The Challenges of a Tarot Creator

I am the creator of the Bonestone & Earthflesh tarot deck, a passion project that has been approximately 3 years in the making. It took me a long time to find an artist that would skillfully bring my creative vision to reality. Finally, I found the beautiful Ana Tourian of Luna Solare. Ana is a Romanian Artist and Illustrator who now resides in the US with her beautiful family. Ana is trained as a fine artist, a truth you can see with your own eyes as she effortlessness sketches out my vision time and time again. I’m very lucky to have Ana for she is more than just a hired artist, she is a friend and a fountain of advice, support and comfort when the seemingly wonderful world or tarot goes very sour.

Believe me, when you put yourself out there as a creator, you are bound to attract attention, some wanted and others very much unwanted. Now you may think that I’m talking about trolls here, but alas, I am not. I’m talking about the hundreds if not thousands of tarot forums who adore picking apart decks and their creators. It’s quite sad really when you think about it. Here I am, bringing something beautiful to a community that claims to love tarot and yet the moment I do I’m nitpicked to death and criticised for every little thing, some of which are simply out of my control.  Let me give you an example of what I mean, this may take a minute or two as I have quite a few.

1. Postage & Hackeling

Postage and Handling from Australia is something that I have no control over, yet I am constantly criticised for the price of P & H  and called greedy and unscrupulous for putting such a high cost of postage.

I have received so many messages about this, some have been really nasty and quite hurtful. What can I do about it? Cover the cost myself and go broke? Set a flat rate postage like many other sellers do which means that some pay more and others less? I have no options here. Australia Post is Australia Post and their costs are forever on the increase.   As a Tarot collector, the amount of postage I have had to pay for the hundreds of decks I own would have bought me a car by now, but I know that it is what it is. Postage and handling, Imports taxes etc are not something that a tarot creator has any control over and bitching and moaning about it won’t make a lick of difference. In fact, all that such complaints stand to do is make people, sad, angry, hurt, put off, etc…

Now I’m not saying that there isn’t a hand full of people out there taking the piss when it comes to postage and yes, the rounding up of postage that goes beyond a small handling fee is something that sure does happen. But here’s the thing, postage costs on an item is something that you see before you finalise a purchase, if you don’t like it, then don’t buy it. Simple!

2. Costs & Common Decency

The second thing I get harassed about, and yes, I mean harassed, belittled, berated etc… is the price of the deck. The price of my deck is $80 Australian Dollars. Why this cost, well, allow me to break it down for you. The price of the deck is meant to cover the following:

  1. Ana’s artwork
  2. The printing of the deck on 400gsm matte card stock
  3. The printing of the guidebook which will be approximately 300 pages
  4. The box which needs to be sturdy enough to fit both the deck and the book and be stored as such to avoid damage. This is not a flimsy box.
  5. The cost of the proof which means that a template has to be created for the printing of a test deck. This is more than $150 USD and if there is an issue with the sample run, well guess what, I have to pay another amount and so on until it is just right. It is not uncommon for a creator to have to fork out for multiple samples.
  6. Postage on these samples.
  7. Then when all is right, there is the shipping. The shipping of the deck is close to $600 Australian dollars. That shipping cover does not cover the import tax. the Import tax is a separate fee.  Shipping of all 1000 copies of a deck will only get my decks as far as Brisbane, which is still a long way from me here in Sunny Cairns FNQ. So I have to organise a truck to fright the 1000 decks to me here in Cairns.
  8. Once the deck is here I have to print out the shipping labels, but before I do this, I have to manually confirm the shipping address of each and every individual who has purchased the deck. Shipping labels are printed on adhesive paper and use a printer and ink and no, adhesive paper labels and printer inks are not free here in Australia, just in case you were wondering.
  9. Once the labels have been printed out I must them package the decks, this means boxes must be bought and some kind of cushioning like bubble wrap or packing peanuts or shredded paper etc All of this costs money. None of this is for free.
  10. Once the decks have been packaged up I then have to load them up into my car and drop them down at my local post office. This will happen multiple times and will cost me both time and fuel. I could arrange for the packages to be picked up, but Australia post will only pick up 50 packages at a time and for a fee.
  11. The cost of listing the items on Etsy and the cost of selling an item on Etsy.

I really should charge for my time and my husband has hassled me to do so but I have not. This is a passion project. I’m not making boatloads of money over here.

In the above list, you will see that I have not factored in associated costs of things like electricity, the internet, office supplies, fuel etc for instance. But I will be using quite a bit of each in the creation of this deck. Electricity and the cost of the internet are rather high here in Australia, most things are in fact. Australia has a high cost of living, it is what it is. Every Tarot creator has socio-economic issues to navigate when creating their deck. It’s all part of the individual process. You can not compare me who is a tarot deck creator in Australia with a creator in the EU or the US for instance. Our circumstances are very very different.

Now here’s the thing, the vast majority of people buying tarot these days want to be able to buy an indie deck for the price of a mass-marketed deck which is absolutely ludicrous when you consider the difference in quality and the production costs associated. You know a mass-marketed deck by the look and feel. An indie deck is very different, you see and feel the quality. It’s luxury, not budget. Anyone who has ever bought an indie deck and then the mass-marketed version of the same deck will tell you that there is a noticeable difference. Indie decks are, in short, works of art. They are produced in limited numbers, they are precious tarot jewels. A True collector knows this and will take associated costs into consideration.

When I want a deck and its price is right up there in the $100 – $150 USD not including P&H. I budget for it. I save my pennies and while that may take me some time. I will get it. Yes, there have been times where I have been saving and its taken a long time to do so and the deck I wanted had sold out. When this happens, yes, I’m sad about but I do get over it. What I don’t do is write scathing messages and comments to the creator telling them that their deck is too expensive because I couldn’t afford to buy it right then and there. It’s a fact of life that there are many things that will remain out of our grasp. A fancy house, a flash car, high-end clothing, makeup or perfume, a destination wedding or overseas trip. It is what it is, there is no need to get bitter about it or descend into crazy ramblings about how unfair it is. Be mature and level-headed, accept it and move on and the powers at be will reward you for your grace and your patience with another heart-stopping, world-rocking deck.

3. Exclusivity & The Evil In Me

When I first decided to launch this project I was only going to print 500 decks. I thought I would have a really hard time selling 500 decks and that the workload that goes into 500 decks would be a huge burden to navigate on my own. Yes, that’s right, on my own! I have no magical team of helper elves hard at work behind the scenes here. It’s just me, one single person and I think I’m doing a fucking good job of it, all things considering.

Moving on, I pushed through and released 300 decks in a Pre-Order launch in July 2017. I sold out quicker then I or any other creator I know had anticipated. I was elated and thought yay! Done! but then came the comments, messages on Etsy, emails, Instagram private messages, Facebook private messages and so on. Each one saying the same thing “Please list more”. I had so many messages you really would not believe, some were really sweet and polite others were intended to ruin my day with name calling and chastising. It was enough to make a grown woman cry. Did I cry? No, I was not about to give any nasty hearts the satisfaction of my tears and I’m a grown ass well-educated woman with a passion for creativity and a solid vision. Tears are not part of my repertoire.

I did, however, think long and hard about listing more decks. I thought about it for a few weeks and sort advice from deck creators, family and friends like Ethony Dawn, Chris-Ann Donelly, Stacey Demarco, Ana Tourian, my own husband and Coven, My dear old dad and more. I was told not to “cap my magick” (Thank you Chris-Ann) I thought long and hard about this whole ‘Capping my magick” thing. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I chose 500 decks because I subconsciously lacked faith, I thought that if I listed more it would be too mainstream and far too great of a workload for just one person to manage.

Truth be told I would have had to print 500,000 +  decks for my deck to be considered mainstream. And I knew that if I needed to, I could ask my dear friends and husband to help me out a bit, I just needed to have a little more faith in myself. So I listed another 500 decks making the total 1000 decks and in doing so I was vilified. I was called a liar, a charlatan and so forth because I had promised an exclusivity that 1000 decks didn’t have. It’s mindblowing to me the mentality of some people. There are 7.5 Billion people in this world, 1000 tarot decks are still extremely exclusive. In fact, it’s barely a drop in the ocean. I will not list more than 1000 decks now since I received such a nasty response. Its a case of ‘Your damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. So there will be people that will miss out and there will be more nasty messages because you just can’t please everyone.

Now it gets better (and I’m being sarcastic here). Once I had listed the extra decks, there were comments from people that hadn’t even purchased a single deck asking randomly if the cost of the deck was going to be lowered and that it absolutely should be lowered because I was printing more. Let me be clear here. The cost per deck is the same whether I choose to print 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500. It only changes in price if I choose to print 3000 or more decks, which I couldn’t even if I wanted to as I have no physical space to store such a quantity. In the world of printing, the minimum quantity also known as the MOQ is 500 with some printers and 3000 with others. 3000 decks are still considered a very small order.

So now I have committed to printing 1000 decks of which only 800 will be released to the public.  200 of 1000 will used as backup decks just in case of printer defects. A certain amount is allocated to Ana, my family and me. So really, when you think about it, only 800 decks will be available to the public. That is a very low quantity and it will remain that way until I decide what I would like to do with the deck. The fact of the matter is, it is my deck, I’m the creator and I can do whatever I feel is right with my deck. I do not in anyway believe that I mislead or acted unscrupulously towards those who had committed to purchase the deck in the 1st round of pre-orders. I did what I thought was fair to all parties. It’s not like I said “Hey! I’m only printing 500 decks then turned around and printed 10,000 decks. I was never going to release a mega load of decks into the world, I leave that type of approach for publishers with a much wider reach and a drive to do so. I’m an indie deck creator after all.

4 The Callous Critic

I raise my hand at being a tarot critic. Tarot is my profession, I’ve been involved with tarot from a young age and have been reading professionally now for quite a few years. aside from this, I have, I’m told, an enviable collection of Tarot Cards and Books on the subject. I have a lot to say about tarot and am quite regularly asked to share my opinions on decks and resources.

There is a way to constructively critique a tarot deck, I know this as I do it quite a bit myself. Things like card stock, borders, traditional representations, symbolism, the guidebook or lack thereof or overall look and feel are certainly things to talk about.  We either agree with the creator’s vision and or we disagree. For many like myself, cardstock is very important. I’m a professional reader, my decks get shuffled a lot and often. I appreciate a good thick cardstock as I am a “hand over” shuffler and not a riffle shuffler. This is, of course, personal preference. I appreciate a borderless deck as I believe it makes the artwork really pop. I appreciate a deck with brushed matte gilded edges BUT, if a deck doesn’t have any kind of edging that’s fine too as edging a deck is in fashion and there is a certain amount of pleasure derived from modifying a deck. Basically what I’m saying here is that I have my preference where a tarot deck is concerned and others have their preference. As a creator, I am creating in keeping with my personal preference.   Bullying creators and bitching about their personal preference is really not necessary. If you were creating a Tarot deck, would you do it to please the masses or would you do it to realise your own unique vision? Would you get creative and passionate about your deck or would you create just another clone?

There will always be critics, some educated and other just plain old bitter. There will always be awesome people who will understand what deck creators are trying to achieve and appreciate and support these creators of which there are many. And there will always be the barracudas. Those who can’t get it,  who do very little if absolutely nothing to contribute to the tarot community but are perfectly content to rip people to shreds for trying. I don’t bother with these types of people. I generally feel they don’t reflect the true heart of the Tarot community which to me is about education, understanding, innovation and inspiration. Tarot can be life-changing so don’t be an arse hole, be a tarot lover and go out there and change someone’s life for the better.

When I see people writing off a deck because of little details like the type of box it comes in I literally shake my head. The type of box a deck comes in does not make a deck, the artwork does. Whether the deck is in a flimsy box, split into two in the one sturdy box or wrapped in silk makes no fucking difference to how that deck will read. It makes no difference to how the images will be received by your clients, friends or family. Or how the reading as a whole will look and feel. Writing a deck off because of the way that the deck is packaged tells me that people out there are sorely lacking imagination and if you can’t find a decent storage solution for a deck that comes in a box that bothers you, then that tells me that perhaps you are more concerned with the aesthetics of a deck rather than the way it reads and that in a reading situation you probably lack the creativity to weave together an empowering message capable of really making a positive impact on someone’s life. It’s not the box that creates change, its the reading, it’s the reader. I have had incredible readings from decks that were so worn out they looked as though they would fall apart. There is a magic to these decks that words can not describe.

If the box is not to your liking figure out a solution, if the borders are offensive, trim it. Want colour on the edges, then edge it. Once you purchase a deck it is yours to do with it what you want. Open your mind, unleash your creativity or powers of lateral thinking. And if you decide that you don’t like a deck, make sure if it’s for the right reasons.

Oh, and just quickly, let’s not forget the whole ‘there are more women than men in your deck” Yes, another sharp observation by onlookers. Yes, there is and I do not need to justify the why’s of it.

5 Waiting until we are blue in the face

Yes, I have a long wait time on my deck and you guessed it, I’m getting a shit tone of criticism for it. Why such a long wait? It’s a fine art deck, Ana is hand drawing, inking and painting each image as they are conceived. This takes a long time and since I am the very first creator EVER to create a Tarot deck LIVE on YouTube, I received an overwhelming call out to launch Pre-Orders regardless of the time frame involved. As it stands, I put down the date of the December 2018 to give myself a good buffer in case of any unforeseen issues. If most things go off without a hitch then I will have my decks in my hot little hands ahead of the designated time frame and that will be nice.

The reason I gave myself this length of time is because many creators told me it was a good idea. They fervently told me that if I promised that my decks would go out by a certain date and they didn’t for whatever reason, I would be hunted with pitchforks in a good old fashion lynching. It’s a thing! whenever money changes hands, things can get nasty really quickly. So I gave myself plenty of time with the hope of surprising my pre-order peeps with an early release date and yet, I’m some kind of dubious arse hole because of it.

The deck is also crowdfunded, so with the sale of each of the decks, I’m able to pay my lovely artist Ana and get the ball rolling in many other ways. Such is the case with crowdfunded decks. Now because this deck has such a long wait time, I made a point of being as transparent as I can with its creation. Aside from creating the deck live on YouTube, Ana and myself release behind the scenes pencil, sketches, inking, colour proofs, artist videos, updates about the printing arrangments, snippets from the guidebook. We share so much of the process to enable those who have pre-orders to see that things are moving along with gusto.

And let me just say this, there is no manual that outlines the “How To’s” of creating a tarot deck. I’m doing what feels right for me and for the health and vitality of my creative baby. I’m not taking 10 years to create the Bonestone. I’m taking two, I’ve waited longer for decks to be created myself, books too. It’s not a big deal for me but then again, I’m a patient person.

In Conclusion

The way people have been carrying on in such ridiculous, hurtful ways is just so damn disheartening.  If I was a more sensitive individual I would have quit by now. Yep! I would have flat out said no. But Alas, I have persevered because like I said, this is my dream, this is my creative vision, this is my baby and bringing it to being is everything to me. With this said, I don’t believe that I or any other creator is deserving of such ruthless criticism and disheartening behaviours from those out there that have no idea what it takes to make a deck.

Every person creating a deck is walking a different path. It’s an adventure and one fraught with many pitfalls.  For those who have succeeded on their own, without the aid of a publisher, I take my hat off to you because I know that its a project that is far from easy. It takes passion and so many hours that I have long since lost count. Hours that I will never get paid for.

Tarot creators are all working there arse off to bring a new deck and awesome new ideas out there into the world. If you see a deck that you don’t like then don’t buy it, don’t belittle the creator don’t be an arse hole and a bully. Just move on to another deck that tickles your fancy or better yet, make your own, maybe then you will see for yourself how intense the process is behind the scenes.

And before I call it a night, I would very much like to say a great big thank you for all those out there that have supported not just myself and my project but other indie deck creators. There are some absolutely amazing people out there and I have seen how supportive and protective they can be and have been. I don’t go looking through Tarot forums anymore, I haven’t for a very long time. Nevertheless, word travels fast and bad news even faster.

Big love to the Bonestone & Earthflesh tarot group for all your support, love and inspiration. You make a huge difference to my projects so thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Fool

19 thoughts on “The Challenges of a Tarot Creator

  1. Mary Ely

    Congratulations on the success of your Tarot cards!!!! Where can I get your deck? I’ve been waiting for them to be released. I never got your email that they were released. Life got so busy this summer, I got into DoTERRA essential oils and maybe I missed your email. Blessings, Mary

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maggie

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure so many comments from evil tongued people. This deck is YOUR deck, created out of love by you and Ana. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I know it will be worth the wait!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Linda Cota

    Avalon, so sorry to hear that so many people have been jerks about everything. I truly appreciate the way you are choosing to create and release your deck. You and Ana are giving life and spirit to it and including the community in the creating of it, at all, is a gift to us. I hope that you don’t have to spend any more of your energy responding to this kind of treatment. Linda C.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Avalon, what a great read and god, I heard you tell it as I read it! I guess this is what makes it scary to step out and do something so magical and brave. Cheralyn Darcey received a similar reaction when she revealed that her Flowers of the Night Oracle was to be published by Schiffer!!! I don’t know what else to say. Keep at it and I look forward to seeing it in person. Yes, I know. I haven’t bought a copy lol. Yet. Lotsa <3.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. joavalonauradurand

    Hi Avalon, what a great read and god, I heard you tell it as I read it! I guess this is what makes it scary to step out and do something so magical and brave. Cheralyn Darcey received a similar reaction when she revealed that her Flowers of the Night Oracle was to be published by Schiffer!!! I don’t know what else to say. Keep at it and I look forward to seeing it in person. Yes, I know. I haven’t bought a copy lol. Yet. Lotsa <3.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lisa

    It sounds to me you think the complainers are being unreasonable with no logic or foundation for their complaints. FYI, I have not complained or commented before this. I paid $47.00 USD total (meaning it includes shipping) July 2017 for Fountain Tarot, just before it went mass produced. I paid $50.00 USD total for Pagan Otherworlds, and I paid $66.70 for Borderless Starchild Tarot July 2017. All 3 of these decks are known for great cardstock and packaging. So to me this is why people are complaining. As a creator, you need to know you will be receiving all kinds of feedback, especially when doing a preorder so far in advance. This gives people even more time to think about it LOL. I have never seen a Creator complain so much, and feel like they have been attacked. You put yourself out there, so you need to expect everyone will not be happy. There are too many different people in this world. Everyone is different, and you will receive many comments and emails good and bad, it is part of the process. Again, I have not seen any other creator complain about complaints. I understand your reasons, but you must understand the basis of comparison. We can buy high quality decks as the 3 examples I provided, for a lot less than your cost. I do not have a solution, other than Ana mailing some decks, which I know is not her responsibility, and probably does not want to do this. Even without postage though, your costs are comparatively high to the 3 high quality decks I mentioned. People are not complaining without any foundation or logical reasoning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely understand your reasoning. And yet it’s important to realise that all 3 decks which you have mentioned are decks that I own and are decks that were produced outside of Australia. My deck is produced here in Australia therefore the circumstances that I am forced to deal with are also a subject for consideration. Consider the price of the Australian dollar compared to the American. I must pay for the vast majority of my deck creation using American dollar. This means that I am forced to pay more than the American price. It is so rare for me to purchase an indie deck from the US or the EU for under $100 Australian dollars. I have never complained about this however as I know the cost of creating a deck and the endless amount of time invested. There will always be those who complain, this is a fact of life. There will always be those who can not see the value in a cost because they lack an understanding of the circumstances involved in item costing. We are all entitled to an opinion on this matter and I thank you for yours.

      Like

    2. You’ve never seen a creator complain so much? I need to break this comment down because it fucks me right off.

      First of all, BRA-VO to Avalon for actually standing up for herself. Maybe more creators should do so.

      Second of all, to my knowledge, there has NEVER been a deck creator be so transparent and inclusive during the creation process as Avalon. Do you know any other creator that has exposed themselves while creating a deck in real time, on video, for the entire world to see and been the very first to blaze a new path for deck creators? Every creator gets constructive criticism and that is fair. However, I guarantee Avalon, and Ana too for that matter, get HEAPS more critiquing than any other creator because the deck is inclusive and the process is transparent. Every decision, every brush stroke, every minute detail is scrutinized under the public microscope. Yes, she chose to do this and yes, she is choosing to address the vitriol. What you are unaware of is the HUNDREDS of messages that Ana and Avalon have received in this process calling them names left and right, attacking their character, being berated, and battered, and quite frankly to the point of verbally abused. You don’t know this because the creator who is the worst complainer hasn’t complained.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Lisa,

      Just one stamp from Australia to US is $3AUD. Just one 2kg parcel cost a minimum of $35AUD (2-3mth shipping by sea). Research costs before you complain and compare prices from inside US/EU to Australia.

      I live in Australia, so I know the postage angst that Avalon experiences. A quality, limited ed, buyer invested deck is worth more than the price Avalon has put on it. Australian’s pay more for everything, whilst those in the US live cheaply.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so disappointed in people. I feel the love and exuberance in every magical card. I love that you are including the community. I ADORE Ana’s artwork. Truly, I don’t think it’s overpriced. As an artist, I understand the amount of work that goes on as far as Ana is concerned. The other side, your side, is something that is not often talked about. People are just not aware. I know that 78 separate paintings is a mountain of work..she has to buy paper, paint brushes, if something goes wrong..all the time that’s involved. We must all eat, sleep and pay our bills How do you stay energized, and creative, and make each card as good as it can be? It’s a freakin’ miracle!! But to have so much work to do, and have heaps of negative energy pounded into you? you are really amazing. I could hear your voice as I read the article…it makes me sad that anyone is doing this, we should know better!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lisa

    You have decided to put yourself and your process in the public domain, and you have even invite involvement during your videos. This creates an atmosphere of participation in the process. Trolls happen as you know. I think the confusion in this discussion, is the line between who has been trolling and who is giving negative feedback. I have no idea if you are referring to both, or only those swearing, threatening, name calling etc. There is an active discussion in a group I am watching now, and I think people are mixing up both of these as one issue. I remain very confused. As far as I am concerned, you need not defend yourself, however as I mentioned, you have put yourself in this position by making the deck creation process public. Perhaps, just step back for awhile, and just do your thing with Ana <3.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jo Durand

      I know of another creator who crowd-funded her small print-run indie deck and then when she announced that she had been picked up by a publisher, she was attacked by people who thought the decks they had bought would be all that would be printed. Ever. She endured a torrent of nastiness which mirrored many of the things Avalon was told when she released a second quantity of pre-sales. If one wants exclusiivity, buy the original artwork at several hundred dollars and hang it in one’s toilet for one’s exclusive enjoyment. Otherwise, buy the deck, at the price set by the creator/s and enjoy it anyway. I don’t think opening oneself to interaction excuses those who use the opportunity to attack and belittle another person.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think that Avalon and Ana are creating one of the most beautiful decks out there. They are trying something new by letting the public see the process. Then to be criticized is downright deplorable. I find it very interesting to see the cards being made and the reasons why they chose the particular image. I think this gives me an advantage over others who have not watched the process. I have purchased 1 of the decks and I hope that this deck popularity explodes. If it does and Avalon has a publisher interested, good for her. I still will have a 1st edition of the deck and we all know 1st editions of books, decks, etc. command a higher price years down the road. There a lot more of us who stand behind you, that those who don’t. Love

    Liked by 1 person

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