When I began to learn the tarot, there was a smaller (and less crowded) platform for independent tarot designers than there is now. As the internet developed, I found the online tarot forums. They opened up a specific area of interest, where tarot creators could share their work with enthusiasts all over the world. For many, this was a way of connecting to their audience, whether published or not, and an opportunity to build a name and reputation for them self within the growing world of tarot. For the consumer, it provided wider buying opportunities and a chance to interact with those who created the decks of cards they wanted to purchase.
As the years passed, Facebook was born and now we have Instagram. The latter is flooded with new decks and tarot design ideas every day. Some have flourished there; I think I may be the only person in the tarot world who doesn’t own The Wild Unknown or the Fountain Tarot – understandably, both decks have a very large following. The ability to share and ‘be shared’ is a great opportunity for anyone who is either creating or has created their own tarot or oracle pack. This is far easier to do these days.
For me, the amount of decks which have hit my photo-feed in recent times has actually slowed down my deck buying. There are just too many; but every once in a while, I glimpse something which awakens the enthusiast and stirs an excitement within me. This was what happened when I first saw the art of Rosario Salerno.
In terms of my tarot-likes, Rosario’s tarot artwork ticks many boxes. It is bold, stylised, and colourful. While sticking with the Marseille standard, it also has a contemporary and fun feel to it. I adore the bold lines and comic-book feel to his images. With so many computer-generated tarot sets currently on the market and in production, it is refreshing to see hand drawn artwork. Similarly, I have seen other tarot-inspired tees online, but many have lacked the individual styling seen here. There is an attention to detail and placement I’ve not seen elsewhere in tarot related clothing and print.
Tarot-Tshirts.com is an independently owned business, founded by Ciaran Gaffey and his partner Rosario Salerno. They provide high quality, unique Tarot and Tarot-inspired designs printed on T-shirts, bags, mugs and posters. You can find these striking items now over at Tarot-Tshirts.com. I interviewed Ciaran recently to talk about his business, his relationship with Tarot and what inspires him.
SB: How was Tarot-Tshirts born?
CG: Tarot-Tshirts.com began when my partner, Rosario Salerno, decided to start making his own Tarot deck. As a teenager he had been greatly interested in Tarot but fell out of it as he got older; he’s Italian and grew up in a very catholic environment and using Tarot was frowned upon at that time. So he stopped. Than one day about 18 months ago someone told him that his tattoos, which he had designed, reminded them of their Tarot deck. And that sparked the reintroduction to Tarot for Rosario. He started looking into the practice again both in terms of reading Tarot and in terms of the history and design of the cards. It was shortly after that when Rosario decided to create his own deck.
I had dabbled in Tarot a little when I was younger but, similarly to Rosario, I had fallen out of it. I was immediately struck by his designs though and thought they were so strong and appealing and could work really well on apparel and other items. For a long time I had wanted to collaborate with Rosario on a project and Tarot-Tshirts seemed like the perfect opportunity.
CG: I studied art and design in Ireland and followed that up with a multimedia degree where I was introduced to web and graphic design. I’ve been working as a freelance web designer for over 10 years.
When I was a teenager I had a Tarot deck but, as I said, I fell out of the practise when I got older. It wasn’t until Rosario started designing his deck that I became interested in Tarot again. I think Tarot can give people a new perspective on their lives, something that perhaps they wouldn’t have arrived at by themselves. I like that it can give you a new approach to something but I’m also fascinated by the culture of Tarot and the varied relationahips that people have with Tarot.
Rosario is an Italian artist. He is a sculptor, a drawer, comic author and a Tarot lover. His favorite Tarot reading method is the “tarology” invented by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa.
Recently he started to create his own Tarot of Marseille deck, which is still on-going (he’s completed the 22 Major Arcana but he’s going to realize also the 56 Minor Arcana).
CG: For the creation of his Tarot deck, Rosario has been looking at various old Tarot of Marseille’s decks, particularly at the deck restored by Camoin and Jodorowsky. He developed those classical images taking inspiration from his own artistic style.
Personally, I’m inspired by many things, the environment where I live, Berlin, being one of them. It’s got a duality of cold, hard industrial landscapes with a spirit of artistic and creative freedom. I also love comic book art, music of many genres and, of course, fashion. I’ve worked as a graphic designer for years both in print and web. Often though, this work can be very functional rather than artistic so I’ve been relishing preparing and altering the Tarot art to fit on garments.
SB: There is a bold comic-book feel to the artwork – was that intentional?
CG: Yes, as Rosario is also a comic author and comic lover this characteristic is quite recognizable in his style. Probably another reason why I found it so appealing also.
SB: It also has a masculine feel to it. Was that important?
CG: I’d say that more than a masculine feel, it has a contemporary feel with sexual overtones, both in terms of masculine figures but also with feminine figures.
CG: While I think all of his designs look wonderful, there were some that immediately jumped out at me as suitable for printing in large format across t-shirts. The first one was the Death card which is still my favourite garment in the shop. But there are many including the Hanging Man, Strength and the Star card that I think are so bold and striking. I also think the Fool card is really funny and a bit irreverent. Eventually though I want to have all of the card designs available to purchase.
SB: If Rosario is using tarot, which decks does he use and which inspired his own creations?
CG: The decks Rosario has looked at are some antique Tarot of Marseille’s decks: the deck of Pierre Madenié (1708), Jean Dodal (1701 – 1715) and the restored deck from Philippe Camoin-Alejandro Jodorowsky (1997).
CG: I don’t think I will be taking up reading in the near future, I feel like I need to get much more acquainted with the cards first. Rosario does it though personally, only on request.
SB: What are your plans for Tarot-Tshirts in the future?
CG: The first goal is to get all of Rosario’s designs in the shop. If someone has an affinity to a particular card I really want them to be able to find it in our shop. I want them to be able to get a special item, whether that be a t-shirt or bag, with their card design with the signature Tarot-Tshirts.com flare. After that I want to invite other artists and designers to contribute to the range.
SB: Will there be a deck of Rosario’s artwork in the future, available for sale?
CG: Yes! Soon, he will publish his Major Arcana deck and later also, the Minor Arcana. Both of which will be available on Tarot-Tshirts.com.
A big thank you to Ciaran Gaffey and Rosario Salerno for answering my questions and allowing me to share their work here on the blog. All images taken, with permission, from TarotT-Shirts.com