Interview with Mary Griffin
by Bonnie Cehovet
People and projects come to my attention in many different ways. Even before I started to hear the Internet buzz on the Hezicos Tarot, by artist/author Mary Griffin, it was brought to my attention by my friend Arnell Ando (“Transformational Tarot”). Arnell has introduced me to some of the most beautiful decks that I have worked with, and I am very grateful that she nudged this one my way!
“The Hezicos Tarot” is a gentle, lovely faerie themed deck following the Rider-Waite tradition. Of course, because it is a theme deck, it takes a few side trips of its own! I asked Mary if she would be willing to do an interview on this deck, and she agreed.
BC: I have really enjoyed working with this deck! Can you tell us a little bit about how Tarot came into your life, and what it means to you?
MG: My first tarot deck, the Rider-Waite, was given to me as a birthday present many years ago. It was in a gold wooden box which I thought was very pretty but to be honest never gave much attention to the cards and put it away in a drawer for years. It was not until my children had grown up that I started down my own tarot road and got completely addicted to that little gold box and its contents.
I endeavoured to absorb as much information as I could. I read many books, bought far too many decks and fell completely in love with Tarot! For over 20 years now I have been giving readings, one to one or at shows and loved every minute. I must admit I have stopped going to shows now and slowed down my readings as other things to do with my art work take most of my time.
It is a privilege to be able to walk with tarot through my life, I never take it for granted, not for one minute. Tarot never ceases to amaze me.
BC: You have a background in art – can you tell us a bit about that? What subjects do you really enjoy painting?
MG: I have always painted Bonnie and cannot remember a time when there were not any paint brushes somewhere in my home. I was very lucky to come from an artistic family and my father always encouraged my brother, sister and myself in our painting/drawing.
It’s quite a contradiction but when I wanted to go to Art College, my father would not allow me to go. In the late 1960’s he was convinced Art College were full of dreadful hippies and we all know what that meant!! So, I never got to go and instead learnt to type and became a legal secretary. It did not stop me painting though.
My favourite subjects to paint are animals, I love to put them in strange settings, I guess you could describe my style as “surrealism”. I am at present working on a large painting which is very unusual.
BC: Would you share with us the “Trompe l’oeil” work that you do. What does this consist of?
MG: Again it was my Father, many years ago who first introduced me to Trompe l’oeil. He had his own antique restoration business and would often be asked to place an image or some Trompe l’oeil on a piece of furniture. I started with playing cards first on a box..it sold, I was amazed. I didn’t do very much Trompe l’oeil while my children were young, just a few commissions here and there.
It is a highly skilled form of art and takes an immense amount of patience. The item that you are painting on the piece of furniture has to look, when completed, 3D. All aspects of shadow must be observed, every inch of the subject must be accurately copied onto the furniture. The most difficult subject to reproduce on a piece of furniture using Trompe l’oeil is a photograph.
I have painted a coin on a box, left it out in a show I did, and watched someone trying to pick it up. You know then you have cracked the art of Trompe l’oeil! I learnt the technical side from books and just kept practicing.
BC: What made you decide to do a deck of your own?
MG: I am sure everyone at some time on their tarot journey has been down the same road as me. You buy the deck that you have been desperate to get hold of for months, you get home make a coffee..the excitement builds up as you rush to undo the wrapping and get in that box. Only to be disappointed yet again by something about the deck you don’t like. It can be the weight of the cards, the borders, the style on some of the cards. The Minor Arcana being pip cards and you didn’t do your research properly.
I have bought some fabulous decks and some real goofs! So I decided to create my own deck which would have everything in it that I liked..very selfish I know. It was only when I started to doing the preliminary sketches did I realize what a huge undertaking I had begun.
BC: How did you make the decision to self publish?
MG: Very simply Bonnie. I did not want my deck to look the same as some of the other mass marketed decks out there. One of the things that really puts me off a deck is having about six versions in six different languages of the name of the card. I also don’t like those tiny white books. Believe me it took months and months of research to find the printer that I used for The Hezicos Tarot.
BC: How did you make the decision to do a borderless deck? This is one of the things that draws me in – the fact that the imagery goes clear to the edge of the card, which makes it much easier to enter for journey and meditation purposes.
MG: Bonnie, that is my sentiment exactly. I have always preferred borderless decks, I feel the borders on some decks are far to ornate, thus detracting you from the image the card wishes to convey. I wanted my illustrations to look like small canvases that you could spend some time looking around. I do hope that they will be used for meditation that would be lovely.
BC: The Magician in this deck carries his very own secret. In the spirit of transparency, I have to say that I could not decipher the secret. Can you give our readers a clue as to where they can find it? The second step – deciphering – they will have to take on their own!
MG: Yes, Bonnie there is a message on the open pages of the book in front of the Magician, I know its small, but that’s the quest, get the magnifying glasses out!
BC: Why did you decide not to use the traditional Roman numerals on the Major Arcana?
MG: Quite simply because in this country anyway, not sure about the USA, Roman Numerals are not taught in schools as much as they used to be. I was talking to my grand daughter who is 10 and she did not understand them and agreed with me not to use them. It is a personal choice, but if you are not familiar with Roman Numerals its just something else that you have to master before connecting with the cards. I want my deck to be easy to understand from the beginning. I certainly respect all the decks out there with Roman Numerals.
BC: The Aces in this deck are icons only, with the Court cards being heads only (some in profile, some straight on). Each suit has a common background color for these four cards. How did this come about?
MG: I chose the colour for the backgrounds to connect to the theme of the cards I was painting. The Cups have a water/sea connection so the choice was pale blue. The Rods, especially my favourite The King is wearing acorns in his ears. Oak trees are my favourite tree and I have grown two in pots in my garden, they must be over 10 years old now. Anyway, back to the King of Rods, acorns to me say, green so the backs of the Rods are green. The Swords took a more silvery blue to compliment the steel of the Swords and the coins I decided on a soft cream colour, again to compliment the gold of the Coins.
BC: In the LWB (Little White Book) that accompanies the deck, you describe the process of creating the imagery for this deck. Could you share that with us here?
MG: Yes, I will certainly try. As mentioned in my little book when an idea came to me I had to scribble it down otherwise I always forgot. The best ideas came when I was usually out with my dogs Dylan and Bernie and I carried with me a small notebook and pen. When you get to my age its easy to forget your own name let alone ideas for a painting!
I had a cork board in my studio where all these little bits of information were pinned. Then months later I started the huge job of putting them into some kind of order. I started with the individual design of my four little men. Each one was to be different, hence the Cups wear shells hats, the Rods acorn hats, Coins green velvet hats and the Swords blue/grey velvet hats. All the little men have different shoes and styles of clothing. There is one exception, the 8 of Swords, I decided to paint a little lady.
I worked on size A4 paper and when I was happy with the initial drawing, this would be drawn onto tracing paper and then again drawn, using wax carbon paper onto the finished good quality water colour paper - the whole process for each painting is drawn three times before I start to paint. I have put in my little book of instructions more information and details of the equipment I used to create each painting.
BC: The LWB makes use of small color scans with the presentation of each card. I was very impressed – it adds a look of class to an already class presentation. What was behind the decision to present the cards in this manner?
MG: Thank you Bonnie, I think it is extremely important when connecting to a new deck to have the images in the LWB in front of you. I wanted them to be in colour as I feel that is quite simply for no other reason than they look so much nicer. I removed the titles from the thumbnail images so as not to distract too much from the image. Because it is so small I felt the lettering could be removed on this occasion.
BC: The box that the deck comes in is quite unique! It brings a smile to my face every time I see it. What made you decide to do it in this manner?
MG: My love of Trompe l’oeil, magic, mad imagination and fey folk! When I was a little girl all parcels came threw the post in brown paper and string, very often with sealing wax on them as well. It is sheer nostalgia for long gone days, I also wanted to create an image not just on the top of my box but an image that WAS the box. Hopefully, its like receiving a little parcel every time you get your cards out.
BC: Is there anything that you would like to share with our readers about this deck, t he process of creating it, or the process of working with it?
MG: I would like to say that the process of creating The Hezicos Tarot was far more difficult that I had imagined, that’s being honest. I have so much respect for other artists who have created their own decks as I now know and appreciate all that work.
It was not until I had finished painting the last Major Arcana card that I realized what was still to do. I must admit I nearly gave up on several occasions but am lucky enough to have a very supportive husband and family. You go through all sorts of emotions, will anyone like it…will I be able to sell my deck..can I afford to do this. Its nagging little doubts there every day.
Even more difficult when you want to self publish. There was a lot of forward planning to do, firstly I needed to save some money to get my deck printed. I am not a rich lady so had to cut back big time on chocolate!
As far as working with my deck, my little men have now become part of me and my family..yes, I love working with my deck, its strange sometimes because as I lay the cards out in a reading I look at certain images and think….. “you were difficult to paint!” The most enjoyable image for me to paint are the little stick men with their faces, they just make me laugh.
Thank you Bonnie for your fabulous questions I have so enjoyed being able to answer them and been given the opportunity of sharing some of the creative road of The Hezicos Tarot.
I would like to thank Mary for taking the time to do this interview. The “Hezicos Tarot” can be purchased from Mary’s site. In a move that only an Indie can make, Mary is offering free shipping anywhere in the world! A gracious move from a gracious lady that has gifted the Tarot world with one of its loveliest decks!
© February 2010
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.