with challenges. But making the deck has been an anchor during the year, and I’ve been so grateful to have this creative outlet.
Can you explain why you used the imagery that you did for the minor arcana?
When I began designing the deck, I thought of trash panda versions of the traditional Rider-Waite objects for each suit. Cups became grape soda cans, Wands became roasted marshmallows on a stick (which I have heard raccoons love!), Swords became sporks, and Pentacles became twenty-sided dice.
How will you celebrate when the deck is finally published?
I’m planning to have two of the Queens tattooed – one on each calf – to celebrate. Also, probably having a pizza, a grape soda, and a nap! Making a deck has been a lovely and utterly consuming project. I’ve got a few other art projects in the works that I’m looking forward to spending time on.
What is on offer for people who pledge?
First, my thanks and gratitude for bringing this deck to life!
There is the deck, of course – it’s 2.75” x 4.75” traditional sized, in a custom two-part box. In addition to the deck, there are stickers, an enamel pin of the Empress, and art prints! There is a prize pack that gets you the deck, the enamel pin, and a sticker pack.
There are three sets of stickers on offer: A Sticker Pack which includes the Trash Panda Tarot mascot, the Empress, and the Tower; A Pride Pack which includes a rainbow sticker and a Bi Pride sticker; A Queens Pack which includes four stickers, one for each of the Trash Panda Queens.
If I reach my last stretch goal, I’ll also be offering an altar/tarot cloth.
Website - www.trashpandatarot.com
Instagram - @trashpandatarot
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
To add a little cuteness and fun to your collection, pledge here:
Kickstarter - Trash Panda Tarot