Behind the Ink Witch Tarot - meet the artist
Welcome to a new series where we ask the artists who created the decks about their creative process, thoughts on tarot and more. First, it's Eric Maille, inventor of the Ink Witch Tarot deck and also The Paper Oracle Lenormand deck...
What can you see out of the window where you work?
I work from home, so it depends on the window! The one is my studio just shows the parking lot outside my apartment. Sometimes I like to work in my living room, which has glass doors that lead out to my patio with all its plants; and past that, the apartment where I live has a really nice water feature that I can see from there.
Where and when do you feel most creative?
Almost always at the most inopportune times - a lot of my best creative ideas come while I’m in the shower, or late at night when I’m trying to fall asleep. But if I need to jump-start my creativity, a nice walk in the wildlife park near my apartment is usually good for getting the creative juices flowing.
What does tarot mean to you and why did you want to create your deck?
For me, tarot is about self-reflection and introspection. It means looking at your life from a perspective you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see from. Using a tarot deck is a meditative process that helps me unpack my life and think about my past, present, and future. It’s work, but also self-care; a little bit like going to the gym or cooking a good meal.
I started designing tarot cards just as a fun creative art challenge, but it became a serious project when I started thinking about what a full deck of cards with my artwork on them would actually be like. I made the Ink Witch deck mostly with myself in mind to be honest. It was the deck I wanted to see and use. The artwork featured the things I wanted to be reminded of while reading tarot.
The Star card for example was designed to remind of me of a very personal experience I once had. The Death card was designed to remind me of a Greek myth that I really appreciate. I’m happy that a lot of these images resonate so well with others too. It makes me feel connected to other people, and I suppose that’s part of what tarot means to me too.
Were there any challenges?
Just creating 78 cohesive pieces of artwork is a challenge in and of itself. Researching tarot thoroughly enough to be confident making a deck is is a challenge too. So is learning how to get the cards printed, available for other people to buy, and shipped, and so on. In making the Ink Witch deck, I also had to learn a lot about essentially running my own small business and creating a “brand.” The biggest challenge, cheesy as it may sound, is just getting overwhelmed. There were several really big tasks that had to be overcome, and I think I kind of drove myself a little insane trying to manage it all. But I also learned a lot about breaking big tasks into smaller more manageable pieces, and organizing my work process to deal with them.
Which tarot card do you identify most with and why?
I’d love to say The Star because it’s my favorite card and I try so hard to channel it’s message of optimism. Or Strength, because I really strive to draw power from gentleness and compassion. But those are just cards I try to identify with I think. In actuality, I identify a lot with the Knight of Cups, and when it shows up in my readings I always assume it’s to represent me. I even tried to model the one in Ink Witch after myself in some ways. I see the Knight of Cups as someone who’s in touch with their emotions and intuition, but still kind of struggling to sort through their feelings, and understand them as much as they wish they could. I think that’s probably relatable for most people.
Which card do you find the most difficult and why?
The most difficult one for me to design was the Seven of Swords. It was the last card I drew simply because I couldn’t decide what it needed to look like. While researching the cards, I’d usually start getting an idea for what kind of image I wanted to create very early on, but that one took a lot more brainstorming. The most difficult card for me to read on the other hand is The Tower. I feel like I still flinch when I see it sometimes. I completely understand that chaos can be a good thing, and some things have to be destroyed so that new things can be built. Those are the important the messages in The Tower, but I’ve never really been good at dealing with major change and upheaval.
What tips can you give someone who wants to create their own deck?
Make the deck you want to use. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by such a big project, but if you’re creating something for yourself rather than other people, you won’t want to give up until you have it in your hands, and you’ll be so happy with what you’ve made regardless of what anyone else thinks about it. Making the deck that you want makes it all worth it, no matter the outcome.
If you could add an additional card to the major arcana what would it be called and represent?
The Major Arcana are so perfect already so it’s hard to say! I had thought about renaming my temperance card “Alchemy” at one point though, so maybe I would make a separate Alchemy card that could be all about transformation through creative means. A lot of the “transformation” messages in the Major Arcana feel like the results of sacrifice or fate. It might be nice to have a card that exemplified a person’s ability to transform themselves or their environments in a more artistic way, changing the way people feel or perceive by influencing the heart.