Deck creator forum — Steele Wizard Tarot (Part 1 of 3)
Pamela Steele has four decades of art experience and over 30 years of experience doing tarot readings. Her deck, the Steele Wizard Tarot is a self-published 88 card Tarot deck. She designed this deck to reflect her strong belief in self-empowerment and self-mastery.
She was gracious enough to bear with me as I asked a seemingly never-ending stream of questions, the results of which are a fascinating interview about her deck. Indeed, this interview was so extensive that I have separated it into three parts. Here is part one; subsequent parts are on their way soon!
James: I know from my own experience that creating a deck is a long process and a lot of work. One doesn’t do it on a lark! What inspired you to create a Tarot deck?
Pamela: From the very beginning, upon purchasing my very first deck (the RWS in ’79) I felt there were cards missing. Over the years I became more convinced that the tarot decks I loved and used were somehow incomplete. In October ’99 my cousin, Maya Heath, asked if I were still convinced of my belief and that her publisher was looking for a new tarot to print. It was like getting a green light after being stuck in traffic. I started drawing the Ace of Pentacles that afternoon.
J: You ended up self-publishing this deck, though. What happened with that publisher?
P: The original publisher missed 3 release dates spanning 18 months. He simply didn’t have the funding in place to go ahead with production as he had originally promised. I began to get feedback from people who had actually pre-paid and pre-ordered the decks with questions as to when they could expect delivery. So I began legal proceedings to regain the printing rights. That was in 2001 and it took until 2005 before the contract was legally void and I could go ahead with publication.
Between 2005-2006 I had approached several of the major tarot publishers. They all were interested, and I had offers, but each wanted to add it to their Queue and postpone production for at least 2 years. I thanked them all and decided to self-publish. In order to have the funds, I sold my house, not knowing where I would actually live, and once the money was in the bank began searching for printers. By autumn 2006 I had found a company based in Florida, met the owner, and arranged to have the Steele Wizard Tarot published. The copies arrived at my door on July 31, 2007. I notified my (then) webmaster who launched the official site. By August 1, at 6a.m., there were over 50 orders for the deck. They kept pouring in for weeks. I’d also signed a contract with New Leaf Distributing who is still one of my main distributors. Quanta Distributing is now carrying the deck in Canada, and the Tarot Garden has it available on their site.
All in all, I believe this deck had its own agenda, and I was supposed to maintain complete artistic control. Now, I just guide and nurture. It’s not unlike giving birth. My ‘kids’ are grown and on their own. Now I can help out when needed and be proud of their accomplishments. (Yes, I have a place to live. The man I had been dating for 8 months bought a house and offered me a place to live until I decided where to go next. I’m still here.)
J: How did you create the artwork for your deck? What would you like to say about that process?
P: The images for the Steele Wizard were already in my head. It was similar to remembering a person and a place when each card presented itself. I drew the images using pencil on heavy paper stock and then colored them with pencil crayons. I’d considered using oils, but that wouldn’t have been practical considering the space and time requirements necessary for 88 cards.
J: Most modern Tarot decks fall into one of three “camps” — Marseille, RiderWaiteSmith, or Thoth. Yours follows the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition although there are some variations. Why did you choose that general style?
P: Besides being the deck I learned with, it’s the most widely known and used among the tarotist I know. Every taroist I met, and book I read, followed the RWS tradition. It was and is very familiar. I’d purchased and used other decks that followed that format, and it seemed the most natural. Also, it was very important to create a deck that was user-friendly. Nothing annoyed me more than to get a truly beautiful deck only to find out it was like trying to learn to speak Chinese without a tutor.
J: Is there a theme for this deck, and what would you like to say about that theme?
P: There was no one particular theme that dominated the images. ‘Lemurian, celtic, medieval, and ancient’ were some the words that floated through my head during the creation process. It’s more eclectic, as in a blending of cultures and traditions. There are crystals, runes, and symbols from a variety of traditions that insisted on being presented in the images.