Alchemical Emblem Tarot
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 Deck creation and/or publication process
Adam MacClean : These tarot decks are essentially hand made. This does not mean, however, that they are produced in an amateurish way, but I have drawn on my 30 years experience of printing and binding books in order to make these tarots. I hope people will come to see them as something a bit special, neither the mass produced output of card makers, nor the clumsy though often charming attempts by artists at self-publishing their tarots.
The first stage is a dialogue and negotiation with the artist about how the cards are to be produced. Here we have to decide on the backs, the framing of the images, whether to place the images in a border or print them full face, the final size of the cards, the lamination style and any additional information which would be included. As an artist myself I try and work sensitively with the artist rather than imposing my own views onto their project, though there are some technical limitations which have to be taken into account.
As the card production is a hand process, I am unable initially to produce 78 card decks as the final price would be very high (possibly £150), and instead I intend for the first few batches at least only to do Majors only decks. When I take into account all the production costs and time, I find I can sell these for £50.
Once the artist is happy with the sample productions, we decide to go ahead and make a clear contract. The artist gets paid a modest royalty plus they receive a number of copies of their deck a part of the deal. I then print the 100 limited edition cards which I send to the artist for them to sign and number.
The deck is then printed on a high quality laser printer. This is not one of the cheap consumer oriented printers (which produce poor results) but the printer I use for producing my coloured books and prints. This cost me £3000 and its running cost are also extremely high. However, its advantages are that it produces consistent images with great colour saturation and precision. One of the problems with cards are that they are to be observed close to the eye, unlike a print or poster. This means that the dot size must be much smaller than the usual printer, otherwise one becomes too aware of the half-tone dots when looking at the fine details. My printer can create these very fine dots and thus clearly shows the detail of the artwork.
The next stage is lamination. Here I use a hot lamination technique. This is a very slow process as each sheet has to be hand fed. One can either use glossy laminate, which shows the best detail and gives vivid colours, or a matt laminate, which softens and flattens the contrast in the image. The matt laminate is suitable for certain decks and the gloss for others. I leave the final decision to the artist, as it depends on the effect they want to achieve.
Then follows the most challenging and exacting stages of all - that is, cutting the cards. This is where most self-publishers fall down. One cannot realistically use a trimmer for this, as there is almost no way you can cut multiple cards with these devices and the accuracy is poor as well. Instead I use a proper paper guillotine, with a vertical moving blade. Although this can cut 50 sheets in one go, in practice one finds that the laminated cards slip if cut in a high pile and one has to use such a high pressure that the cards can be damaged. So I have to cut these in small bunches in stacks of 10 or 12 at a time. So it takes about two full days work just to cut the printed sheets into cards.
Then they have to be made up into decks - a nice easy task on a large tabletop. Then the corners are rounded using a special professional cutter which can cut one corner of a full 22 card deck in one slice.
Finally, I make the decks up into the boxes. I have looked at various methods for packaging tarot cards and the one I prefer, as the most appropriate storage medium, is the simple, lidded box. I buy these custom-sized and paste on a image identifying the deck onto the top lid. I then paste in a little ribbon that enables the cards to be lifted up easily out of the box. Then we are finished !
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