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The Illest Tarot You Ever Did See

90's kids rejoice. Someone finally figured out how to combine 90's pop culture icons with the art of tarot. Artist Kristi Prokopiak features illustrations of legends like Sade, Bjork, Lauryn Hill, Kurt Cobain, Missy Elliott, Andre 3000, and Tori Amos, among others on her wildly popular deck, aptly named The Illest Tarot. I hadn't even met Kristi, but I knew I loved her the moment I laid eyes on these cards. 

We met up with her to find out how she got into tarot and what shaped her journey as an artist that ultimately inspired this special deck. Only 10 are back in stock after selling out last time so get your hands on them quick!  

You had a bit of a past life before creating tarot decks. Can you briefly share your background?

My personal path has lead me to have lots of different experiences! I helped my ex open a restaurant when we were in our early twenties. I wrote a book about scrapbooking. I worked on the windows at Anthropologie. I had a brief stint at a high end residential Interior Design firm in Manhattan. I colored all over the windows at the SoHo Moleskine. I made a giant yarn cocoon for a music video. I worked at a prop house. I wrote a workbook about tarot. And I waited a looooooot of tables!!!

(Image courtesy of Kristi Prokopiak.)

 

 

I already knew I loved you the moment I laid eyes on this deck. Since then I've been dying to pick your brain about how you came up with each of the archetypes. You said there were certain cards that you instantly linked to certain people, such as The Wheel of Fortune, The Hermit, The Moon, and The High Priestess. Can you briefly explain who is linked to each and why?

Thank you!! So glad it resonates for you. As far as the rationale behind the cards, that's what the guidebook is for! You'll have to buy a deck to find out! Haha. I also have a workbook available on my website, and while it's not about the specific archetypes of my deck, it does give additional context to my understanding of the cards and why certain people would be certain cards.

(Image courtesy of Kristi Prokopiak.)

Finding the Tower (card) wasn’t a wake up call that redirected my life, it was an invitation to heal on my own terms.

Can you describe the moment the concept of The Illest Tarot came to you?

The idea for the cards came through while I was having an acupuncture treatment. I write in depth about the whole process here.

I’m one of those people who always writes down ideas in my Moleskin because I forget everything and I was so anxious because I had all these needles in my hand. All I wanted to do was write! Luckily it wasn’t a fleeting dream and I was able to remember all of it. The cards started as a creative challenge to myself, because the 100 Day Project was starting, and I decided to see if I could make a card a day and complete a full deck. As I shared my work on IG, people started commenting like crazy. I didn’t think I’d be able to pull this off, but the doors just kept opening and I just kept saying yes.

(Above: Image by Kristen Nichols. Right: Image courtesy of Worthy Tarot.)

 

You mentioned that finding the Tower card on the sidewalk one day in Brooklyn was a wake-up call that redirected your entire life path. For tarot newbies, can you explain what the Tower card typically represents and what it personally represented to you? P.S. It's honestly the only card in the deck that terrifies me based on imagery alone (way more than the Death card, which I totally embrace) so I'm fascinated by this.

The Tower is unexpected destruction! Everything you know to be true burning down to the ground! It's a doozy. But it's a shedding of unnecessary layers that inevitably leads you to your power and resilience. The phrase "May the bridges I burn light the way" comes to mind with the Tower. I am sort of predisposed to disrupting my own life in dramatic ways when my intuition is trying to tell me something. I've just learned to embrace my wildness. I break a lot of hearts (including my own) but I always find my spark again. Finding the Tower wasn't a wake up call that redirected my life, it was an invitation to find peace on my own terms.

(Image courtesy of Worthy Tarot.)

 

 

You've said you're "a creator of sacred spaces". Can you elaborate on what that means?

To me, it's about living with intention. Curating personal items and taking into account all aspects or elements, such as light and scent and where the object comes from. Critically thinking about the things you use and why you use them. A work table in your studio can be a sacred space just as much as an altar. Gardens are sacred. Closets are sacred. Infusing the spaces we inhabit with loving attention and care makes them sacred. I found that the Interior Design niche that I encountered felt kinda soul-less and competitive. It's so much more rewarding to help my friend make a prayer altar for good weather at her roof top wedding than to help some rich guy one up his friends with a bigger custom chandelier!!

(Image courtesy of Kristi Prokopiak.)

 

Which card personally resonates with you at this moment in time, and why?

The Hermit. I'm in an especially lucky place that I can burrow into my Kristi cave and not have to take care of any children or elders, but it's been intense. I think I'm going through a period of disillusionment and having to shut out all the noise. California is energetically intense, and it has shown me a lot of things about myself that I need to sit with and learn to love. Lots of re-evaluation and LOTS of voice texts with my New York friends!! 

As an artist, there are inevitably times you may feel less than inspired. What do you do to get the creative juices flowing again?

It depends! There’s no quick fix, so I just keep trying all sorts of things till I find my way. It helps to have multiple projects going at once, so when I get stuck on one thing, I can “procrastinate” by working on the other. I always have a scrapbook in progress, I’m always writing in my journal, and I always have a daily tarot practice. One of those things generally gives me the spark that I need. But when all that fails, I love riding my bike on the beach. I love sitting under the trees in the park. I love a good cup of coffee. A glass of water always helps. I’m always open to trying new things and experimenting to find what works as I grow and my needs change. 

(Image courtesy of Kristi Prokopiak.)

To many, the world currently feels as though it's in a chaotic downward spiral. It can be hard to maintain faith in these times. As a spiritually conscious person, I'm curious what your perspective is on the current state of the planet?

There are so many ways we need to get our shit together. I’m a bit of a pessimist in that I don’t think the exorbitantly rich and powerful will ever back down, and they will continue to let their greed burn this planet to a crisp while the the rest of us keep arguing on Facebook. So many people are hurting as a result of unchecked privilege and ignorance. I spend a lot of time analyzing things with friends, trying to unpack bias or make daily changes that will have lasting impact. I find we all have blind spots, and being open to discussing everything from systemic racism to fatphobia and mental health stigmas is crucial. It’s so important for us to build each other up and look to the people who have been dedicating their lives to this work all along. Building relationships that support and nurture each other feels really important. Buy your friends or coworkers a cup of coffee. Let them know you hear them. Ask them if they need anything.

(Image courtesy of Kristi Prokopiak.)

 

As a born and bred New Yorker, what have you embraced about Los Angeles and what do you find challenging, if anything?

It’s very easy to embrace the hiking. And the ocean!! I have to admit, California is very energetically challenging to me. I don't know if it's the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, living on fault lines, or Indigenous ghosts roaming the land... but I definitely feel an immediacy that I don't entirely understand. The image of California is laid back and chill, but I actually feel very activated! You are left with your thoughts out here, and they seem to bounce off the mountains echoing a strange unsettled cry. The Pacific mirrors my subconscious and it's all laid bare. New York blasts humanity in your face, but California blasts your psyche at you. I feel scrubbed raw. I'm grateful for the insight but also, I need a hug. haha. Thank god there's so many trees around!

 

Word on the street is you're planning to release another edition of your wildly popular Illest Tarot deck! Can you tell us a little about what to expect from this edition?

The latest iteration of the deck has two bonus cards and a new card back!

(Image courtesy of Ritual Cravt.)

Complete these statements:

Best album of all-time: That’s intense. Depends on my mood. These are some of the contenders: Exile in Guyville, The Bends, Ill Communication, Give Up, Violator, Under the Pink, Pretty Hate Machine…

I can never have too many: Candles.

Personal style icon: Kelly Wearstler, The Olsen sisters, Jemima Kirke

The best trip I ever took: I love road trips! Driving cross country is amazing and I love that you can plan different routes depending upon what national parks you wanna check out.

Favorite Eastside LA hangout: I used to have a little artist date where I’d grab a cantaloupe juice from Guisado’s, head up to Los Feliz and check out Bell Jar, Otherwild and Sacred Light. So fun!!

Words of wisdom: Right now my mantra is “work smarter, not harder”.

(Image courtesy of Kristi Prokopiak.)