Kartograme is an art workshop dedicated to divinatory Marseille tarot decks. It is located in France. The whole project started in 2016 by the young geologist Agnes Kappler, who is passionate about art, new methods, preserving artwork and the French game cards we know as Tarot de Marseille.
Agnes Kappler's vision is unique. She is using handmade paper to create artistic decks. She uses either the BNF or BM Tarots, that have survived or modern restorations like Pablo Robledo's Tarot de Marseille and she uses three types of paper, three types of cardboard, and high definition printing. The vision to provide a Renaissance experience to the cartomancer goes on. She uses glue that she makes from natural materials, she polishes the cards by using only soap and no chemicals, she softly rounds the corners and she puts gold leaves on the edges of the cards. Each deck is accompanied by a unique box, paper wrapping with golden letters, melted wax, etc. The aim is to provide a unique experience to those who use the cards, similar to that of the time periods of Renaissance and Enlightenment. People who value their time using tarot cards may want to check her artistic, handmade Tarot decks.
Each deck is custom made, with custom paper and high definition printing technology. The colors of the cards are digitally corrected with image editing software. The final result is a combination of old and new methods. It is worth mentioning that the cards take time to be produced and the prices are analogous to the prices of the paper. The creator and queen of wands of this project put her energy in the cards and she tries to keep herself in a calm position so that the tool of divination won't carry any negative energies.
Whatever you read in this article comes from Agnes Kappler herself and my experience with Kartograme. I have bought one manufactured Noblet deck and a 22-card artistic Dodal deck.
She gives three options of paper in handmade decks:
- art paper, which is white, bright, flexible, and thin.
- washi paper, which comes from kozo shrub. It is made in Japan. It is very thin, durable, tougher than wood pulp, it has texture and it becomes very smooth with the soap. Washi is a little yellow-old kind of paper.
- handmade paper from Jean Pierre Gouy. This is the 12th-century French paper made in France today. It has texture, it is stable, thick, it has imperfections, and allows the color to interact better with the paper. Follow the link to take an idea from the manufacturing process.
Each paper is glued with the lame, the cardboard, to make a card. The process is also done by hand. There are three options. Thin, medium, and thick cardboard. Thin and medium cardboard is used for creating 78-card decks. Washi paper with medium cardboard is the most solid option you can get for your cards. Thin cardboard allows better shuffling. All options allow cards to be handled easily. The cards offer flexibility and stability. The colors remain for years in the cards. These decks are meant to be used.
Agnes believes that the acid-free handmade paper in combination with high-quality printing creates a mild 3d effect on the depictions of the cards. In that way, we can see the cards by their true meaning, of providing general meanings and more chaotic interpretations, opening us to use the intuition in a broader way during a cartomancy session.
See the two following videos if you are more interested in the paper:
Personally, I think the French handmade paper is the best choice for a traditionalist. The texture is intense and the color feels even more natural and playful. It is yellow-ecru and it looks old. Washi is all of that but to a lesser degree. My 22 Dodal arcana are printed in washi and I love them. Art paper is white and will appeal to those who work with modern restorations and clear decks. Art paper with thin cardboard will be helpful to professionals who pass their cards to the clients, but with this choice, you are losing rigidity. I feel satisfactory to have a rigid, stable, sturdy, robust deck of cards.
Manufactured decks, which are also provided by Kartograme, are printed in a factory with numeric technology. For now, there are available the Noblet and Dodal TdM type I in limited editions of 78 decks.
Artistic decks are handmade, made with print on demand on the workshops. The printer holds 10 cartridges, allowing a perfect color reproduction. Pigment inks have been tested to be durable for more than 100 years of constant exposure to intense sunlight. There is zero pixelization. These printing techniques are used in the art for reproducing their work in high-quality copies. The same techniques are also used by museums. The quality is higher than the ability of the eye to catch the depth of the colors.
Besides these techniques, Mamluk and Wirth's decks are also available with hand painting on the backside, allowing the unity of the deck. She uses glaze techniques: superposition of very transparent layers of paint. See the images below.
The cost of handmade decks is high, but the materials themselves are expensive. Handmade paper is the same paper that was used in the Middle Ages. Nowadays we can have the same amount of paper within a week. Her business partner who creates the paper for Tarot cards makes the same amount of paper in a year! Special tools are needed for the details, which are made by Maison Avilon in Paris. The boxes are made by the famous Reliac in Paris. The glue is constructed by Agnes and she also does the smoothening and the cutting. All decks have been digitally corrected by her too. She restores the colors to their original form, not the clarity of the depictions. In the end, the cartomancer has a deck that feels different and acts differently. For me, it is a time machine. A tool with love and dedication similar to the ones we see in the Middle Ages. If you are a traditionalist, a person from an older time, you will find something unique in these cards.
Agnes was born in the same village as Jean Dodal. She lives in Villejuif, a suburb of Paris. She loves to be around nature and play with her kid. She is also an art lover.
When she was a teenager she played with an oracle card. Later on, she discovered Tarot de Marseille and she started to read about it. She gathered many decks to find the ones which suit her better. She practices cartomancy for family and friends. Not only she is interested in the practical aspects of card divination, but she also reads about the History of the cards and tries to discover the character of each engraver by his work. Her vision is to make meaningful decks for the readers and being creative.
For Agnes "cartomancy is a way to help people make a more informed decision. Help them take into consideration parts of the unknown. Usually for action or choice." She continues: "Tarot de Marseille... transforms you towards self-realization, based on the intangible and the theory of synchronicity. It works by opening the consciousness little by little." About the philosophy of the Tarot, she believes that it is universal and that everyone can read the cards. As for the card meanings, they constantly change, according to the present conditions. "The picture speaks to the unconscious part of the brain and clicks-in the intuition."
Agnes Kappler creates the most traditional Tarot decks we can have as cartomancers. She believes that they are helpful for people who want to practice love care and let go, within the family. For people who enjoy time reading using the Tarot cards. Besides the artistic decks, you can buy manufactured decks too, which are very reasonably priced. They are printed in high definition, use the same paper you see on mass-produced cards, and cut by a robot. Manufactured decks can be a window for the next level experience.
I read with Tarot de Marseille and this system is my go-to for cartomancy. I have studied and I read with RWS and Golden Dawn Tarot, Le Petit Lenormand, and Le Petit Etteilla. I upload free lessons on my Youtube channel, suggest books, present Tarot decks, answering questions, and giving advice. My videos are in Hellenic/Greek. I have a page on Facebook about French Cartomancy and I participate in groups on Tarot and Lenormand.
The problem we have with traditional-historical TdM decks is the quality of the paper. It is not flexible, it does not shuffle easily. Modern circulations like Jodorosky-Camoin (1990), CBD (2011), and Millenium Edition (2017) are based on Conver's deck and they have perfect cardstock for handling the cards. This mass-produced cardstock never feels real to hands, due to the varnishes. Those who use historical decks, deal with the problem of thick cardboard that is not flexible, and thus it doesn't help with shuffling and quick sessions.
Kartograme is making a difference by printing TdM historical and newer decks in handmade paper, with no varnishes, and with lighter colors. Besides the artistic decks of handmade paper, there are two manufactured decks that are available by the company, that use the well-known mass-produced paper. The manufactured decks of Kartograme are shuffled easily like any mass produces Tarot deck and playing cards. The quality of printing is excellent, yet the depictions are not clear, something that doesn't interfere during divination. The only flaw is the white border on the outer sides of the card, outside the printing area. As the card ages, the background paper becomes darker at some points and this is natural. In my Noblet deck, the white borders are slightly noticeable.
The first time I learned about Kartograme was from Mascha's videos on Youtube. I searched for the website and I was amazed negatively with myself for not knowing the existence of this art workshop. Then, I contacted asking for a manufactured deck. Agnes informed me more on artistic decks and I asked my Noblet deck (Flornoy's reproduction) what to do. I used a 6-card spread of 2 lines (3 cards for each line). The answer was that if I bought only the manufactured deck, I wouldn't be completely satisfied and so I ordered a 22-card Dodal TdM to use with the open reading technique. The decks arrived 3 weeks later.
The handmade deck of 22 major arcana that I ordered is made with washi paper and medium cardboard. The cards are sturdy and thick. The inner cardboard doesn't allow much flexibility but gives a nice body. The cards are easily shuffled. The ink interacts with the light and the paper! I cannot describe that with words, so I will upload a video o my Youtube channel. The feeling of the handmade cards is something unique that I have never felt with any other deck. The fingertips can sense the texture of the paper and its little spots. The colors are playing with the light and so intuition is better triggered by this marriage. It seems weird when you read it, but it is more a feeling of the eyes and touch. Besides the high-quality printing, the colors, the handmade paper, the feeling of the cards give satisfaction to the hand and to the eye.
I believe that the artistic decks from Kartograme offer a unique experience that will be appreciated by experienced students of Tarot de Marseille. Just like a runner will appreciate a good running shoe or any shoe, because he is trained, has the experience, and feels the benefits, so a cartomancer will appreciate the work and the love that accompany a handmade deck, a work of art, and a time machine. Regarding the two manufactured decks of Kartograme (Jean Dodal's British Museum copy and Jean Noblet BNF), I think that people who appreciate historical decks will like them. The images are not clear, but the colors play together and the printing is satisfying. So, if you can read with not-clear cards, you will love them, especially Noblet's deck.
Jean Dodal Handmade Artistic Deck, Washi Paper, Medium Cardboard
Jean Noblet Manufactured Deck
As I was waiting for the paper and the cards to be ready, I had the idea, to ask this queen of wands, to give me an interview about her work and herself. I was curious as many other people. She replied to all questions without fear or any complex, and the result was very satisfying for me. You can form your own opinion and learn more about Agnes, by reading the interview in her blog section on Kartograme's website.
Visit the webpage again to see the link posted.
It amazes me how so many traditions follow these ancient protocols and roles,