Tarot Talks Volume VIII: An interview with Taylor Ellis, creator of the Ellis Deck

Hi my beautiful souls! I hope that you are reading this surrounded with the most beautiful love and light! As many of us in this area have our backs recovering from shoveling ourselves out of 25 feet of snow, we have the time to reflect on what we would like to manifest this spring! I know that many of you are over the winter time. However, we cannot complain much because we have had very unseasonably warm temperatures, but the blizzard that we just had killed that! Taylor Ellis has created a deck that is rich in imagery and color, he has pushed the boundaries of what many have imagined the Rider Waite can be and created a cast of characters that are as charming as they are unique. I hope that you enjoy this volume of Tarot Talks, this deck brings warmth and color on dark days!

-HERU JEROME

Interview
Taylor Ellis creator of the Ellis Deck

 

Taylor Ellis has taken Chögyam Trungpa’s words to heart and has infused a sense of humor and whimsy into his deck. However, these characters are not a laughing manner they address all of the arcs in the Tarot with a style and sense of color that is unique to Taylor’s pallet. This deck is timeless, and will be on many reading tables for years to come.


Worthy Tarot: Tell me about yourself, where are you from & where are you currently? How have these locations influenced what you do creatively?

TE: I’m from Richardson, Texas. I currently live in Dallas, Texas. That’s not very far geographically for one to have moved from their hometown, but I like to think that narratively, it’s been a great distance. I feel like my 36 years have been host to several different incarnations of what I would consider to be the whole me. I’ve been a graphic designer, a bartender, a barista, a figurative art model, not to mention all the side-trips and detours it’s taken to get to where I do art for myself. I would say as a creative person and definitely a weirdo, living in these places strengthened my use of imagination. Without trying to put anywhere down, I’ve spent my life in a pretty conservative place that can be repressive, at best, to the individual in one’s everyday life. I have met many wonderful, and creative people, but that in the day-to-day, you’ll find most people trying as hard as they can to fit some ideological role as the serious adult. People don’t really know what to do with things they find weird, and I’ve felt in a lifelong quest to FIND the weird in everyone. I was always looking to enhance reality by making things more than they seemed. I would spend at least an hour and a half a day just straight daydreaming when I was younger.

 Taylor Ellis, creator of the Ellis Deck

Taylor Ellis, creator of the Ellis Deck

WT: What drew you to Tarot, what aspects of your energy have found their way into your deck? How does this make your deck unique?

TE:  Specifically, David Palladini’s work on the Aquarian deck drew me to Tarot. I feel like his imagery has a very modern look despite being several decades old. It manages to have a very bold appearance for the amount of muted colors he used. Not just to colors, but the fantasy look to his imagery does just the trick to get my imagination going. That was what really got to me. I saw this great feat in creation and imagined what an artist must go through to sincerely create a read-able Tarot deck. When I draw, I love world-building and I think this is what drew me in. It was such an opportunity to create 78 different windows into a universe that would only exist if I made it do so. It is probably the years spent as a designer mixed in with my love for colorful imagery that gives the deck its uniqueness. My work was constantly rejected for being too “cartoony” or too “busy.” Most design work I was offered was to make things “simple and clean” and free from any characters, especially ones in an animated pose. I’m also not the most serious person in the world, so there is still a little humor in even the darker cards. I believe the words of Chögyam Trungpa when he wrote that “A sense of humor cuts through everything.”


WT: We are entering an Air Age which is associated with thought. When you examine air it can blow everything around that is not tethered. People are trying to find their footing and light as they enter this age and are drawn to the magic and spirituality of the Tarot. The face of the tarot just like our new age is changing, how do you feel your deck lends to this revolution?

TE: You know, this is the question that made me put off the interview for two weeks. 


I have a lot to say about this revolution and especially the dichotomy of the thoughts shaping it as well. You want to have an open mind, but at the same time, you don’t want one so empty that the wind blows through it. You have people interested in psychedelics for their abilities to work with the mind and personality, but we also live in this time of excess where we fixate on the bliss of the experience. It’s like we fall in love with how fun it is to look at a map, and forget to take the journey afterwards. We would rather just get the map back out and see if there’s any little spot we haven’t seen on it before, we don’t necessarily want to commit to saving the money or organizing the time to take the physical journey that goes along with the head trip. It’s so important that we don’t separate the metaphysical from the physical when we function in reality. We can’t be drifting off to fantasies of other realms that we think we will disappear into if we would just get our breathing right and kill the ego. It’s better that we know the ego is like money, it kind of sucks, but it is a tool we have to use in this world. You have people claiming they are hippies, but they simply bought the costume and all the accessories, and may not even have a practice of kindness with others. We are embarking on a discovery of the self, but we have to remember that everyone else deserves the chance to do this freely and responsibly as well. So if we are on this trip, we have to be an example, not caught up in the idea we are on some level above others for doing it.


I think that Tarot, when used correctly, has the same benefits as the personal inventory that we take when we “trip” out. It was so important for me to really have my own over and understanding of the card meanings before attempting to represent them myself. I wanted to cut out a lot of the bullshit that people get so obsessed with when they first get into Tarot. Particularly in some of the older decks, you pull the Empress card, and you can get lost in how it may tie into the sign of Taurus, and what is must mean that the letter “YOD” is all over the Tower card and you forget the overall lesson of how the card plays into your life simply already, and you don’t have to try and forecast for Empress energy is going to wreck next April for you. This is why I stopped trying to call myself a fortune teller. You only get readings on that level. Someone wants to separate out their love life or their career from the rest of their life and have a mystic tell them exactly when they can expect to get what they want. If they spend their time understanding the growth available in each card, they may realize they ALWAYS have those things they think they want. You can’t tell someone that though, so it’s best if you help them relate to the cards to the point where they have that conversation with themselves and the cards. 


Just because I don’t think we all need to play like we are wizards and descendants of traveling fortune tellers or that we are 1/64th Native American doesn’t mean that it’s not what draws people in to begin with. Before we understand the true work we are doing, this sounds very appealing. Magic is not seeing the strings pulling what is in front of us, but the fact there ARE strings doesn’t make the reality that pulls those strings any less amazing. By giving the deck the ability to be fantasy, but not making it outright cryptic, it gives as mush space to the querent as it does the reader to have a real alchemical conversation. You use the initial bullshit to heat the flames, and then once you really get cooking, the self-tied into this physical world is faced with the dual reality they are trying to work with. Jim Baker (The patriarch of the Source Family cult) was a mess, but when he said “You can do anything you want in this world as long as you are kind” he was really looking into something true. My hope is that people stop trying to look chapters ahead in a book they are writing themselves. 


WT: What inspires you and how was that inspiration incorporated into your deck?


TE: At first, I wanted to answer that it is my hikes through nature and my conversations with others. The truth is, those things inspire me to be in the moment that I experience those things in, I don’t try to rob those experiences for my work later on. Cartoons inspire me, video games inspire me, myths inspire me. It is that escape from reality that is part of the dance of reality itself. I get sucked in by a call story with elves or androids or deities and then I start to think about the world it took to MAKE that world. It took the whole universe doing what it does to make someone have the life that makes them want to create something. So really, when you look at a cartoon, it is not nonsense, it is as much a nexus of the universe as each individual ego. These are the things that make me want to make. The deck was a chance to personally comment on the is-ness of the is and to do it with pretty pictures, which I love.  


WT: If you could use a film, artists, novels to make your dream Tarot deck what would that be? (I have a couple NeverendingStory Tarot, Pippi Longstocking Tarot, Julie Heffernan Tarot like please now!!!!)


TE: I would love a Holy Mountain Tarot Deck. Jodorowsky has a brilliant understanding of the workings of the Tarot and the self, and that movie is such a commentary on reality that is practically a deck itself. The adult kid in me would love to play with a Naruto Tarot. If Kurt Vonnegut had authored a Tarot, it would have been as adorable as his books. I know that Brian Froud has an oracle deck out (I have it), but I would have loved to see a Dark Crystal deck.


WT: Would you ever create another deck, think about this one as I know 78 cards are a huge undertaking!


TE: Maybe after I live some more life. Right now, I’m pretty wrapped up in creating a graphic novel. I have about twenty-eight pages of it completed, and I know that it will be well over 100 by the time I feel it’s complete. I would say that it is demanding more energy that the Tarot did, but that if I had not completed a Tarot deck, I would have no idea how to channel this out. Every now and then, I get a different idea of one of the Major Arcana, but I don’t have any desire to put myself through the minors any time soon. I can’t speak for myself for any time later than now, however. I have had the pleasure of meeting authors who have made multiple decks, and they are truly incredible, but I don’t think that is me.


WT: If someone is interested in your deck how would they get a hold of you?


TE: The shortest number of moves is to go straight to http://www.ellistrations.bigcartel.com
You can also buy the app from the Fools Dog for iOS and Android. I actually love them for daily cards because of the automatic journaling feature that lets me look at patterns in cards and my own thinking. 
I always suggest going to http://ellistrations.net, I do like to blog about a Tarot card or two from time to time. It is mostly a ghost-town because of the demands of the graphic novel and my reluctance to show in completed work. That is not to say that new things don’t show up there from time to time.