Today’s post shifts the blog’s focus from photography to art and follows a trail of discovery down a rabbit hole to an exotic new world. How come? Well, it’s all thanks to the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA) and the Tarot of the Cat People. [Revised. First Published 2020]
A Tarot? The Cat Writers Association? Let me explain about a serendipitous discovery and the pleasant surprise it might give you.
The CWA Muse® Medallion
The stylish Muse medallion was designed by artist Karen Kuykendall. It is elegant and simple with the figure of a curled up cat looking out at the viewer.
The Discovery Story
Let me go back in time a little while to explain how the discovery came to light.
I have a small and very cute china collection that has been housed in a cramped space and boxes. After we settled here in New Zealand I began looking for a unit that would allow me to display it nicely. After several years of fruitless searching for the perfect display cabinet – I finally found one!
Let me tell you what happened next!
The Outer Regions
As I took the ornaments from their cramped and dusty shelf to prepare them for their new home, I saw a small box far back on the self, hidden deep in the shadows.
I was puzzled because I didn’t recognise the box until I picked it up. Then I remembered why it had been put in a dark corner. The tarot deck was an exciting cat lover’s prize from a Twitter pawty fundraiser. I had wanted to keep it undamaged, away from New Zealand’s very strong sunlight so placed it far back on the shelf out of harm’s way.
Now I had rediscovered its safe hiding place, I noted the title and the name of the artist. The Tarot of the Cat People by Karen Kuykendall. The name sounded familiar to me and I took a moment to think. Wait, I thought, this is the same artist who designed the Muse I had been so delighted to win in 2019.
I had to find out more about this artist so I began to explore online, and this is what I found out about the Tarot of the Cat People and the artist who created the Cat Writers’ Association Muse.
The Cat People Tarot deck is a powerful blend of symbolism and the imagery of science fiction and fantasy, using elaborate design and cats to enhance the symbolism of each card. 64 page book included. 78 cards. Card stack is 4 5/8″ x 2 5/8″ x 1″Cat Tarot
Karen Kuykendall, Artist
I explored several online biographies and discovered that Karen Kuykendall, a native of San Diego, was a versatile artist who, amongst other things, designed furniture for the Jamestown Lounge Furniture Company (Pinterest). She also taught art in Arizona’s public schools and at the University of Arizona. I visited Arizona for the 2016 Blogpaws® conference and of course, I was thrilled that I had visited the state where she spent so much time.
Karen Kuykendall was a published author who participated in and judged art shows. Her paintings, jewellery and papier-mache have been exhibited at both the Phoenix Art Museum and the Tucson Art Museum and on her death in 1998 the Mesa Historical Museum acquired her collections and jewellery.
In the mid nineteen sixties she worked for the Casa Grande Dispatch as the only female editorial cartoonist in America.
Tarot of the Cat People
I have several tarot decks. Not because I read the cards but I love the ingenuity and inspired design of artists who work with a theme on what can be a huge creative project that includes dozens of themed cards. I have one set of beautiful cards on a feline theme – The Bohemian Cat Tarot from Magic Realist Press. Unbelievably this set now goes for totally unreal prices, thankfully the Cat Tarot has a more realistic price and is still available on Amazon.
Unlike modern designers, who often work with computers and tablets, Karen Kuykendall painted each of the tarot cards on artist’s board 9.5 by 15.5 ins. (24 x 39 cms). The unique backgrounds are hand speckled and each card features an elaborately painted figure and at least one cat. There are 79 cards in total.
The original art was painted in acrylic on board, using a “splatter” technique whereby Kuykendall masked areas and painted around them using a toothbrush. The effect is subtle, almost pointillistic gradations of color.Learn Tarot
The figures, seen from a 2020 perspective, are a balance of classic 1980’s shapes and colours, and surprisingly contemporary resonances. Gorgeous flowing costumes are embellished with elaborate architectural jewellery and the range of skin tones defies stereotypes, embracing many different ethnicities around the globe. The inclusive nature of the deck is decades ahead of its time.
The figures inhabit a world called ‘The Outer Regions’. Like all good fantasy worlds, this one is highly detailed and very believable. Cats play a big part in its traditions and stories (as seen on the tarot cards), and the small book with the Tarot set gives glimpses of the intriguing world and its complex, multilayered structure.
Written together with Andre Norton the books ‘Mark of the Cat‘ and sequel ‘Year of the Rat‘ take place in these Outer Regions. If you look for the books you will often find the two novels combined into one volume.
The Outer Regions are conceived as existing in a parallel universe, a very magical place divided into six kingdoms that are represented by various precious gemstones that serve as the defining emblems for each ecologically distinct territorial entity.Rambles
- NOTE: The book is available in Kindle and paperback format.
For those who want a closer look at the deck, I discovered the perfect introduction to the Tarot of the Cat People deck on YouTube. I hope you are able to see the slideshow. (Link here) It is from a French site and the slideshow has a simple soundtrack. A selection of the cards is shown in detail.
If you are a winner or aspire to the heights of achieving the Cat Writers’ Association’s most coveted award – the Muse, I hope that you have enjoyed discovering more about the artist who created it – Karen Kuykendall.
One last tidbit to enjoy? Karen lived in the Arizona desert with 10 cats. I don’t feel quite to bad having more than a handful in my clowder.
Tarot of the Cat People Resources
- The Tarot of the Cat People is available on Amazon.
- A full deck is available to view as individual cards here.
- There is a Pinterest page for Jamestown Lounge Furniture here.
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