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BTP57: Diving into The Fountain Tarot

By January 17, 2017 October 11th, 2021

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In this podcast episode, Brigit speaks with Jason Gruhl, co-creator of the wildly popular Fountain Tarot, to share more about the inspirations behind the deck.

The Fountain Tarot Deck contributes, in a fresh way, to the sacred and exciting tradition of Tarot by respectfully re-envisioning the deck, while bringing extensive quality to every detail – the paintings, writings, designs, and packaging. The Fountain Tarot offers a unique, contemporary experience connecting the worlds of geometry, internet culture, art, and spirituality.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How the Fountain Tarot was born
  • The creative process behind the Fountain Tarot
  • What is involved in creating and selling an indie Tarot Deck
  • The Fountain Tarot’s marketing process

What’s next for the Fountain Tarot

Additional Resources:

Podcast Transcript

Brigit: You’re listening to the Biddy Tarot Podcast, and this is Episode 57: Diving into the Fountain Tarot.

VOICE OVER

Welcome to the Biddy Tarot podcast, where you will learn how to connect more deeply with your intuition and live an empowered and enlightened life with the Tarot cards as your guide.

Listen as Brigit and her guests share their very best tips and strategies to help you read Tarot with confidence.

And now, here is your host Brigit Esselmont.

THE FOUNTAIN TAROT

Brigit: Hello and welcome back to the Biddy Tarot Podcast. As always I am so thrilled to be talking with you about Tarot.

A few months ago I was gifted a beautiful Tarot deck. This Tarot deck was something that I hadn't seen before. The style of it was something completely new and refreshing. It was a modern take on the traditional cards and it had a beautiful, dreamy, floaty, soulful energy to it.

I couldn't wait to start using it. I started using it in my personal Tarot readings and I found that working with this deck allowed me to really connect intuitively through the Tarot cards and into my own higher self.

I couldn't rely on just what I knew of the cards. I could actually just sink into the beautiful imagery of these cards.

Which deck am I talking about? I'm talking about the Fountain Tarot. Maybe you know it, maybe you don't, but after today's interview, I'm sure that you are going to want to find out a lot more about this Tarot deck.

After having worked a little bit with the Fountain Tarot, I really wanted to speak with the creator of the deck, Jason Gruhl. Jason isn't the only person who is part of the Fountain Tarot, there's also Jonathan and Andi. But Jason was responsible for writing all of the beautiful Tarot card meanings that go alongside this gorgeous deck.

So I invited him onto the Biddy Tarot podcast to share more about the Fountain Tarot and the inspirations behind the deck.

This interview will give you so much more insight as to what sits behind these beautiful cards and also what goes into the process of creating a Tarot deck, such as the Fountain Tarot.

So without further ado, I want to welcome on Jason Gruhl from the Fountain Tarot.

INTERVIEW WITH JASON GRUHL

Brigit: Hello Jason. I am so excited to have you on the Biddy Tarot podcast.

Jason: Oh, I'm excited to be here.

Brigit: Wonderful. This has been a long time coming. Each month I'm thinking, “Come on, let's make it happen. Let's make it happen.” So I'm super excited we're here talking.

We get to talk about probably one of my favorite Tarot decks, which I think is so beautiful, the Fountain Tarot.

Jason, just tell me a little bit about yourself and then about how you got into the Fountain Tarot project.

Jason: I actually have a long history in education and working with kids with autism. I did that for about 18 years and I started my own school for kids with autism and have run that for about 10 years.

A couple years ago, I was hitting that place in my career where I thought I need to do something very different and explore some of the things that were itching in the back of my mind that I wanted to do before my life is through. I wanted to make sure I get back into some of these things.

One of them was writing, and the metaphysical world – dealing with spirituality. That's always been a part of my life, but I hadn’t really put all of my energy into it.

Jonathan and I ended up moving to Mexico. While we were down there, he decided to paint a Tarot deck. He said, “You're going to write it and my friend Andi's going to design it.”

Before I knew it, I was knee-deep in the Fountain Tarot and writing this beautiful, beautiful book and journey that I had no idea I was going on necessarily.

Brigit: How fabulous. Had you had exposure to the Tarot before? Were you a good Tarot reader or was it something completely new to you?

Jason: I had a Tarot deck in college and I loved it. I loved it because it felt subversive at the time, but as I grew older with it, it felt like a really beautiful tool. But I still hadn't dived into it that much.

I was in charge of doing the research for what exactly the Fountain Tarot was going to be. I'm all for people making decks, if it's burning in their hearts. But at the same time, I feel like you should ask yourself the question, “Why does this one need to exist?”

When we were asking that question and researching what Tarot is and what it has been throughout its history, and how The Fountain Tarot is different. That's when I became intimate on a daily basis with the meanings and the symbols and the cards and how they've been used differently across time – What it is today and what we wanted the Fountain Tarot to be.

We became good readers later, and I wouldn't charge anyone right now for my skills, although some people ask. Right now we actually read pretty well using our deck and giving people very contemporary read on Tarot.

Brigit: I can imagine the connection that you would form with the Tarot through the process of creating a deck and writing the book would be amazing.

How deep were you going with Tarot?

Jason: I think what added to that was the fact that Jonathan and I were there together and he was painting and I was writing, so we did the research.

And then he would paint something and then we would think, “Okay, wow, so you just said that with that painting,” and I would write something and he would say, “Okay, wow, you just wrote that.”

It was this constant looking over and over again at the tradition of Tarot, the paintings that were coming out of it, the writings that were coming and then refining and refining and refining.

Here we were in this really different place for us. We both grew up in the United States and so we were down in Mexico on this beach with very little distraction, a little out of our element, and out of our language.

It was this wild juxtaposition of the elements that let us look at Tarot as this day-to-day tool that we could reinvent within the context of a tradition. It's really the most beautiful sort of set up for something that you could imagine.

Here's this thing that's really established, and yet completely relevant in today's world. But then we got to look at it differently in a completely new place.

To answer you question, it was a really intimate and personal journey for all three of us because it wasn't something we grew up in, or had tons of experience with. So we had to both learn it and love it and live it and write it and create it all at the same time.

Brigit: What I appreciate a lot about this deck is that it's based on the Rider-Waite in some ways, but in other ways, it's nothing like it. I think you've done such a great job of tapping into the essence of the card and then expressing it in a very different and new way. Maybe that was a factor of this new environment and new way of thinking. It's really special.

Jason: I would credit Jonathan with that. It’s funny because we’re married. Living with him can be maddening because his mind goes in a lot of different directions, but it's also really exciting because it's always thinking in ways that my brain doesn't.

When we were doing the research, he said “Give me a vibe and rate it 0 to 100 percent for someone who has never seen this card or Tarot. When they look at that card, give it a percentage from sheer joy to sheer dread of what their visceral reaction would be.”

It was a really cool filter to write towards and paint in for him. We wanted it to be something where you didn't have to have any kind of history with Tarot to have a very personal and emotional experience with each of the cards.

And yet we also wanted to have that Rider-Waite background for people who love that and connect with it. But I credit that vibe technique as one of the ways that he looked at that in a new way.

Brigit: It's so nice to hear what goes on behind the scenes of creating the deck. As the customer, you see the imagery and it's great to hear that story that sits behind it.

So you mentioned asking yourselves what the purpose was of this deck. What was the answer to that? Where did you land?

Jason: All three of us felt really strongly that Tarot was something completely relevant for right now.

There are lots of different camps within the community, and if you're on Facebook, you can see a million different people coming at it in a particular way.

Our way was that this is such a beautiful tool that we want to be able to have people today look at it and see themselves in the deck. We wanted people to be able to hear themselves speaking in the book.

So the language of the book is very conversational and it speaks to a spiritual place within each person. Hopefully it's something that reads very easily if you were talking to a friend.

In the same way, Andi wanted the design to be gorgeously visual and something that you wanted to pick up simply as an object because you were drawn to it.

And with the paintings, Jonathan wanted them to be really relatable and for people to be able to see themselves in the actual people in the deck –  and have it not be something like, “Oh that's funny, I don't know anyone who wears a knight's costume regularly.” There's nothing wrong with those decks, but we wanted this deck to be different.

It was for people to see themselves in it today and so that they could approach it in a really accessible way and think, “Maybe this has something to say to me.”

Brigit: I love that. I think there's a new generation or Tarot decks coming through, like the Fountain Tarot or The Wild Unknown or even the Starseed, where the imagery is so much more now.

And also, I want to say modern. I don't want to say normal, but you know what I mean? It doesn't have to be about fairies and rainbows and unicorns. It can be if it wants to be, but it doesn't have to be.

And that's opening up Tarot to a much wider audience, which I feel, and maybe you're on the same page, is a really great thing because I think Tarot could benefit so many different people. It's great to get it into their hands.

Jason: For sure. My background is in autism and we never advertised with anything in the autism community. We always went for the Jones' and the Millers' and the people down the street where you're like, “I want you to love autism.”

In my head it was a similar kind of thing where we're like, “This isn't just for the folks at the Renaissance festival or the gal down the street who's been doing this forever, it honestly can be for everybody.”

We wanted that flavour in it. And then I have my favourite decks at home too with the fairies too. I love those decks and I pull them out every so often, but I have this deck that I can go to every day. I feel like it's just one of the things I use to view new paths in my life or to open up things or new ways of seeing where I’m stuck.

Brigit: I love it. Do you think the Fountain Tarot is good for particular types of readings or does it carry a certain kind of energy? I find I have a few different decks for different kinds of readings.

What is your connection with the Fountain Tarot? Does it have a certain type of reading that it's best suited to?

Jason: It's funny. I shouldn't say it, but it's my go-to deck obviously because we made it and I love it. It’s also accessible, but pretty intense.

I hear a lot of people say sometimes that you just want to be eased into a conversation. I don't feel like the Fountain really eases in too much. It's kind of like “Wham, here's what it thinks.”

I guess one thing we've heard about it is that it has an intense energy. To say it in another way, it has very clear and decisive kind of energy to it. I don't know if that's the same for everybody.

When I use it for myself, I see every card as soft and beautiful. It also feels more familiar and homey to me, but then I lived with it so that might be just a particular thing for me.

Brigit: I'm using it more for personal readings and a little bit for teaching actually. I really like contrasting it next to the Rider Waite because they're like chalk and cheese somehow.

The imagery forces me to go into my intuitive space because I find it so dreamy in a way. It’s creative, abstract, but not so abstract that I'm freaking out. Because I've seen some really abstract decks and I think, “I can't handle this.”

I really appreciate that kind of dreamy, soulful energy. For me, I'm enjoying it for more personal use, I suppose.

Jason: It's interesting that you’re saying that. We tried to boil it down to the simplest pieces on it, like what has to be on the front and what doesn't. It does give you enough to go somewhere, but it doesn’t give you quite enough to just have the card say everything.

I do love the fact that it invites people to dive into the reading and answer, “What does that mean for you?” or “What piece do you need to fill in here to have this make sense?”

I don't think we actually knew that this process would take place because of the simplicity, but it was absolutely a choice to keep it as simple as possible.

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I had this huge matrix of tons of Tarot decks from the early Italian ones through today, and I would literally tract what symbols showed up when across all these hundreds of years and then I’d boil it down for Jonathan.

Then I would say, “Here are some other things that you can mess with. You can leave this off or you can add something different. This is totally up to you.”

In that way, I think the deck did get boiled down to a particular essence. We were looking at those archetypes in the pieces that we didn't want to mess with, but we also wanted to get it back to a very refined place with a modern edge to it.

Brigit: Oh my goodness, that research would be amazing. Have you ever thought about using that to write a book about the symbolism of all of the Tarot decks?

Jason: In the same way that Jonathan boiled the information down for the paintings, the same thing happened for the meanings. And I had to just sit with it and then let it do its own thing for each of the meanings – for it to become “Fountainy” and contemporary.

But there is so much to say about the decisions that went into it and didn't go into it. Expanding on some of the meanings, there are so many things that you can’t fit into a small book. Even though, it's a I think a nicer book than most decks out there. We would love to do an expanded book.

And I'm actually “hush hush” in the prospect of asking some of our closer friends in the Tarot community for their advice and what they think is out there. So there are some cool things brewing around a Fountain expanded book right now.

Brigit: Awesome. I'm so glad. I appreciate the little book that comes with the deck, as is. I think what's nice is that it's short and succinct, which leaves space for you to interpret it on your own versus relying what's in the book.

Here’s another thing that I like. I've seen in other decks where the deck looks completely different to a Rider-Waite, but still based on it, and yet the descriptions are just a regurgitation of what's the Rider-Waite even though it looks so different. That doesn't tell me about the inspiration of the artwork and why this person has chosen all this imagery. It just doesn't connect.

In yours, you offer a slightly different angle on the card. It's not completely different to the energy of the card, but it's just a different way of looking at it, which is nice.

Jason: I had to sit with that a long time. I think each one of us had to grapple a little bit with, “How far do you stray before you're something completely freaky?” Then keeping it within the tradition, but still making it fresh and new which was completely our point.

I have sort of a Buddhist spiritual philosophy rather than any certain dogma, so when I was sitting with each of the cards and trying to get into the essence of each one, questions kept coming up. So in the book you'll hear a lot of questions that are actually in the meaning itself.

That not necessarily to say, “Here's how you should feel,” or “Here's what this absolutely means,” but more like, “Here's what this smells like. What do you smell?” These are nods and hints and questions that begin to paint a picture but never complete it for you. Maybe that's what everybody does, but that was where I tried to be.

I think it's a very organic and natural place to end up if you're sitting with each of the cards, not as a finite thing, but as a statement about a process in each of our lives.

Each of the cards is a nod to an experience or to a feeling, or to some circumstance we might find ourselves in – and none of those are really concrete. They move and they're tainted by the person who's doing it.

Anyway, it was a very, very personal experience and hopefully it opened it up to be something that could be personal for other people while they were reading with it as well.

Brigit: I want to switch gears and talk a bit about the marketing of your deck because you did a Kickstarter campaign. You found your way into Vogue magazine, which is awesome and I saw a really quirky video where you're trying to get Lady Gaga to do a Tarot reading.

Tell me about your process when it came to actually getting your deck out there and into people's hands.

Jason: We started as a Kickstarter, which was an amazing thing for us.

Not to keep going back to this – but autism is sort of a niche community and it's easy to find the people in that community. The same way that I can search in a particular country for Tarot and you're going to see the same names and groups and people come up if you're in it for a little while.

So with Kickstarter, we just searched the globe for where Tarot is really hot and happening and where people excited about it. What are the names and the groups that keep coming up? We just started calling them and letting them know, “Hey we're these yahoos from Denver that are creating a deck and if you wouldn't mind keep an eye out for our Kickstarter and here’s why we think it's going to be a new and exciting thing.”

It was such a welcoming and sweet process for us. So many people were like, “Wow, thanks for sharing that. We'll absolutely let our meetup group know,” or “We'll let our whoever know.” So very quickly and internationally, we were able to get people to have their feelers up about it.

Then when the Kickstarter happened, that ballooned really well too.

Since then, the marketing has really been a lot of Instagram. Jonathan is the king of Instagram. He's diagnosable in having two posts a day that he puts life on hold for these photos each day. They're always amazing. Like I said, his brain goes through these cool, quirky places.

But then all of us, Andi, Jonathan and I, were really committed to making sure that it felt really fun as well. I think life is a big beautiful and fun place and there are, of course just like the cards, there are times when it's not, but in general we wanted people to just get some joy and some laughter and sometimes some levity.

So we were looking at it as, “Why can't it be this beautiful, fun thing in Vogue?” and, “Why can't it be a funny thing that we put on Instagram where we're totally not taking ourselves seriously?” It seems like when you can stay light about your creation and if you don't get too serious about how it has to go, it leaves the space open for a lot of great things to happen.

So literally it's been other people sharing it and saying “Who are these wacky people? and “What is this cool thing that's been created?” That has driven the marketing.

Brigit: That’s taking more of that fun, creative approach, rather than a real marketing strategy.

So you're probably aware of it, but Wild Unknown is in Anthropology in the U.S.

Do you see any of those kind of opportunities coming up for Fountain Tarot where you can get it in front of a big mass market? Or do you want to keep it contained? Where do you sort of see this deck going?

Jason: That's a really interesting question.

I'd be curious on the Wild Unknown's process of going from this small independent deck to something that went crazy. They are break out for contemporary decks and it’s great that they’ve had that shift to a mass market.

Our goal is to have Tarot become this common thing around the globe, so however it gets out there, we’d be really happy.

I think what's been so great about The Fountain is that it has felt like a very personal and organic process from how it's gone from this little creation and then it's starting to make its way out into the world.

We would absolutely love to someday have it in the hands of a quality publisher. We've been approached recently by a publisher and we've been talking about that, but I'm not sure how that's going to go.

It's important for us to make sure that whoever gets it understands that it isn't just meant to be put out there in the same way that all the other decks are have been.

The writer, painter and designer of our deck were experts in their field and then we ended up a pretty quality deck. So those elements matter. Once it's out there and created, you can’t then put it into a cheap box and sort of do what you want. It needs to have the integrity that it was created with and I think that's true for all really great products in the world.

We're open to it, but it has to go down a particular process for us or it isn't worth it. We'll just keep packing it out of our living room and hoping someone figures it out someday.

Brigit: That's amazing. That's something I absolutely notice about the deck is just – I sound like a complete Tarot geek here – but the thickness of the card stock is amazing. You've got that beautiful silver lining to the cards. And you can tell you've taken a lot of care with how you present the cards.

It must be an interesting balance whether you go to the mainstream market and reach more people, or in that process, you may even risk being criticized even as selling out. I'm not saying that you should be, but it's probably this fine balance between nurturing your small, intimate group versus getting it way out there.

Jason: It isn't an easy answer.

The lesson of the deck, and Tarot in general, is to surrender.

Ultimately, if you're reading or listening to Tarot long enough it all boils down to the fact that you're not really in charge and you need to surrender to a lot of things in your life. I think we need to follow the same advice for this deck.

It's had a very organic evolution. It continues to do well and sell really well in lots of different places. We have to believe that, at some point, it will either be given an opportunity to go to a larger scale in a quality way or it will be something that gently and quietly makes its way out into the world over decades and decades. But I want to trust that process of whatever that is.

Brigit: Right now, where can people buy the Fountain Tarot? What are your selling channels?

Jason: The website is still for individual sales. That's our biggest thing, but we've really tried to push wholesale orders for stores and shops because I think there's a cool experience when you actually get to be in Amsterdam or Chicago or Sydney and you pick the deck up for yourself in a local bookshop.

It’s a different experience than buying it from overseas. I think it's important that it is in local shops because it is such a personal thing. I rarely buy something online like this. I want it in my hand first.

Right now we're revamping our website to make sure that all of the shops that carry it are there, so you can find it easier, but not everyone is up there yet.

If people have questions, they can certainly email us at [email protected] and we let them know if there is a place in your area that should be carrying the deck.

Brigit: We'll make sure that we post the link to your site so that people can get a copy of the deck or even just check out it.

Just before, you were saying that the Instagram photos are just like eye-candy. I'm looking at those and – oh my gosh, they're so good.

Jason: I laugh sometimes because I think, “What do I do for this organization?” Because Jonathan and Andi are such visual gods and goddesses. They play off of each other so well.

Jonathan is this crazy painter and I'm this crazy writer, but Andi is the one that can say, “Here's how another human is going to interact with this in such a beautiful way.” So she was the one that came up with the card stock thickness and the fonts that we use and all of the little features on the deck.

It's such an amazing partnership to have all of these different skill sets and views. That Instagram thing, it’s Andi and Jonathan.

Brigit: What's next for Fountain Tarot? You hinted towards maybe an extended version of the book. Are there any other ways that you're expanding with Fountain Tarot?

Jason: Because we were talking with this publisher we were looking toward Fountain’s future? Would we do other merchandise and things like that?

There is a new creation that's about to come out soon. It will be available for the November/December time frame. It will be cool. It's something you can use with your Tarot deck.

We've talked about doing a special edition of the Fountain Tarot and I don't know if that would be this coming year. I think we would like to try and get the expanded book out within the next year and then we'd be looking at potentially a special edition or some other cool things that we've done with the deck itself, maybe a miniature deck. I don't know.

It's an interesting and fascinating time for all of us right now, but what we know is that we have many, many, many years of fun to be had with this deck for sure.

Brigit: Awesome. I've enjoyed our conversation so much. It's been so insightful to get inside your head and the Fountain Tarot.

Thank you so much Jason. I really appreciate it today. It's been fun.

Jason: Thank you so much. You are such a resource in the community and we've always really, really loved who you are for Tarot. It's been a pleasure talking with you and having a more personal moment, and being able to actually get to know you a little bit. So keep doing what you're doing as well. We appreciate it.

Brigit: Awesome. Thank you so much. All right. We'll chat soon. Bye.

Jason: Bye-bye.

Brigit: I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Jason as much as I did.

If you want to find out more about the Fountain Tarot head over to FountainTarot.com and you can see those beautiful Instagrammable images of the Tarot deck. It just gives you beautiful insight into what these cards look like.

You can also purchase the Fountain Tarot deck on their website.

If you want to see their Instagram account, which is total eye candy for us Tarot readers, I would strongly encourage you to do that. It's over at Instagram.com/FountainTarot.

And of course we'll make sure that all of those links and the transcript for today's conversation is on BiddyTarot.com/57. So head over to BiddyTarot.com/57 and you can access all of the show notes, the transcript and see some absolutely juicy, gorgeous pictures of the Fountain Tarot.

Wonderful. Well, as always, it's been such a pleasure to talk Tarot with you and I can't wait to connect with you again next time. Thank you and good bye.

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