The design of our Strength card was quite a challenge. Appropriately enough, fortitude and patience were needed.
Embarking on the design for the Strength card for The Bohemian Cats’ Theatre Tarot was no small challenge. The quest for the perfect solution led us through trials and errors, moments of frustration, and, more than once, the whispered plea, “Give me Strength!”.
As we worked on the visual to convey the essence of this powerful card, we faced a dilemma. How could we depict a small cat subduing a majestic lion while maintaining the scale and realism integral to The Bohemian Cats’ Theatre Tarot? Our commitment to portraying cats in convincing and consistent sizes and scale, dressed in their custom-designed cat-sized costumes, added complexity to the creative process.
What’s more, in tarot, the Strength card, irrespective of the theme, demands emotional depth and impact. It’s about an inner strength and fortitude and also often indicates the self-confidence needed to tackle threats or conflicts. For our feline-centric cat tarot deck, the challenge was to infuse the image with the necessary gravitas and significance while ensuring it seamlessly blended into the theatrical stage setting of the deckt
When we think about the evolution of our tarot designs over the past two decades, we recall the simpler, though we think still effective, Strength card that was made for our older 2003 deck, The Baroque Bohemian Cats’ Tarot. The contrast highlights the artistic and thematic shift that defines The Bohemian Cats’ Theatre Tarot.
Now, armed with more experience and with a commitment to our theatrical theme, we approached the Strength card with a fresh perspective and a desire to do something a bit different. The process demanded creative thinking and, ultimately, a dramatic solution to bring our vision to life. We hope you like the final image – with the lion as a costumed character in a drama – as much as we do.
Designing the embroideries and the costumes for the current deck was all about attention to detail.
We designed the lion embroidery for the bodice, taking our inspiration from antique heraldic embroideries. It’s stitched by us, on our studio embroidery machine, using metallic threads.
In addition, the lace cuffs are also made on our embroidery machine. The gown is made from an unused vintage bolt of Japanese silk, originally intended to be used as a kimono. We search out Japanese silk for its sheer beauty (and by the way, for anyone wondering, the bolts and kimonos we buy are all sold as craft material, with some wear or areas with flaws so that they could not be made into traditional clothing). You’ll just about be able to see, in the final Strength card, that the front of the dress has an all-over metallic mesh embroidery. We find that all-over embroideries like this add richness and make the fabric sparkle.
The lion costume is mainly silk velvet, which we dyed ourselves to get the right “teddy bear” colour. The trim at the front is from a fragment of antique French silk, and the large pom poms are made in our studio from a beautiful chenille yarn. The little pom poms are an old French lace trim, again dyed by us.
Our first attempt at designing Strength for The Bohemian Cats' Theatre Tarot was beautiful, but not quite right.
We had sourced the most incredible baroque sculpture of a lion’s head which came from a royal hunting lodge (this is entirely true!) that had fallen into ruin. It seemed so exciting a piece and so perfect that we were thrilled.
We made the card, which took days of work. Then we rejected this first version. You can see it below, alongside our final card.
Whatever we did, it just seemed rather like a scene from Where the Wild Things Are – no bad thing in itself, but not quite fitting with the other images in the deck. Do you agree? Or do you like it? We are still somewhat in two minds ourselves and we are half wondering if we shouldn’t include both versions in the final deck. Please do let us know if you have strong feelings either way.
The final card shows a confrontation with a character dressed as a lion - and we love it.
The final Strength card exudes genuine drama, which we think will make it wonderfully effective in a reading. This time we used an antique carving of a lion (it’s beautifully made). A feisty female cat boldly faces a character dressed in a lion costume, complete with a formidable wooden mask. Despite the intimidating visage, she fearlessly extends her paw into the lion’s mouth. When you look at this dramatic confrontation, you simply have to wonder about the narrative behind this compelling performance. It’s obviously quite a story!
As ever, do please let us know what you think, and also if you would like to see both of these Strength cards in the final decks.