deck review: Personal Space Tarot
ETA: There's an active Kickstarter for a second printing of this deck out. Support it, and read my review below for some more reasons why.
The Personal Space Tarot is my most recent tarot deck and I'm rather falling in love with it. I'll admit freely that this piece of lovely was an impulse buy. I was drawn in by its unusual soft color scheme and simple but depth-filled art style. Creator Emilee Graveson says about her deck:
"Personal Space is an experiment in human intimacy. Our deck aims to explore the themes and motifs that live within the world of tarot, and bring about meaning to everyone in their own way." xxx
The cards are printed on standard size quality card stock which makes them pleasantly easy to shuffle and lay out. I also love that they are more matte than glossy which makes it easier to photograph and additionally helps with shuffling. As I said, I fell in love with the color scheme used- it's odd and unique without being too distracting. I've noticed that with other decks that make the same choices of consistent color palette I can be initially distracted by the color scheme (hey there, Slow Holler).
The illustrations on the cards are a visual minimalist delight without the obnoxious vibe I get from other decks that tend to minimalism. Instead the art is quirky and whimsy without being too light or noncommittal. Emilee did away with the visual overload of traditional decks leaving us with space to find ourselves in the cards as we need to. I like to think that this is what was meant by 'personal space'. The reader is allowed to seek their own intuition when it comes to drawing meaning from the cards. In fact, the weaker cards for me in this deck tend to be the ones with too much going on like the Eight of Pentacles.
The Majors are the strongest part of the deck. Delightfully thought out, and down to the bare bones thus making them incredibly accessible for beginners without being too pared down for someone more experienced with the tarot. The Minors are slightly less impressive, but only slightly. I'm averse to pip-style art and it's kinda half and half with the minors whether you'll get a symbolic art depiction or something tending towards numbered pips.
On the other hand, I feel like a lot of the pip-style cards are drawn that way to strip them of the usual RWS heteronormativity (for example, the 10 of Cups). While I woudn't call this deck queer, it's worth noting this effort, which feels intentional, by the artist. Additionally, a lot of the cards with people in them are allowed a measure of gender ambiguity and quite a few are just body parts- mostly hands. That sounds a lot more creepy than it is, and actually I think the prevalence of hands reinforces the agency we often find in seeking the tarot.
The LWB takes the same minimalist approach. Unlike most indie decks, the LWB is actually little! I'm not sure I'm a fan of this though. Independently published decks often benefit from a bit more insight into the artist's approach. There were cards where I would have liked to know more about the motivation behind the symbolism. Consulting the LWB isn't much help with the minor arcana beyond what is usually standard- though I did kinda like the numerological bent to explaining the minors rather than go card by card, suit by suit. It's also worth considering that a larger LWB often means more cost added to the publication of the deck, felt in greater magnitude for the lower volume of sales indie decks usually have.
I've used the Personal Space Tarot for some time now, and despite the toned down illustrative art, it's pretty direct. I thought it would read a lot more abstract or vague, but it delivers its message with an almost tangible directness. It's as if the lack of fuss in the art allows for the intuitive message to come straight at you. In both small and large spreads, the cards are a comforting pat on my shoulder (often followed by a friendly pinch when I try not to pay attention).
This would be a great deck for readers who have some familiarity with the RWS system but are looking for a tarot deck that is less involved, more stripped down to core meanings. In addition if you are looking for a deck that doesn't beat you over the head with cis heteronormativity like most RWS derived decks out there then this is a great option.
Support Emilee Graverson here at her site and keep a watch for a second-run printing of the deck at the Personal Space etsy shop here. You can also learn more about the artist's process from this interview at Little Red Tarot.