Friday, January 8, 2016

The Locked Gate

Yesterday I did a reading for myself and the card I puzzled over the most was #51, which I think of as "The Locked Gate." I wasn't sure exactly how it fit into my reading. I usually think of this card as one of "not being ready," or "closed opportunities." But it didn't seem to match what the other cards said.

My question was "Will it be beneficial for me to take a Memoir Writing class that starts next week?" One of my goals for 2016 is to write more, and taking writing classes helps me to keep up the practice. Yet some small part of me hesitated to sign up. I wondered if it was because I needed to have some space to myself at the beginning of the new year before filling my schedule with too many activities. Here is the full spread (click on the picture to get a larger view):

I wasn't quite sure what the "Past" card meant, but I interpreted it as "trust." In the past, I have taken other writing classes with playwright and teacher Douglas Jones at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond (click here to find writing classes that VisArts offers). He always sets a mood of trust and openness among his students. I started with "The Creative Spark" and finally felt brave enough to take "Writing the Shadow" in 2014. The Shadow class opened me up to looking at the darker side of myself - the parts I'm afraid to share or that I hide away. I didn't write about everything that scared me, but it helped me to understand and integrate that side of myself a little more, and to recognize the value of looking at and using the shadow in my writing, art, and life.

The "Present" card showed an open gate leading into a peaceful-looking park. I took that to mean openness and being ready to take the class. The "Challenge or Goal" was hands releasing dust (at least, that is what it looked like to me.) Perhaps this meant letting go - of control? Maybe stepping into the class not quite knowing what I will write or how it will come out? The Memoir course description said it would help writers to explore a focused part of their life, and I wasn't sure which part I would want to write about.

My "Internal" and "External Influences" were funny because they mirrored each other. In my inner world, I saw the process of writing memoir as a series of humongous mountains. In the external world, it showed a snake climbing over a small hill. This is so me. I always see projects as being huge and daunting, when in actuality they can only be carried out through a process of small steps, much like the snake going over the hill.

The "Release" card showed a guy sailing the seas on the back of a whale. I think of this card as one of adventure and searching. But because it was in the release position, I thought it meant I shouldn't go looking around everywhere or feel like I have to reach far, that maybe the stories I need to write are closer to me than I think. My "Accept" card showed the locked gate, which I'll get back to in a moment. My "Possibilities" cards showed a hand writing and sprouting lots of new ideas, and also a hand holding a key to a locked box which seemed to mean unlocking my writing spirit. So why the locked gate? That seemed contradictory to those two cards. I think there was a clue in my "Direction" card. It showed a hand with a cut on it - my writing might reveal some pain or make me feel vulnerable.

I pondered the locked gate. I even looked up the interpretations in the handbook that I myself wrote! It said: "Restrictions, not being ready, opportunity is unavailable, being denied - 'having the door closed in your face.'" 


Everything else in the reading seemed to point to the fact that taking the Memoir class would be a beneficial experience that would open up my writing self. So why did I have to accept this locked gate? 

This morning I woke up and understood. I also had clarity on other parts of the reading. I think the gate does mean something restricted. I think it's the part of myself I had restricted to others, the part that I am ashamed to show anyone but those closest to me who won't push me away. It's my anger. Most people are surprised to learn that I have an angry side. It's something I've wanted to write about but wasn't sure how to share. I think the card is telling me that it's time to accept this locked-up part of myself. It's time to write about it and own it, and thereby release it (I hope). 

Last month I was talking to a friend about fairy tales and horror movies. I told him how sometimes I want to watch horror movies but they scare me so much I can't go to sleep and they make me feel like the world is a horrible place.* My friend, who loves horror movies, said "The world can be a horrible place." I told him that even though fairy tales could also be horrific, I have been drawn to them since I was a kid. I said, "There's something about fairy tales that's not as bad as horror movies. Maybe because in the end there is comfort." I realized that fairy tales would not have the impact they do without that fear and the subsequent promise of comfort. The fear is an important element of the story. In fact, it is crucial. I told him I wanted to integrate more of my darker self into my art and writing, even in my work for children. He said he wanted to integrate more of the lighter side of himself into his already dark art and writing. 

Going back to the reading, I looked at the "Past," "Challenge," and "Direction" cards again and saw that they they have further dimension by alluding to a specific period of my life when my anger was uncontrollable, when I thought it might destroy myself and a relationship that I had. Looking back, that experience was a gift because it revealed the worst part of myself, and showed that I can still be loved and loving in spite of it. That part of me will never go away because it is me, though just an aspect. Just like my "good" side is just another aspect of myself. 

Now I'm not sure if I will ever share those experiences with anyone but my writing class and a few loved ones, and if I'm brave enough to write about it at all whether I will choose to share it out loud. But the cards don't lie about what is needed in my life.

I signed up for the writing class.

* If you're looking for a really good "horror" movie, watch "The Babadook." I'd heard it was extremely scary but extremely good, and I waffled over watching it for a month. When I finally did watch it, I was not scared. I was actually moved enough to shed tears. It was the first time I saw my own dark side externalized (though of course exaggerated in the movie). I empathized with both the protagonist and the monster, seeing it as a metaphor for the horror within. My boyfriend totally didn't get the metaphor, though, so I had to explain it to him.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fortune Cards Workshop

Ever since creating my own oracle deck, The Golden Moth Illumination Deck, I've wanted to lead a workshop to encourage others to make their own. But unlike my deck, which was reproduced by offset and digital printing, I thought the experience of making a one-of-a-kind handmade deck would be approachable for beginners, and a refreshing change for me. The cards above were some samples that I created using acrylic paint, collage, and ink. 

In February I taught my first "How to Make Your Own Fortune Cards" workshop at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond. I will be teaching another section of this weekend workshop on July 18 and 19th, so sign up here if you're interested.

I call them "fortune cards" because I don't want to be too confining by calling them tarot or oracle cards, though they are definitely inspired by them. I thought participants might want the openness of using them for different purposes. The title was also kind of a play on words - people can "make their own fortune" as well as "make their own fortune cards."

The participants in the workshop were wonderful. Everyone came in with such an open mind. I loved the concepts behind their cards as much as I loved the cards themselves. Many of the students were at least somewhat knowledgeable of tarot and oracle cards, but there were a couple of people who weren't. Some students professed they had little art experience, so it was pretty amazing to see what they turned out. Every student had their own unique perspective and each approached their cards thoughtfully. They used watercolor, ink, colored pencil, collage, and photocopy transfer, and they graciously allowed me to share their cards with you.

This deck was inspired by the major arcana of the Rider-Waite tarot. She mixed traditional tarot imagery with her own symbolism and and a fresh color palette.

These cards were based on the sun, moon, moths, and butterflies as symbols of introverted and extroverted energy.

This deck used four suits as in tarot, but each suit was based upon different pyschological states. I love how she used action and sound words in her cards.

This deck was also based on the major arcana, but each symbol she chose had personal significance in her life. 

These cards also used personal symbolism, and each card represented one year of his life.

He used a cool technique called xylene transfer. He placed photocopies of images face-down onto his cards, saturated them with a clear blender marker, then rubbed the backs of the copies down hard with a spoon to transfer the images into the cards. This technique works for laser copies in black and white and color, but it's not the best for your health so I'd recommend you do it in a well-ventilated room.

This student is a poet, and she used titles and imagery from various poems to create her deck. Great idea, huh?

This student is an illustrator who used imagery from her own dreams.

Look closer at some of this surreal imagery. She hopes to create a more finished deck in the future, and I hope she does because I'd love to own a copy myself! You can check out more of Amy Lovvik's art here

Here are some more sample cards I made during and after the class. The beetle card in the middle uses another form of photocopy transfer called gel transfer. There are a couple techniques to do this, but for this one I applied clear acrylic medium to my painted card, placed the photocopy of the beetle face-down on top of it, and burnished it so it stuck flat. After it dried, I wet the back of the paper with water and rubbed the paper off with my finger. Some of the image rubbed off, but most of it remained. 

I also created stencils for the backs of my cards out of cut-out cardstock. I placed the stencils on top of the cards and dabbed acrylic paint on them with a paintbrush. 

Teaching the workshop made me see how empowering and creative it is for individuals to make their own decks of cards. It was an amazing thing to witness.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of the wonderful things that came out of this workshop, and maybe you're inspired to make your own!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The "Underneath" Story

Note: I'm re-posting this from my art blog.

A reader commented on my 2014 Re-Cap post that her year was full of less tangible accomplishments than mine. I like that observation. It's true that some years are full of busy activity, and some can be more low-key in terms of visibility, but a lot can go on underneath the surface. I'm going to use my Golden Moth Illumination Deck to show you what 2014 felt like to me.

I receive e-mails with tips and quotes from a creative business coach named Alexis Fedor. One quote I liked a lot was by novelist Zora Neale Hurston:
"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."

For me, 2014 was a year for both. I asked a lot of questions and experimented with trying to get the results I thought I wanted. I'm still sorting through the answers. I wanted to find a way to make a reliable living through my art, to find a way out of the ups and downs. I wanted to prove myself. But the truth is, I'm still experimenting. And I doubt that will ever end. Maybe I thrive off of the ups and downs more than I'd care to admit.

As an artist, I have never liked being fully in the spotlight. I want to reach people and share with them through my art, blog, and newsletter, but sometimes I feel very exposed doing so. And last year I felt more exposed than ever.

I wanted to take on a new role last year. One of "business person." I put myself out there in ways that felt exciting but sometimes uncomfortable. I worked a lot with my printer, figuring out solutions to issues that came up and figuring out the best ways to print my products. I called store owners and sent out many e-mails to try to get my notecards into stores. I had some success with that. But trying to learn how to run the business and apply it immediately sometimes felt like this:

It was a balancing act and a lot of scrambling. I went from feeling triumphant when I received an order, to feeling scared and overwhelmed that I couldn't handle anything or that nothing would result from my endeavors.

By throwing myself into my business, I also realized that running a business is unlike anything else I have done. It's not a flight of fancy. To grow a business, I'll need to keep it going on a day-to-day basis. I need to think about the next steps, how to make things work better. I run on cycles. The idea of long-term anything can feel like a burden. I wondered, "Is this really what I want? If not this, then what else should I do?"

By the end of last year, I had reaped my harvest. I wasn't a millionaire, but I had achieved small financial successes. Through trial and experience, I had made some good decisions. But I didn't feel good about it. It didn't seem like enough. I didn't feel good enough.

Right before I traveled to Rochester, NY to visit my family for the Christmas holiday, I spent an evening with a friend. Through intense conversations over dinner, in the car, and on a chilly walk through my old neighborhood, we both experienced a catharsis. 

"I feel pathetic," I told him. There were so many things I wanted for my future - children, a family, to continue to be a working artist. And I still couldn't see how that would be possible. It felt like so much work just to keep afloat. I felt lost and in need of a change. 

I still judged myself so harshly based on my social/monetary standing in life. Over dinner, my friend and I realized that's silly! Modern society places so much emphasis on our social statuses. As humans, we can no longer be happy with just surviving. We need to prove ourselves to other people, to bolster our own egos, to strive for what is considered "success."

I placed so much emphasis on money, thinking it would bring me happiness. I thought I was being reasonable, that I need money to raise a family, to buy a house, to continue to make art. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting those things. But feeling like I'm not capable of achieving them has tortured me for so long. That night, I realized that those things were outside of myself. What matters most is how I feel.

Rather than trying to be someone worthy of feeling happiness, I just want to be happy. And for me, that means not trying to control the future. Not thinking Point A leads to Point B leads to Point C. Not trying to find the answers that will fix everything. I know my desire for control will flare up again and again. But when I get that anxious feeling of dread when I think about the future, I'll know that something is amiss. And I'll try to move toward the thing that feels better. Moment by moment.

It's been almost three weeks since I returned to Richmond from holiday, and this is where I'm at right now:

I feel like I'm floating through my life, incubating. I'm not trying to push myself too hard. Last year was a year of willfulness, of trying to put things in motion in the outside world. It taught me a lot. 

But I'm very tired from all that striving. Now I feel like retreating into the part of myself that bubbles with creativity, stories, visions, unknowns. I want to nurture the part of myself that doesn't want to be rational or successful. It's the part of me that creates for pure joy.

I want to write and illustrate the stories that have been living inside me, half-formed, for years. I don't want to think about the long-term plan right now or where my work will lead me. I just want to do it. 

I don't have all the answers. But answers just lead to more questions, anyway. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Golden Moth Giveaway + Shop Sale Through December 14th!

Finally, finally... After much poking and prodding of digital files and discussions with my printer, James River Press, the second printing of The Golden Moth Illumination Deck has arrived! This time, I had the cards printed digitally on a smooth cardstock and they were corner-rounded by the printer (taking the strain off my shoulders!) For those of you who haven't been following its progress, The Golden Moth Illumination Deck is a set of symbolic cards that I self-published in 2012 with the help of lovely people who backed my Kickstarter campaign. You can read about the whole sage here. They are oracle cards (kind of like tarot cards), meant to be used for divination or any creative purpose you can think of! Take a look:

I just finished listing them in my Etsy shop, Sprout Head, and this time around there are a few different purchasing options. You can now buy the deck separately from the handbook. If you buy just the deck, it comes with a brief fold-out information guide to get you started on using the cards. This guide gives advice on how to give a reading and interpret the cards and shows you one spread layout. It does not include individual symbol interpretations.

If you want that, you'll have to purchase the handbook. It contains all the information from the first handbook that I published, but it is updated with individual card interpretations. It comes as a hard copy and a PDF version. If you purchase the hard copy of the handbook alone or with the deck, you will also receive the PDF version as a FREE bonus! But note that this offer cannot be used retroactively if you purchase the PDF version first and the hard copy later. Sorry, no refunds. 

You can see the listings for all the different Golden Moth products here. I hope you are as excited about it as I am. In celebration, I'm offering two cool things: a giveaway and a shop sale! Read on:


I'm giving away Golden Moth Illumination Decks + Handbooks to TWO lucky winners! Giveaway ends on the evening (Eastern Standard Time) of Sunday, December 14th.

How to enter:
1. Leave a comment on the blog about why this deck should be yours (or gifted to a friend, if you so desire).
2. Check this blog on the evening (EST) of Monday, December 15th to find out if you've won. If you aren't subscribed to my blog or might forget to check back, please leave your e-mail address in your comment, but put some spaces between the words so the spam-bots don't steal it. I need a way to reach you if you win - VERY IMPORTANT!
3. If you know of someone who would be interested in this giveaway, please SHARE! I will be sharing this giveaway on my Golden Moth Blog, Sprout Head Facebook Page, Golden Moth Facebook Page, and Instagram. Pick your favorite social media link!


If you don't want to take your chances with the giveaway, how about taking 15% off your total purchase in my online shop, Sprout Head? Through Sunday, December 14th, use coupon code HOLIDAY2014  HAPPY2014 upon checkout to receive your discount. (The previous HOLIDAY code had a minimum order requirement, the HAPPY one does not!) You must enter the coupon upon checkout or you won't get your discount - it does not happen automatically.


Monday, November 10, 2014


I forgot to post about this before, but a couple of months ago someone had an image from the deck tattooed on their arm. What an honor!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Golden Moth Review by Charmed Finishing School

Oh my gosh, I meant to post about this earlier. This is a totally awesome review of my deck by Deborah Castellano of Charmed Finishing School. Now I only have 2 more limited edition decks, probably owing in large part to her! But don't worry, I'm going to print more decks this fall. Read the review here:

I also wanted to remark on her comment that she could separate the cards into piles of positives, neutrals, and negatives, but she could also see how they could be interpreted differently depending on the card groupings and positions. When I created the cards, I also had my own interpretations of each card. Even though I wanted the symbols to be flexible, there were some that I clearly saw as positive or negative. For example, card #55 with the cut hand. It was hard for me to see that card as positive. Since I have done so many readings with the deck, I've learned from other people their many different interpretations, and this has added to the deck to make it richer and more collaborative than I ever even imagined! Someone interpreted that card as being open to vulnerability, which was a very positive thing in her particular situation. This is where the magic of the deck mixes with the magic of the people who use it. It makes me so happy that this deck is out in the world.

I also really liked Deborah's comment:
"Not having to worry about more than a century of very intricate and specific interpretations of the cards actually made my readings more accurate."
This was exactly what I was hoping for with this deck. I created it as an artist, from my own personal experiences, and being naturally drawn to certain symbols. I thought about researching more into what each symbol should mean. I'm glad I didn't, because every person brings something different to the table with their own lives and outlooks.

Although after doing a survey of people who used the deck, when I release the commercial version of the new deck sometime this fall I will include an interpretation guide because some people really want it, and it'll serve as a "jumping-off point" rather than "set-in-stone"-type deal.

Thank you so much Deborah for a fabulous (and in some parts hilarious - see her footnote) review! Deborah is a frequent contributor to Occult/Pagan sources such as Llewellyn, Witchvox, PaganSquare and Witches & Pagans magazine. Deborah’s book, The Arte of Glamour is available for purchase on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Deborah also writes romantica fiction, sells handspun yarn and other goodies in her craft shop The Mermaid and The Crow and handcrafted items for magical/occult practice in her shop The Glamoury Apothecary.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Golden Moth 2nd Anniversary...and a Special Discount!

In early February of 2012, I launched my Kickstarter campaign to produce The Golden Moth Illumination Deck in a limited run of 300 decks. In mid-June of that year (2 months later than I had planned) I sent off the first decks to generous Kickstarter backers who supported me. It has now been over two years since it all began. Little did I know that the Golden Moth would sweep me up a whirlwind of fluttery wings and deposit me back on earth as a changed, and hopefully wiser, person.

I mailed deck #254 out of 300 last week, which means I only have around 40 or so decks left for purchase from the original edition and I'm keeping a few for myself. Last week I went through all of the remaining cards and finished sorting out the printing variations/errors so that the remaining cards would be ready for corner-rounding. 

Here are the last remaining cards on my shelf:

Some of you might remember when they took up a kitchen counter and two tables:

Back in 2012 I had arranged for my printers, Parcell Press, to print and trim the cards for me but I had decided to sort, collate, and corner-round the cards and assemble the boxes by hand in order to cut down on my costs. My boyfriend, parents, and a handful of friends helped me out as well. Before I received the cards, I had envisioned assembling all 300 of the decks within a relatively short span of time, maybe a couple months. After a couple of months of almost losing my mind from the pressure of delivering 127 Kickstarter rewards, I decided from then on the decks would be assembled in periodic small batches. I would spend literally hundreds of hours doing the aforementioned tasks for the next two years.

What led me to this situation was severely underestimating the time it would take me to do these tasks by hand. Why, oh why, did I not time myself in making a prototype from start to finish? Take corner-rounding. Each card has 4 corners to corner-round. Each deck consists of 75 cards. That's 300 corners per deck. That's 90,000 corners for 300 decks. Let me repeat that: NINETY-THOUSAND. Hmm, when you break it down like that, that's a lot of corners and a lot of potential shoulder pain.

Here are some other fun Golden Moth statistics: 

* For my Kickstarter campaign, I was backed by 127 people. Most were from the US, and 31 of those people lived in my current hometown of Richmond, VA. I also had 10 international backers from Canada, Australia, England, Singapore, Italy, New Zealand, and Norway.

* I raised $4,800, $800 more than my funding goal!

* 102 decks were purchased through the campaign.

* For the other Kickstarter rewards, I sent out 194 postcards, 67 notecards, 39 bookplates, 26 screenprints, 111 pieces of small original art, and gave 7 Intuitive Card Readings (like tarot readings but using the Golden Moth cards).

* I've given at least 30 Intuitive Card Readings to people using my pre-Golden Moth deck prototype, which was much smaller with loosely-drawn black-and-white images. I've given an estimated 50 or more readings to people in-person and online using the published Golden Moth deck.

The other day when I went through my Kickstarter campaign report to tally up these numbers, I read through the list of backers again. I re-experienced the amazed, encouraging feeling of having friends, relatives, and strangers donate money because they believed in me and my project. At one point during the midst of Golden Moth assembling madness, I told the people closest to me that if I knew it would be this hard, I might never have done the project at all. I don't handle stress well to begin with, but producing The Golden Moth Illumination Deck has been, to date, the biggest and most overwhelming project of my life. Now I look back and affirm that the statement was true, that I probably wouldn't have done it if I'd known.

And so I'm really glad I didn't know, because the deck has also been one of the most far-reaching and positive projects of my life. I made some new friends and became closer with friends I already had through the project. I've had many people tell me how much they've enjoyed and appreciated the deck, and how it has brought some clarity to their lives. I am very thankful for that. This has also been the most "collaborative" project I've ever done. The cards take on different meanings with each new owner, and their use and purpose goes beyond just me. I love that about the deck.

So I'm forging ahead with the next step. I would like The Golden Moth Illumination Deck to reach an even greater audience. I plan to make a larger commercial run of decks so that I can lower the per-unit cost of producing the decks and get more decks into stores and other venues. I don't want to do any more handwork on the decks in order to free up my time for promotion and creative energy (as opposed to corner-rounding). I also plan to revise and expand the handbook.

To celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of the Golden Moth and to pave the way for this new expansion, I'm now offering the limited edition deck in my shop, Sprout Head, for a $5 discount - from $50 to $45. Added to this, I'm offering a super-special (and super-short) sale in my shop that ends on Wednesday, June 15th. Use the coupon code FLYAWAY upon checkout and receive an ADDITIONAL 10% off your entire shop purchase! If you apply this to the deck, it will cost only $40.50 - that's $9.50 off the original price! Remember, you must apply the coupon code upon checkout or you won't get the additional discount. If you've been waiting to get your hands on this limited edition handmade version of the deck, don't delay or else they'll soon be gone!

I'm also offering a sweeter discount for those of you who already own a deck. If you complete this short survey, you are eligible to receive a coupon code for 20% off your entire store purchase. This coupon will expire on August 31st. To take the survey, click here. Please respond by the end of June if you want your feedback to be incorporated into the creation of the new deck and handbook. If you do not want to take the survey but would still like to provide feedback, feel free to post comments on this blog or leave a comment/message on my Golden Moth Facebook page:

Happy 2nd Birthday, Golden Moth!