Q&A with Steampunk Tarot's Barbara Moore

It was only a matter of time before someone came out with a steampunk-based tarot deck, as popular as that particular style has become -- we're just thankful that it was someone like Barbara Moore, with a solid knowledge of the widely used Rider Waite Smith decks and a good grasp of what steampunk aesthetic should look like; she'll be discussing her new deck at Isis Books and Gifts, 2775 South Broadway in Englewood (call 303-761-8627 for details.). We caught up with Moore to talk about her roots in tarot, where the idea for this deck came from and what people can expect from tomorrow's talk -- and to get some images of this gorgeous deck.

Westword: How did you first get into Tarot and what has your journey in that aspect of life looked like?

Barbara Moore: In college, at a party, a friend brought out a deck and I fell in love without really knowing what it was. I was working on my history degree with a focus on the Middle Ages and Renaissance, with additional interest in art, mythology, and psychology, so the tarot was a perfect blend of my degree. That was over twenty years ago.

In the beginning, I studied on my own, buying books and experimenting. The Internet wasn't what it is now. Later, when I moved to Minnesota, I got a job with Llewellyn Publishing, a company that publishes tarot decks. Over the years, I worked with them to create a job focused specifically on their tarot line. Working on helping other projects come to life and reach bookstore shelves has been satisfying. Later, I had the opportunity to work on my own projects.

I currently do project development for Llewellyn and Lo Scarabeo, an Italian tarot publisher. In addition, I continue to write books, design decks, do readings, and teach. One of my favorite things is speaking at conferences. It combines some of my favorite things: tarot, travel, and meeting other tarot lovers.

Can you talk about the decision to come out with a Steampunk deck?

About five years ago, I bought a necklace through Etsy. It was a cool combination of Victorian and some sort of futuristic yet retro feel. It was a look that I always liked but didn't know was an actual look, if you know what I mean. The necklace was tagged with the descriptor "Steampunk." A few Google moments later, I understood. "So what I like has a name!"

All excited, I told a colleague (Andrew, who is mentioned in the book's dedication) about it. As we discussed the themes of Steampunk, he said, "you should make a Steampunk tarot."

And that was how it all started. I'll tell the whole story at the Denver Tarot Meet Up event on Saturday.

How did you go about deciding how to draw this deck -- the suits and the major arcana?

You mean, how did I decide about the art direction, right? Because I didn't draw it. I designed it. British artist Aly Fell is the artist who worked with me.

I didn't want this to be just a novelty deck. I wanted it to be a good reading deck, one that I would want to use professionally. Because I studied and work with decks grounded in the Rider Waite Smith tradition, that is the basis for the Steampunk Tarot.

As for the art itself and how I decided on Aly, that was harder. Steampunk art can be very complex and intricately detailed. That is part of the aesthetic. But in my opinion, a good reading deck is somewhat simple, so that it is easy to see patterns and connections between the cards when you have several laid out in front of you. So I had to find an artist who could evoke the richness of Steampunk through simpler lines and images. It wasn't easy. I'll tell more about that on Saturday.

What can attendees expect from your event at Isis this weekend?

Attendees will get the whole story behind the creation of the Steampunk Tarot, from beginning to end. They will hear how I found Aly and about our only argument throughout the two-year process. They will see sketches and paintings that didn't make the final deck. They will see part of the creative process through the evolution of a final card through sketches. And this will be the first time I share all of this with a public audience.

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Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen