When I first really started cultivating Tarot decks, I became obsessed with finding a black and white one. Something about the simplicity of the two colors spoke to me, so I set off on a Google hunt to see what I could fine. A thread on Aeclectic Tarot lead me to the website of artist Mary Bean Evans, and there I found the black and white deck I had been wishing for! Within in minutes of exploring Mary's site, I purchased The Spirit Speak Tarot and was thrilled when it arrived. Simplistic yet rich, odd but captivating, and 100% far-out awesomeness, this little deck packs a big punch. Read on to find out more about Mary and her colorful, colorless deck!
For starters, where are you from? Where are you now? How did you get there?
I am originally from a small town called Franklin, in the beautiful state of Tennessee. It’s about a half an hour drive from Nashville. For the past two years I have been living in Oakland, CA. After I graduated high school in Tennessee, I moved to Olympia, WA for school. I lived their for four years. Shortly after graduating I got stir crazy and moved to Austin, TX on a whim. I lived there for about four months before relocating to Oakland.
What’s your artistic background?
I have been drawing ever since I was a small child. I would draw on anything I could get my hands on, including my baby-dolls and the walls of my house (which displeased my mother). I remember my mom used to take me to art classes at this woman’s house,“Miss Mary.” She had a parrot and a white long-haired cat. In her studio she had bookshelves full of greeting cards and photographs. You would pick out a card and then copy it using chalk pastels. Only the older kids got to use paints. Multiple times I remember charming Miss Mary into helping me cheat on my drawings.
Through the years I continued to pursue my art, incorporating different mediums. In high school I got really into oil painting and also began to sew. In 2008 I went to The Evergreen State College and focused my work in printmaking. When I moved to Oakland I began to study jewelry design and in the next year or so I want to go back to school for garment construction and textile design.
What lead you to Tarot? Is it something you’ve always done or were you called to it later in life?
When I was in middle school my older brother gifted me the Rider-Waite tarot deck. I grew up in a religious home and didn’t know what it was. I thought it was interesting, though, and tucked it away. It moved with me to Olympia, WA. It wasn’t until I lived in “The Sourhouse,” a house full of witches, that I actually started using the tarot more. We all were playing with our curiosity of divination, ritual, and spirituality. We would spend days playing with ouija boards and nights by the fire singing and burning papers written with our sadnesses or fears to release them. I continued my interests in tarot and discovered a tarot class series when I lived in Austin offered by the Austin Free School. It helped so much to have an experienced reader talk about the meanings of the cards. Outside of that I had always just referred to books. In Oakland, The Sacred Well offers a monthly sliding scale class with Grey that I used to attend. Grey is a wonderful teacher and taught me a lot about using my own visual perspective to interpret the cards.
What, in your opinion, can Tarot do and be used for?
I think people use tarot for lots of things. For me, it is a way to feel not so alone. In our minds we can get all tangled up. The tarot can see you and speak to you from a place that is also you. In a way you’re talking to yourself, but the tarot speaks from the part of you that’s goal is to have your true path fulfilled; it does not have the distractions of ego or pressure of society. In that way its voice is true. I often consult the tarot when I get clouded or distracted from what I deeply feel. It seems to always pull me back and to put things in perspective. When I give readings I like to use the tarot to give us goals and tools to achieve them. I think tarot can be a powerful way to manifest. As a visual learner, and someone who is very visually oriented, the cards work for me. Looking down at a tarot spread is like being able to see a miniature map of what you’re dealing with in your current path. Being in that position can feel so empowering.
Tell me about The Spirit Speak Tarot. How did you come up with the concept?
Spirit Speak kind of just happened in a way. I was planning an art show with my friend Katie Oly who does amazing embroidery, and it was her idea to have it tarot themed. I think this was in June and we booked the show for February. I like to make art fast and I don’t often spend much time drafting or redrawing. I figured I could make a large amount of work in that time form June to February. Then it dawned on me, oh, I could make the whole tarot by then! And it began. I wanted these drawings to be a tool. Which actually, I had tried to manifest in the previous year, but I wasn’t sure how to make my art a tool. So really it was such a blessing to me. I didn’t think much about them being pretty or beautiful, just functional. I tried to mediate upon my own feelings of the card and draw from that place, but not to get caught up in it’s “prettiness”. It’s really the first project where I was able to let go of that besides maybe a book of drawings of my own feet I made in high school. I think it helped me so much to accept the way that I draw and just keep working. It’s so hard, especially as a female artist, to not compare the way I draw to other artist I feel are so incredibly talented. An artist’s life battle is to fight their own self-doubt and criticism. I put a lot of my heart into this project and I feel like that was channeled through my hands into the drawings without me even noticing.
Does the deck follow the standard Rider-Waite-Smith tradition or did you work to develop your own?
The structure of the deck is in Rider-Waite format. I learned on the Golden Tarot, which is a Rider Waite based deck. I think because I did learn on a Rider-Waite based deck, you can see it’s influence in some of the symbolism that I use.
What does the deck have that makes it a different, must-have for readers?
There are so many amazing decks coming out right now! I just bought the second printing of The Prisma Vision Tarot deck; an Oakland artist Ryan Rebekah Erev just put out an amazing oracle deck called “Moon Angel Divination;” a new deck by a collective of either southern or queer identified people or both, called Slow Holler is working on their Kickstarter; The Starchild tarot is a beautiful deck that is out now; and, The Collective Tarot is considering another printing! In fact a few people in my community have either made one, or are working on one. It’s almost like this uprising of artist hand making decks, and I feel so honored to be a part of that. I think people should explore lots of decks. I am pretty addicted to collecting them and I benefit so much from gaining new perspectives from these other artist. I made Spirit Speak to be easy to use and read. I wanted its messages to be direct. I wished for people to see a card and feel it’s meaning. I also think naturally my work is playful and childlike, which can make its messages on the light and positive side of things.
What do you hope for the future of this deck?
For me, this deck had already done so much. I have met so many wonderful people and received a lot of opportunities for myself through it. This project cemented my feelings within the tarot and taught me so much about the cards. Not only that, but it led me more into my own power. To my true desire to work as an artist and to make that happen in my life. Seeing the positive response of the cards was like the deck telling me through the universe, you can do this, actually, this is what you were brought here to do.
Any advice for aspiring tarot artists?
Yes! Don’t let fear hold you back! Just because you may not be an expert on the tarot does not mean you can’t make your own deck. And just because other people have made decks and are making them does not mean you can’t. The tarot is ancient and will continue to live and hold space for all who are interested in it’s infinite wisdom.
If someone is interested in a reading or purchasing any of your work, how can they get a hold of you?