Joe Stretch - Master of Technique

Artists and Creators in conversations about their work
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Joan Marie

Joe Stretch - Master of Technique

Post by Joan Marie » 04 Oct 2017, 15:58

Art is about making choices. To create something from nothing you have to decide how every little piece is going to fit based on dozens of parameters. And the result, the finished work is the culmination of all those myriad choices. It's kind of like a puzzle only you don't have a box lid to see where you're going.
When he created The Stretch Tarot Deck, the artist Joe Stretch, using the technique of collage, had to make what I imagine must have felt like a million choices. And the result is 78 individual richly textured worlds that somehow form an arcane connection to each other.
I contacted him and he very kindly agreed to this Eclectic Interview. What follows is my conversation with a very open and inspired new Tarot Deck Creator, the artist behind The Stretch Tarot, Joe Stretch.

___________________________________ Q. Joe, I am dying to get this deck! Your web page says it is currently out of print but that a new printing is on the way. Any idea when we’ll be able to order it again?

A. Thank you! I’ve had a lot of interest in the second edition. I’m working on it now as I’m rejigging the packaging and the little white book. I’m sending off for a test print and if there are no problems, it will be available mid/late October 2017 – an official release date will be posted on by Facebook and Tumblr (@stretchtarot).

Q. You have a lot of books in your house, don’t you?

A. I love this question. I’m currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at Royal Holloway University of London. There’s nothing quite like browsing second-hand bookshops – it’s a big source of creative inspiration and you can see some literary influence in The Stretch Tarot. For example, I was reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the time I made the Ace of Wands. I’m also sharing a house with four other English students, so yes, there are a lot of books in our house!

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Q. Is this the first Tarot deck you’ve made?

A. Yes! Making a tarot deck of my own appealed to me since I first started getting interested in tarot reading. It wasn’t until I saw the beautiful independent decks The Silent Tarot by Esmeralda M. Rupp-Spangle and The Antiquarian Lenormand by Maree Bento that I decided to give a collaged deck a go. I learned a lot from the project, and looking back there are a lot of things I would have done differently. I’m happy with the reception of the deck and I am inspired to move forward and produce what will hopefully turn out to be better-executed decks. I’m currently working on a Lenormand, which is a different system to tarot and has been a very different experience. You can follow the progress on Facebook and Tumblr.

Q. Your collage work has a real richness to it, a real depth (figuratively and literally) created by the layers that makes it so intriguing for reading. Each card feels like a world. Can you tell us about some of your choices of backgrounds and other elements?

A. Thank you. I used a lot of different methods and mediums to create the backgrounds, and foregrounds, for the cards. For example, I used melted wax for the V of Cups; paper scraps and washes of paint for many of the cards, as in the V of Cups; fabric scraps for cards such as The Fool and VII of Wands; and simple cut and paste jobs cards like Judgement and IX of Swords, which are my personal favourite and best received cards.

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Q. Can you tell us a little bit about how you went about your work? Was it card by card, in some order or random?

A. I started with the Major Arcana, and then went on the Minors. It didn’t have much of a plan starting the deck, but wanted to start with the Majors to help set the tone, but did the Minors in random order as and when I was inspired. It was an erratic way of working but I suppose that’s what gives the deck its unique feel. I did remake a lot of the cards as I went through, as the style seemed to evolve on its own accord, and certain cards didn’t seem to fit anymore.

Q. One of the most interesting things about the design of your deck is it is completely cohesive despite having so few common elements between cards. Typically decks have similarities in borders, in suits, but not this one. What to you is/are the common design threads the hold the 78 cards together so beautifully?

A. I think the only reason it has some sense of cohesion is down to the images I selected to use in the artwork. They were all manipulated in different ways, making each card unique, however, they are all based on vintage photographs and classical artwork. Vintage photography especially lends a very particular taste, and contrasted with the modern, mixed media style it creates an aesthetic that is very interesting. I also think that the use of the keywords on the Minor Arcana helps to tie them all together and focus them on their meaning.

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Q. You did a brave thing by putting a keyword on each card. People have different views on the use of keywords like this but as Nemia said in her review, the keywords on these cards are so well chosen. How did you choose the keywords and why did you decide to include them?

A. I decided to include the keywords because when I started making the deck, I wasn’t very practiced at reading the cards. I liked to use key words when using tarot cards as a quick memory-jog, and so I decided I would include them. I wouldn’t choose to do it again on future decks, however I do feel that it works for The Stretch Tarot and helps to clarify some of the less traditional artworks. The keywords are largely based on Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot; however, I have changed some of them to suit my own interpretation. I’m really pleased to hear that people get on with the key words I have chosen.

Q. This deck is self-published. How is that going for you?

A. I always felt that trying to get The Stretch Tarot professionally published would be a nightmare with the collage style. The images are all in the public domain and free from copyright restrictions, however, I didn’t keep a strict record of the images I used and their sources while I was making the deck. I’m glad self-publishing is an option. It’s given me full control of the project and a platform on which I can now publicize and sell future projects,www.stretchtarot.com. I hope for the company to grow and eventually sell other products, not just tarot.

Q. You did a Kickstarter for this deck and it looks like you got a really positive response. How did you feel when you saw the enthusiasm and support of the Tarot Deck-Collecting community for your work?

A. I’ve been very lucky in finding a supportive and enthusiastic audience that helped fund the first printing through Kickstarter. It was thrilling to get such a positive response am I am still genuinely surprised with people’s continued interest. It’s been great that by self-publishing, I’ve had a lot of interaction with my customers. I’m always happy to hear from people and answer their questions.

Q. How long did you work on this deck?

A. I worked on the deck, on and off, for about two years. It was something I would do in the evenings and I would make one card every few weeks. I could make a tarot deck a lot faster now!

Q. How did you feel when it was finished?

A. I was so proud of myself, and still am, for completing what over a two year period became a massive long-term project. Going into it, I didn’t appreciate how much time and energy it would take, but making 78 cards is a lot of work! I take off my hat to the people who have made, or are making a tarot deck, and I’m glad I can name myself among them.

I want to thank Joe Stretch again for taking the time to share his thoughts and experiences with us.

You can see Joe's work and learn more about it at his website: www.stretchtarot.com


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2dogs
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Re: Joe Stretch - Master of Technique

Post by 2dogs » 05 Oct 2017, 01:40

That certainly does look like a lot of work :icon_e_surprised: . The collage technique though has resulted in a distinctive deck, I like like the idea of doing a bit of physical creation rather than image editing :thumbup: .
If the Lord Almighty had consulted me before embarking on creation thus, I should have recommended something simpler. Alfonso X (the Wise)

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Joan Marie

Re: Joe Stretch - Master of Technique

Post by Joan Marie » 05 Oct 2017, 02:13

2dogs wrote:
05 Oct 2017, 01:40
I like like the idea of doing a bit of physical creation rather than image editing :thumbup: .
Me too. I thought that was really interesting. Melted wax and wallpaper scraps? So cool. Such beautiful effects.

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Nemia
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Re: Joe Stretch - Master of Technique

Post by Nemia » 05 Oct 2017, 04:45

Wonderful interview, wonderful deck. The creators of two of my favorite decks talking to each other!

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