Mel is currently a free reader for TABI, undergoing the approved reader program. She has a passion for all types of divination and its history, to date Mel has created three Lenormand decks and have always wanted to create her own unique oracle deck. A Digital Marketer by day, in her spare time Mel enjoys painting pet portraits, listening to music and watching old black and white films.
The Devil’s Acre started off as a single digital drawing, the Pedlar card. I had been gifted a drawing tablet for my birthday and I was getting to grips with how it felt, I hadn’t tried one since my college days and they’d come on a lot since then!
I hadn’t planned at this point the whole deck, it was simply an idea which had been played with in conversation between me and my partner. It wasn’t until more ideas came to mind for further cards that a full-blown research project started on the slums of Victorian London. This was pure pleasure as I’ve always had a keen interest in history and particularly those places and characters who are often lost to history because they weren’t upper classes or royalty. The working class history is something which has always drawn me to it, because it feels real and relatable.
There weren’t overwhelming amounts of detailed information, but one slum area kept cropping up: The Devil’s Acre. An area in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, it was notorious in it’s time as a bit of a no-go area, even for police officers who would regularly avoid those streets and, if they did feel able to brave to enter, were promptly turned about and on their way again! I was fascinated and knew this would be a great setting for the fortune telling deck I had been wanting to create when the idea came along.
My favourite systems are generally gypsy and sybilla cards, I enjoy the space for intuition and the ability to weave a story from the images. Each tradition also reflected the society of the time, bearing characters and scenes that would have been familiar to those who read with them, allowing them to connect and empathise with the situations depicted in the cards. My deck, then, would be almost a London-based gypsy deck, with famous landmarks and characters you would have seen hanging in the alley and street corners any shady evening of the week.
In this dark and dingy setting though, it was important for me to ensure there was a balance of light. Grabbing an old sample deck of playing cards, I wrote the card names and a few keywords on there, making a makeshift Eteilla-style deck and doing sample readings with them. I definitely felt this would be easier with the images themselves, but it was a start. The card list did change once or twice during the creative process, but only to improve the balance.
Almost a year from starting the deck, it is almost completed. I worked on the images and research in any free time and learned so much about the world these fictional character I’d created would have lived in. The deck itself would only carry a leaflet with some keywords, in the usual gypsy card style, as I wanted to allow interpretation from the reader, but there was so much behind these images that I decided to create a space on my website where I could display some of this information for the deck owners to explore. It seemed a shame to not share it, as I felt it gives the deck itself a lot more life and depth in its use.
The style of the images themselves also seemed to evolve and take a slightly darker mood over the creation period as the research deepened. It also gained textures of Victorian wallpaper patterns in it’s backgrounds, thanks to a tip from a fellow Cartomancy enthusiast, Dan. It’s been impossible to source the article again, but he remembered reading that in those days, often people made cards from scraps of wallpaper, presumably using anything strong they could find to use. I loved the idea of this being a deck illustrated by a fortune teller who had formed in my mind, on the back of some wallpaper scraps that had been simply tossed away by a upper class household, rescued and put to use. It gave the project a richer feel and I felt a link to the time it portrays.
The Kickstarter campaign itself will run until 9th November or until 100 decks are reserved, whichever is reached first. Each will be hand signed and numbered, with a little quirky something extra for each pledger.