Interview with Ed Matuskey, Tarot of Brass and Steam

This week we are talking with Ed Matuskey, creator of a new tarot deck, which recently completed a Kickstarter campaign.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Ed, thanks joining us for this interview.

Ed Matuskey: Thanks Kevin, great to be here!


AA: What was the motivation for creating the Brass and Steam Tarot deck?

EM: Sometime in 2007 or 2008, I came to realize I was in a bit of a rut—I wasn’t doing anything but going to work, and then going home to consume media (internet videos, DVDs, books, etc). I wanted to break out of that pattern—I wanted to create content, not just consume it. And I realized that it was now very possible to both design something, and find artists to bring my designs to life. I was struck by the realization that there was nothing stopping me from doing something bold—and so when I had some money saved up, I started designing a tarot deck and looking for artists.


Image by Brooke Gillette

AA: Why use steampunk as the aesthetic for the imagery?

EM: I had always had a fascination for the steampunk aesthetic, even before it was called that (ie, Dark Crystal, Myst and Lighthouse computer games, the Disney 20,000 Leagues movie, etc). I just love brass and clockwork, the craftsmanship of the time before everything was mass produced. I was also starting to get involved via friends with the steampunk crowd through Steamcon. As I started to think about designing my own tarot deck (something I’d toyed with for years), I was struck with how visually evocative steampunk was—and my favorite tarot decks are one with a strong, clear, visual style. The idea of a “steampunk tarot” came soon after.


AA: What were your guidelines in creating the deck as a whole?

EM: First off, I wanted this to reflect a whole world of steampunk—not just have it based on the traditional environments of England or the Wild West. I also wanted a very vivid art style—a full range of colors, and bold imagery, where it was clear what you were looking at. And finally, I wanted to keep it science-based, and avoid anything occult or supernatural–which was harder than it sounds, since I love Victorian occultism! Granted, I wander into the territory of “super science” in some cases…


Image by Alec Boca

AA: The artwork so far is certainly bold and expressive! What are your goals in creating this deck?

EM: To finish it! To be able to point at the finished product and say, “I did that!” To have people contact the artists who did the individual cards and tell them how much they love their work. To try on the role of “producer” and see if it’s one I’d like to pursue as a career at some point in the future.


AA: What will readers find similar and different in using this deck as compared to other decks?

EM: What I hope for is that they see the idea of the card behind the imagery I’ve put up. This isn’t a Rider-Waite or Thoth clone, though I took inspiration from both styles of deck. What I’m trying to do is distill the cards into a core concept that might be recognizable to a regular tarot reader, and interpret it through my designs. I definitely consider my deck on the simple side when it comes to symbolism, but also think of it as a little more than a pure “art deck.” I’m really looking forward to seeing what people have to say when it’s finally out!


AA: While you are the designer and producer of the deck, you are contracting out the artwork for each card to other artists, such as Alex Boca and Brooke Gillette. How do you go about finding and selecting those artists?

EM: First, I tried to get a good idea of the visual aesthetic I wanted (color vs monochrome, cartoony versus realistic, etc). Then I went to DeviantArt and gave the general outlines of what I was looking for, and that I was able to pay. Even with the modest rates I was offering at the start, I was amazed at the responses I got.

Alex was one of the first artists I worked with, and the first piece he sent me was the Knight of Wands—an Old West lawman on a fiery, mechanical horse. Even just seeing the colored rough draft I knew I’d made an incredible find. I gave Alex more work over the next couple years as I raised the money, but there were times when he wasn’t available.

One time when that happened I really wanted some new pieces for an upcoming convention, and so I went back to DeviantArt—and this time I had some finished pieces I could point to for the art style I wanted. I was again amazed at the responses—and when Brooke turned in the Librarian Priestess (High Priestess) art, I again knew I had been wildly fortunate.

What was great was that people didn’t immediately realize that it had been done by a different artist—while I love the idea of having different artists working on the deck, I do want a consistent visual style, and it was awesome for people to not be jarred by the different artists’ work.


Image by Alec Boca

AA: With multiple artists on the project, are there commonalities in their styles, or is the intention to blend multiple styles in the deck?

EM: Alex really gave me exactly what I had in mind with his first pieces—ideally any additional artists I work with will complement that style. I’d given some thought to having different styles (say each suit of the minor arcane being done in a different way), but I think a more consistent visual style makes for a better experience.


We’ll pause here in our chat with Ed.

Join us for part 2 where Ed discusses the artwork and symbols in specific cards in the deck.

Until then, follow Ed and his progress on his website and get your prints in his shop.

Published in: on May 10, 2015 at 9:02 am  Comments (2)  

Winners of The Steampunk Chronicle’s 2015 Reader’s Choice Awards

Reposted by permission of The Steampunk Chronicle.


Published in: on April 26, 2015 at 5:47 pm  Comments (4)  
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Interview with Mike Zawacki and Scott Norman, The Wars of Other Men, Part 4

Welcome back for the conclusion of our chat with Mike Zawacki, director of steampunk short film Wars of Other Men, and Scott Norman, who plays the Lieutenant.

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here

Read Part 3 here


Airship Ambassador: What do you do to keep a balance between steampunk projects and the rest of your life?

Mike Zawacki: I have two kids, which is a pretty handy built-in limiter. They’re my number one priority so I just make sure that we’re all spending enough time together and work on projects as much as possible on the side. Having a day job is another built-in gauge for how much time you should be spending doing what. The end result is a lot of juggling, but I just keep checking in with my family, filmmaking friends, and coworkers to make sure everything’s getting the care and feeding it needs.


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and film makers to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

MZ: Yeah, as much as possible. Honestly I wish I could do that more. You learn a lot by watching other people work, and by having them watch you work, and then talking about the process afterword. A lot of the people who crewed Wars are friends who are really talented filmmakers in their own rights who were just pitching in on a project they thought would be cool and fun, so we all end up talking shop while we’re on set or hanging out afterwards. I like going to screenings and talking to the filmmakers after watching their film, and vice versa. In my semi-professional opinion that’s a really important part of keeping sharp and increasing your skills.

Scott Norman: We have a small team we’re currently working with to develop the next TWOOM project. It really does help to bounce ideas off each other and compare notes. Each of us has a different relationship to the story and the project, and different levels of experience in the world and with the military. I think it’s a good mix.


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

MZ: As you make films your grasp of effective writing and visual storytelling will get stronger, so there’s that. Also I’ve gotten away from doing straight horror or straight action and have worked hard to add some solid story and emotional components to whatever I’m doing.


AA: How is Michigan for this kind of project? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

MZ: It’s a good place to make films, though the film incentives changed the game for us indie players. In a way it’s been a double-edge sword. On the one hand it’s brought a lot of really talented crew into the state – folks with industry experience and some really solid skills. If you can present them with an idea that really grabs them they may come aboard and bring that skillset or even equipment that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

On the other hand, where you use to be able to get people really excited by the mere fact that you were making a film and turn that into some really cool opportunities for locations or other resources now it’s like “Yeah, well ‘Superman vs Batman’ just came through and gave me 10 grand to use my bar for a film. What are you gonna do for me?”. So you take out passion and replace it with money. It’s not always like that – there are still lots of really neat people who want to do neat things – but it does happen more than it used to.

That said, the upside is that Michigan filmmakers who apply for participation in the program get access to a lot of state held locations. So Keith Jefferies, who was our Director of Photography, made a very cool short film called Tommy Button and was able to shoot a bunch of it in a Michigan state prison. It added a ton of production value to the film and didn’t cost Keith a dime.


AA: Most of the people I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered in creating and promoting Wars?

MZ: Thankfully the companies I’ve worked for have all been very good about letting employees pursue outside projects like Wars, so I’d say being able to go to TeslaCon with your boss’ blessing (I actually invited my boss to come along!) is a huge help in making and promoting films.

SN: Lately, I’ve considered the creating/writing my main job that doesn’t pay yet because of this “other job” during the day that gets in my way. Having the other job pays the rent, and also forces me to fit in the writing and creating before I let it take my energy. So, in that way it helps. But, it is a hindrance when the schedule just doesn’t allow for certain conversations, meetings, or convention visits.


AA: Do people outside the steampunk and convention communities recognize you for Wars? What kind of reactions have you received?

MZ: Outside of the Steampunk community I’m usually only recognized by other filmmakers, which is kind of neat in and of itself. And that’s fine – I think being super famous or whatever would freak me out and ruin my life.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, filming and working, what other interests fill your time?

MZ: Well there’s the aforementioned parenting! Outside that I really like natural building and hippy type stuff like that. Doing the research for Wars turned me on to the world of military surplus weapon collecting, so now I do that! Most of my guns are World War II or earlier guns from communist countries.


AA: What other fandoms are you part of in some way?

MZ: I’m a giant, shameless sci-fi, fantasy, and role-playing dork. As your readers have probably guessed I’m into military history. I’m also really interested in the history of the internet and computing in general. Almost every job I’ve ever had has been tied into some sector of deep geek internet history, so it just kind of grew out of that.

fog beacon2

AA: How do those interests influence your work?

MZ: Well the sci-fi and military history things are hopefully obvious! Also I think being into sci-fi primes you to look at things differently and ask lots of “what if” type questions.


AA: Who or what do you count as your influences, motivators, or role models?

MZ: There are a lot of them! Influence-wise where films are concerned Joss Whedon is a big one, both in terms of what’s on the screen and how he seems to deal with the folks he works with. John Hillcoat’s films – the sparseness, desolation, and poignancy of films like “The Proposition” and “The Road” are really memorable and amazing. In terms of motivation? Having fun, collaborating with cool people, contributing to a community, telling interesting stories, all those are big ones. And it’s going to sound cheesy but my two biggest role models are my mom and dad. They’re just generally awesome people and spectacular parents. And now that I have kids of my own that appreciation for them has deepened.


AA: Three quick fire, random questions – what is your favorite time of day, condiment, and famous artwork?

MZ: Oh jeez…. Um, nighttime, horseradish, and Franz Marc’s Blue Horses.

SN: Whenever I happen to be most awake, ketchup, and I don’t pick favorites when it comes to art.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers?

MZ: Make more films! Especially you Steampunks! Seriously. We have an awesome community and a fun, creative, and visually distinctive genre. It would be way too easy for Hollywood to come in, rip all the cool stuff out of Steampunk, and just leave the gears, goggles, and top hats. And then they’ll give it to Michael Bay. Do you really want “MICHAEL BAY’S STEAMPUNK” become the thing that introduces a broad swath of the world to Steampunk? We can do a better job that’ll be truer to the roots of our community and will include all the fun, whimsy, history, creativity, and general awesomeness. So the parting shot is: get out there and make cool stuff that will show the world what Steampunk can really be.


Thanks, Mike and Scott, for sharing all the great stories about making The Wars of Other Men.

Follow the latest news and information on the movie’s website, twitter, and facebook.

Information is also on IMDB, the internet movie database.

Published in: on April 2, 2015 at 8:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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