Bridge Witches: A Tarot Deck
In August of 2016 I was sitting in a diner in Seattle, Washington staring at a computer screen and filled with fear. I was in town on a vacation but as a small biz owner there isn't such thing as not bringing work with you every where. I had gotten up at 6AM, ordered some crappy coffee, and finalized the printing of Bridge Witches: A Tarot Deck, Volume 1. My mind swirled thinking about the late nights sweating over these drawings on my iPad and the obsessive amount of planning that went into this deck. It was the beginning of an adventure that I continue on to this day. That first deck was a culmination of a few different aspects of my life.
From 2012 to 2015 I had collected conversations with different people in Pittsburgh about why they lived here and what they did. I focused a lot on the creatives who didn't leave for Los Angeles or New York. It turns out, people either couldn't afford to leave or felt empowered by the freedom they had to explore here. I started recording a podcast using voice memos on an iPhone in bars, galleries, and eventually upgraded to real podcasting equipment. I talked to about 200 different people at a time when Pittsburgh was being called a breakout city and example of change for others in the Rust Belt. The tech industry had just expanded beyond university campuses and neighborhoods like East Liberty were being bulldozed and prepared for the tsunami that is gentrification.
Talking to Dan Rugh from Commonwealth Press, he pushed me to jump in and start making something myself. People had asked me if I was going to turn my blog into a book but I knew I wasn't a writer. It wasn't until 2016 that I sorted out what The AP Collection blog and podcast would become.
At the same time all of this was going on, it had been years since I drew something and expected anything to come of it. After getting my art degree in 2007, (arguably a bad time for anyone to graduate with any kind of degree) I spent time working several jobs to pay down student debt and trying to create as much as possible. It turns out that living in a state of near constant exhaustion isn't great for creativity. I tried to keep up with the technology required for creating digital illustration but found it expensive and the learning curve ominous.
It wasn't until my partner turned me on to the new iPad with Apple pencil that I discovered a cheaper, intuitive, and fun way to draw again. I spent countless hours practicing and even created my own self-directed residency making portraits on the iPad. While I was showing some of this newer work I had a flash of an idea. What if I made a tarot deck that combined what I had learned about Pittsburgh with my desire to reconnect with drawing? Each card is a portrait inspired by the hundreds of conversations collected in the Steel City.
A Living Deck, A New Deck
Since this whole thing started I have learned a lot—about drawing, about printing, about selling art. I've become an expert in a weird niche. I've also fell back in love with drawing and recommitted to my art practice. My continued modification and updating of the deck is about telling more stories about a city that is still evolving.
Now more than ever, this deck is documenting how time shapes this region. It turns out that what is happening here is quite relatable to other parts of the world. I've now sold Bridge Witches across the United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, and parts of Europe and the United Kingdom.
This continued re-drawing has also revealed how I have grown as an artist and storyteller. At this point, I have released three different versions of the deck only replacing bits of the deck each time. With Bridge Witches: A Tarot Deck, volume 4, I will be doing the first full redraw of the entire deck.
Bridge Witches: A Tarot Deck, volume 4
With volume 4, I am taking more time than ever to create something totally different than before. While I want to continue to share stories from Pittsburgh I also want to expand into other parts of Appalachia and share more about witchcraft, folklore, and other cultural treasures.
As of December 2020, there are a few decks left of Bridge Witches: A Tarot Deck, volume 2. Volume 3 ran out a while ago and I'm not sure if I want to restock it. Be on the look out for updates about BW4 here.
— Genevieve Barbee-Turner