Tarot of the QTPOC Interview Series: Carolyn of Studio Gooz, creator of the Elsie's Wheel Oracle series

While this series might be called Tarot of the QTPOC, I am also interested in getting to know creators from all types of cartomancy. The Tarot of the QTPOC deck listing, however, will remain focused on Tarot decks only.

So on to it, meet Carolyn of Studio Gooz. They are the creator of the Elsie’s Wheel Oracle series. It’s a unique concept, a series of decks based in astrology but accessible to all. Each release will focus on one sign of the zodiac and the energies that particular sign works with.

I’ll let Elsie explain this unique concept a lot better.

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Blessings! Please share with us a bit about yourself!

Hi, I’m Carolyn, illustrator at Studio Gooz and creator of the Elsie’s Wheel oracle deck series. I try to balance the time I spend drawing and behind a computer screen with lots of woodland rambles and quality plant-time. I’m a big fan of plant medicine and experimenting with wild foods. It makes me feel so connected to the earth and the world around us and greatly informs my art. I hope to inspire people to connect with the wild and weird world around us through my drawings.

How did you begin working with oracle and tarot cards?

My friend introduced me to tarot cards a few years ago and I was intrigued but a bit skeptical at first. But as I began working more with the cards I saw how clearly the archetypes paralleled my own life and the world around me. I’m happy to say that using them for self-reflection is part of my daily life now. I also love giving readings to friends and family - the cards are a great way to start conversations and get to the heart of complex issues.

Over time I’ve found myself drawn more to oracle cards since they are less structured than a system like tarot. Oracle cards feel like a closer way of connecting with the artist who made them since the artist has complete control over the archetypes and visual metaphors that they include in their deck. There are lots of interesting decks out there that are as unique as their creators.

I really love getting to know various spiritual systems including tarot, oracle cards, and astrology. To me they are all different ways of representing and exploring the complexities of what it means to be human. There are so many similarities between these different systems. Ultimately, they all aim to help us connect with humanity as a whole and give guidance and encouragement in the form of self-reflection.

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What are you drawn to in a tarot or oracle deck? Any favorites (other than your own of course!) you’re working with?

I’m really drawn to decks where I feel like I’ve learned something about the artist and their inner world. Working with a deck produced by an independent artist is special because the artist is generally able to express their complete artistic vision in a coherent way without any outside design influences. Seeing a deck designed in this way is like getting to know someone deep down to their core without even having a conversation with them. So I love independent decks where I feel like I get to peek into the creator’s secret inner world.

I absolutely love anything produced by Skullgarden. Their images have such great symbolism and are beautiful and thought-provoking. I would love to live in a world illustrated by A.L.  Swartz. [You should definitely check out the Wooden Tarot and Earthbound Oracle by A.L. Swartz.]

Another favorite is the Numinous Tarot by Noel Heimpel. This deck is set in such a beautiful, inclusive world. Whenever I work with the images I’m reminded that this is the kind of world that I want to be a part of.

Come to think of it, these are both very mystical, colorful, inclusive decks. There’s so much great symbolism to explore and I look forward to all of their future projects!

What was the inspiration behind the Elsie’s Wheel Oracle?

The Elsie’s Wheel project is inspired by the Sabian Symbols, a set of intuitive phrases based on degree astrology. The 360 phrases were channeled in the 1920s by a very cool lady, psychic Elsie Wheeler.

She had a challenging life, but she expressed her rich inner world through the Sabian Symbols. My series is named after her as a way to highlight her contributions to the Symbols which have sometimes been overlooked. The ‘wheel’ in Elsie’s Wheel symbolizes the zodiac wheel, the wheel of life and the cyclical nature of spiritual development.

The inspiration to turn the Sabian Symbols into a set of oracle decks came from the fact that there are a lot of cool independent tarot decks out there, but there are not as many astrology-based oracle decks. The phrases seemed like a good candidate for oracle cards because they are a more intuitive way to work with astrology and the phrases seemed so rich with imagery I couldn’t help but draw them.

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What’s the meaning behind the editions, Aquarius, for example?

Each deck in the Elsie’s Wheel series focuses on a unique zodiac sign. In the Sabian Symbols there are 30 phrases per sign, which translates to 30 cards per deck. Each card represents a certain facet of the zodiac sign to which it belongs and each sign embodies a set of unique themes.

For example Aquarian themes include friendship, new discoveries and creative social change. Each deck excels in readings related to its particular themes. So the Aquarius deck would be great for questions like ‘What can I do to shake things up in my life right now?’ or ‘How can I help strengthen my community?’

Working with a deck can be a great way to get to know an individual sign better since the themes of that sign are woven throughout the cards. As a side note, these oracle cards can be used by anyone, no astrology experience or Aquarius sun sign is necessary.

Although the individual decks work nicely on their own, as more decks are released you will be able to combine them to explore more complex issues.

For example if you wanted to do a reading on promoting healing (Pisces) in your community (Aquarius) you could shuffle the Pisces and Aquarius decks together and pull cards from the joint pool for your reading.

What card came to you first and opened the way for all the other lovely images you’ve created?

The first card that popped up in my mind was the Child Being Born out of an Egg. It’s just such a vivid and thought-provoking image. The card itself is about new beginnings, but also embracing what makes you unique and the challenges that may bring. It reminds me of the platypus, one of our only mammals that hatches from an egg. It’s such a cool and unique animal and I’m sure it leads a very interesting life.

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Which cards in your deck do you resonate with the most at this time?

On a seasonal level I’m really feeling Aquarius 27, “A tree felled and sawed for winter”. To me, this card is all about preparation and also veneration of the plants. In the part of the world where I live autumn is here and as someone who gathers wild foods that means the lull of winter will soon be upon us. So right now I’m bustling around trying to put up the last of my herbs and gathering some late season fruits and nuts to enjoy over the winter.

Fall is also a time for digging roots and it’s important to recognize that when you dig up a plant, or in the case of this image cut down a tree for firewood, you are most likely ending its life. When I’m harvesting from the wild I really like to give back to the plants in a concrete way by spreading their seeds around to contribute to the survival and thriving of their species. This card is a reminder that in every relationship, including ones with plants, there is a giving and receiving from both parties. It can be easy to just take without giving back, so this card is a reminder of how special the life of a plant can be, and that we have to do our part to reciprocate in every relationship.

On a day-to-day level I always connect with Aquarius 1, “An unexpected thunderstorm”. This card reminds me to focus on building resilience in my life. We can’t control what happens to us, but we do have power over how we react. The duck in this image is facing the oncoming sheet of rain head-on; it’s not trying to swim away. It has reached a point where it accepts the inevitable challenges and is confident in its ability to work through them. I’m not quite there yet, but I hope to one day be as resilient as this duck.

Flashing back to middle school, the water cycle also plays a prominent role in this card. The rain pours down from the sky, filling up the lake, where some of it will evaporate back into the air. To me this represents the fact that some of our greatest challenges can become the source of our greatest strength. Although the rain may be pelting the duck now, the drops that fall down into the lake ultimately become the water that supports the duck.

Where else can we find your art? How can we support you, this project, and all your future art?

Thank you for your interest and support!

Sharing and contributing to the Kickstarter campaign for the Elsie’s Wheel Aquarius deck is the best way to support this project right now. You can see a lot more of my art on my website, Studio Gooz.

In a few weeks I will have an Etsy shop up with my 2019 Watercolor Moon & Night Sky Calendar and various prints available.

If you would like to keep up with my art, I have an Instagram (@studiogooz) where I share new designs and pictures of Gooz, who is the mascot of Studio Gooz.

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Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for your support of independent artists. I feel like that’s really where the soul of the tarot and oracle movement lies. There are so many great artists out there doing amazing things through card-based art.