Friday, July 1, 2016

SEERS AND SAGES: INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNTAIN TAROT CREATORS, ANDI TODARO AND JASON GRUHL



 
The Fountain Tarot, created by Johnathan Saiz,  written by Jason Gruhl, designed by Andi Todaro




Welcome to The Divination Nation blog!

 We are Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf, a duo of divination divas, “spiritual sisters from another mister”. We’re life-long Tarotistas, obsessed with all things esoteric and paranormal. Look for our forthcoming book, “Walking The Tarot Path” in late 2016.
 We’ve created this blog to share our knowledge and to connect with the vibrant worldwide metaphysical and paranormal community. We hope it’s as fun for you to read as it is for us to write…Enjoy!

The Fountain Tarot is one of the most popular-and gorgeous- decks on the market today. It’s got a clean and modern look that still  reflects the meaning and mysticism of traditional Tarot cards. Because of this, it has become a favorite among serious readers and Tarot students, but it has also become somewhat of a pop culture sensation…it’s probably the only Tarot deck that’s ever gotten a write up in Vogue magazine!

 The Fountain Tarot was created by three astoundingly talented people from Denver, Colorado:  designer Andi Todaro, writer Jason Gruhl and  artist  Johnathan  Saiz.  Each of the creators are so multi-talented  that it would be nearly impossible  to list all their accomplishments here… so make sure to visit their website, where you can read all about this lovely deck, see up-coming events, and purchase the deck itself: http://www.fountaintarot.com/home.html

We had a pow-wow with Andi and Jason to discuss all things Fountain, and here’s what they had to say:

Divination Nation: You three are all amazingly creative people whose different styles and artistic disciplines really seem to mesh. You’re a very cohesive, but kind of eccentric trio… your artistic talents all compliment each other, but are very individualized. How did you all first meet?

Jason Gruhl: I met Jonathan by coincidence at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I was at a Fundraising breakfast and he was painting a mural of Pompeii. We caught eyes, and then a week later we randomly were on the same train going through the mountains of Colorado. We started dating a few years ago and got married this past fall. :) I met the beautiful Andi through Jonathan, but didn't know her all that well until this project. Now, she's a dear friend and one of the most incredible people I know on the planet. I don't know when she sleeps. 
Andi Todaro,  Fountain Tarot designer

Andi Todaro: I was introduced to Jason through Jonathan because they were dating, and I worked for Jason for a minute while he was the Director at a school for autism. Jonathan and I met at a party in college. I saw him trying to hit on someone with a mask he had made, and I asked if I could have it, and the rest is history.



 Divination Nation: So, how did you decide to make a Tarot deck?

 Andi Todaro: I've always wanted to make a deck. It was on my bucket list, but I have a habit of shying away from projects that will take years to complete. Jonathan often would get readings from be between crazy trips away to other countries. He'd ask where his career was going, or whether or not to leave, or whether to stay… etc. Those were really sweet moments in our relationship.
 Johnathan and Jason were asking the Tarot what (painting) series Jonathan should make next, and apparently the cards dropped all over the floor! So, Jonathan wanted to make a deck, but with a spin, and then brought our three elements together to make it a reality. It was in such infancy at the very beginning, it grew into what it is as we made it and still continues to change.

Jason Gruhl: Andi and I had both dabbled in Tarot more than Jonathan. I played with it in college, but nothing serious. Andi had mentioned to Jonathan years ago that he should make a Tarot deck but he wasn't interested at the time. Finally, we went to Mexico on a vacation and I had thrown a Tarot deck in my bag just for fun. Jonathan was struggling with figuring out what his next (painting) series should be. He had just come off of eight months in Greece working on another pretty successful series of large pieces about a year and a half previous, but wanted to do smaller works. I pulled out the Tarot deck (Robin Wood), and we started laying cards out to ask what he should do. His eyes bulged out of his head and he was like, "I'm going to do a Tarot deck...and you're going to write it...and Andi's going to design it." And that was the beginning of the actual momentum I think.

Divination Nation:  And then?

Andi Todaro: Jonathan and Jason asked me to just help them originally; I don't think they had any idea how much effort it would take from all of us. I said there was no way they could just hire me to do this. Ha. But, whew. It's been a really long and wonderful and crazy ride. We started talking about it in July of 2013, logo was solidified Nov 2013 after Jonathan and Jason had already moved to Mexico, they had been there for 8 months when we all created and launched the Kickstarter in July of 2014. Almost half the paintings were completed and about the same of the booklet at this time, we were still were deciding on the box, but the typography and the backs I created in Mexico at the same time. After the paintings were done, we completed photographing only a few them in Denver, and laid out the completed edited book, and designed the box.  It was sent to print in March, proofs in April, and then production and shipping. Launch party July of 2015.

Jason Gruhl: I think we all have a slightly different answer to this, but...Andi and I had both dabbled in Tarot more than Jonathan. I played with it in college, but nothing serious. Andi had mentioned to Jonathan years ago that he should make a Tarot deck but he wasn't interested at the time. Finally, we went to Mexico on a vacation and I had thrown a Tarot deck in my bag just for fun. Jonathan was struggling with figuring out what his next series should be. He had just come off of eight months in Greece working on another pretty successful series of large pieces about a year and a half previous, but wanted to do smaller works. I pulled out the Tarot deck (Robin Wood), and we started laying cards out to ask what he should do. His eyes bulged out of his head and he was like, "I'm going to do a Tarot deck...and you're going to write it...and Andi's going to design it." And that was the beginning of the actual momentum I think.

 
Jason Gruhl, Fountain Tarot writer

 Divination Nation: Was it a labor of love? A total whirlwind? Spontaneous combustion?

Andi Todaro: All of the above! There were meltdowns, and complete revelations. I've never felt more sadness or joy than during the making of The Fountain Tarot. Most of those experiences didn't directly have to do with the deck, more to do with the relationships around it. You really have to trust and love the people you're collaborating with when you're working on something as spiritual, meaningful and aesthetic as this. People have different opinions and different tolerances. I think it's the same story for most deeply meaningful creative projects with friends. And, stress- the stress of not knowing where you're going, the stress of putting all this time and love into something you appreciate deeply but no one may pay any attention to at the end, the stress of each other and our neurosis. And, almost every card in there between the written word, the painting, and the conversations about all of that, probably is at least a full week each of our lives. We were tested, and I think we passed.

Jason Gruhl:  It took about 2 years from inception to decks in our hands, but the actual creation was probably more like an intense year. Now remember, Jonathan and I were in a small Mexican village with NO distractions working on this. It probably could take a lot longer, but there's something to letting a project percolate too. You certainly don't even get what you're doing or what you have until many, many months, into the project. At some point, you just have to start and know that you are going to have some real dogs at the beginning (no offense to dogs - where did that saying come from?). The coolest parts was that, as you say, we are all artists in our own right, and were allowed to play and explore on our own, but at some point, we all had to have it play together and we did this pretty well.

Divination Nation: Any anecdotes about creating the deck?

A.T. Plenty of them, but I think my favorite is about the Wheel of Fortune. It was the last painting Jonathan did, and the one he just felt like he couldn't complete. He came to my house, and just said I don't care what you do; just take this from me, which in a way is perfect for the card itself. So, I ended up finishing it for him. But don't tell him I told you! :)

Jason Gruhl: I did all of the initial research that informed Jonathan's paintings from the early Italian decks through today. He then took that framework and then made it his own. The process was pretty cool. I created a matrix that would compare a card across multiple decks (so I had 78 matrices at the end) and I would look at symbology, style, and all features of the visuals. Then I would do the same for meanings and reversals across time. I was looking for what remained consistent across hundreds of years, what changed, and what was the essence of each card. I would then write a little description that said, "You HAVE to include these things. These other things come and go and are discretionary, and this is the vibe of the card (this was Jonathan's idea: 0% Total dread and darkness to 100% joy and bliss)". Jonathan would take that information, disappear, and come back with a visual that almost ALWAYS blew me away. I would think, "How did you come up with THAT based on what I gave you?" But he was really tuned in to his vision and the contemporary translation of it all.

 Divination Nation: How do you prepare for your work together and individually? 
 Your artistic work as well as your divination work?

Jason Gruhl: We communicate A LOT. Email, meetings, dinners and drinks. I think we've all gotten better at just listening to what the others really want for themselves out of this project. We all know each other so well now that we can anticipate what triggers or flare-ups each of us might have at different ideas. In the end, we keep trying to bring it back to having fun with it. It's a pretty exciting project, and the ideas we have for the future with it are nothing but fun (and a lot of work). Preparing for divination, we take it all very seriously, but only in terms of taking people's lives seriously, not the formality of Tarot per se. We've found a great balance between honoring the tradition and the structure of Tarot while letting it breathe a little, making it more "everyday" and common I think. We want to see people using it in their lives, asking it questions, looking for new viewpoints to drive them forward. We don't want it to be some holy relic that sits in a velvet bag and gets pulled out every few months. It's meant to be used and enjoyed, as a reflection of life, with all of the great moments, and the really shitty ones. :)


 AT: I'm usually working so hard and fast that there isn't any time to prepare for it, it's just already happening. I think funny enough that's my goal for 2016 is to spend more time in contemplation about what has already happened, in a way, that's preparing for what will come next. For divination, it's spontaneous; I get hot flashes, like it's time to read now! Or, you have to take a bath and light candles and just let it all flow out all the imagery and energy of what's trying to come up out through you.

Most of the time I spend alone making things, reading, or sleeping. I dream intensely in every different manner, so waking life is often in competition with that. I'm extremely sensitive but I think the most beautiful thing about living is experiencing everything to the extremes and every shade in-between.

DN:  Let us know about any other metaphysical disciplines you practice, and what you enjoy about them- how “into” them you are… and do you combine them with tarot?

AT: Waking dreaming, I don't know if that's a thing. I casually study numerology, palmistry, and I love phrenology and graphology- more of the pseudo-sciences. I haven't really combined them. I was really just a casual reader before we made The Fountain Tarot, and it's made me love it so much more and understand it more clearly, and now I've been doing Tarot for teenagers a lot. They're the best people to read for in my opinion.

JG: Preparing for divination, we take it all very seriously, but only in terms of taking people's lives seriously, not the formality of Tarot per se. We've found a great balance between honoring the tradition and the structure of Tarot while letting it breathe a little, making it more "everyday" and common I think. We want to see people using it in their lives, asking it questions, looking for new viewpoints to drive them forward. We don't want it to be some holy relic that sits in a velvet bag and gets pulled out every few months. It's meant to be used and enjoyed, as a reflection of life, with all of the great moments, and the really shitty ones.

I've always loved magic and divination, but I wouldn't call myself an expert on any of them. Tarot is my favorite and I've become moderately facile with it, but I also love runes and some oracles. 


Johnathan Saiz, creator of The Fountain Tarot

DN: You all are creative powerhouses. What other kind of art do you make?
AT: In addition to making Tarot decks, I make other awesome things like stained glass, leather goods, brochures and brands and logos, sewn things, quilts and crocheted hats and dolls, and magazines, and jewelry, and drawing machines, and art. . I see all of my life as this work, so it's a blessing and curse to always be working.

JG:  In addition to making Tarot decks, I write children's books and other projects that deal with consciousness, and the concept of really being present and awake to what you are as a powerful human being and to all of the possibilities in your life. I am hoping to have at least one of my children's books published this summer, and another two in the next year.

DN: Tell us about your future plans… working on another deck or decks? World domination?

AT: I am probably going to keep doing the same things, art everyday, meeting new people, loving. We may make another deck, this one still is so amazing to me I'm not ready to move on from caring for it intensely at the moment. I would love to create some games and video art. We want to see The Fountain Tarot end up in every corner of the world, yes, not domination, but peaceful omniscient presence.

JG: Well, besides world domination, we are going to continue focusing on The Fountain Tarot and making sure that it is available globally at stores outside of English-speaking countries. We are looking to translate at some point soon into a couple of other languages. It's really important to us that if this truly is something that can make a difference in people's lives, that it is available. Of course that is good for business, but that's actually a secondary concern for us. We really are passionate about having this deck everywhere, and having it bring some peace of mind or beauty to people. 

For the rest of this year, we have a couple of other surprises up our sleeves, but we can't divulge them yet. They are products that we think lots of people will love related to The Fountain. ;) We are aiming for summer for one of the products, and the end of the year for the other...

In the future, we have more ideas for the deck: special editions, hopefully an expanded book, etc. But we want the things we offer to really give back to the original notion of the deck. I think merchandising can go too far sometimes in terms of milking a concept, and we're trying to really keep some integrity around what we do and how it relates to our deck itself, Tarot, and the world of it all. 


DN: How have your lives changed since the Fountain Tarot was published?

AT: I have to see Jonathan a lot more often than before. LOL. We have cute business meetings, and we're all pretty much tethered to Denver to see that it runs smoothly since we mail packages out everyday almost. We get constant emails, videos, messages, notes, in person conversations, invitations to read, from all over the world from people who just dig the deck and it's the most incredible feeling to know that you had a part in making something that in turn has changed people's lives and they've let you know about it. I am completely humbled by this and still have not gotten used to it.

JG: Well, I think for me, it's given a confidence that things can be created out of nothing that really resonate with lots of people. At this point, The Fountain is sold all over the world, in over 38 countries I think, and we hear the same feedback no matter where it goes, and it's positive. That fact has changed my life, and it's made me think that anything can be created as long as you stay with it and have a strong connection to the difference it could make. None of us are retiring anytime soon off of the royalties, but to also be compensated for something we love that was creative has been really powerful too. It's made me never want to work at something that doesn't make my heart happy. I think that gift alone was worth making the deck

DN: Many of our readers are interested in creating their own decks… would you please share some tips and advice?

AT: Perseverance and attention to detail. Stick with it, and spend enough time on the whole thing to address every aspect of it, because in the end it will radiate what you put into it.

JG: My advice for people wanting to create their own deck:
Don't create a deck just to create one. There are so many out there, and you can feel the ones with soul and bite to them. They don't have to be earth shattering, but I guess my point is having a connection to what you are doing. Know why you are doing it, and be really clear about that. 
Just start. I have a tendency to want to have all of the right materials, the concept mapped out, to essentially head off at the pass anything that could go wrong, and that kills creativity. I constantly have to sort of run through that process, acknowledge it, laugh and then start from nothing. Just start. Know you will make some horrible cards, and write some terrible meanings. You can go back and revise anytime. 

Live with it  - give it some time. These things take on a life and vibe of their own. I like to think of myself as a conduit, and less as a generator. I'm definitely filtering through me own unique human existence, but ultimately this is life speaking. Be quiet enough, and give it enough time, so you can hear what is happening. Those magical moments are what make something incredible. So, don't be a control freak. Let it evolve and be its own thing. 

Hold it close, but don't be afraid to share. Ultimately, you want this to be out in the world. Spend enough time with it so it really has your unique flavor attached to it, but then don't be afraid to share it with a close friend or someone you trust to get feedback. I think that going back and forth is important - making it your own, and testing it out in the world. 

If you can collaborate, do it. I can't count the times I have thanked the universe for Andi and Jonathan. We all bring different skills, and The Fountain Tarot is ten times better because we were willing to bend and be flexible with each other, and to try on different ideas. Ultimately, quality rises, and the process of questioning over and over boiled it all down to some really beautiful and essential pieces. 

Don't take yourself too seriously. We are each unique, beautiful people, and we each have a role to play. Don't make your project SO important that it paralyzes you. Some people will love your deck. Some people will hate it. It has nothing to do with you. Keep going. Have fun. And be open to what the experience can bring your personally. 



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Pleasant and Crystal; photos: Maharet Hughes/Graphic Vibe
 

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