On Art & Cards: An Interview with Jennifer Dranttel of the Nomad Tarot

by Marianne in


The hard-to-find Nomad Tarot has long been a favourite here at Two Sides Tarot. I cherish my personal copy, and every time I have it in stock in the shop, it gets snapped up within weeks. It's been a little while since this cult favourite deck has been available, but if you've been longing for a copy, your prayers are about to be answered! 

Nomad creator, Jennifer Dranttel, has just announced that, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of this deck, a new edition is on the way, seeking funding now through Kickstarter. Can I get a HELL YES, please?! 

I had a chat with Jennifer about her tarot origin story, her art practice, and what's new with this edition of Nomad. Read on for all the juice!

Nomad Tarot Interview Jennifer Dranttel

Image by Yulia Volchok

Hi Jennifer! Welcome to Two Sides Tarot. Could you introduce us to yourself, and to your work, tarot and otherwise?

Hello! I’m Jennifer, I’m an artist, illustrator, educator, mother, and traveling nomad. I’m American, but am currently living and working in the UK. My whole life I’ve been drawn to creative fields- my undergrad degrees are in Architecture, Graphic Design & Printmaking, and after a decade-long career as a professionally exhibiting artist and curator, I decided to go back to school to get my MFA in Textiles (from Savannah College of Art & Design) because I wanted to be a teacher at the University level.

I always begin my creative process with tons of research, and am inspired by a pretty wide (and wild) range of material from scientific journals to botanical gardens to poetry. I am drawn to both high-tech and low-fi materials, processes, and ideas. The history, layered imagery, and ties into traditions of folk healing, witchcraft, and other religions made Tarot a natural draw for me.

Tell us about your tarot journey - how did the cards first find their way into your life?

I had friends who read the cards and for years they were just always around at parties, dinners, and lazy sunny afternoons in the park. I never really identified as a reader myself, but always really enjoyed using them as a lightly fun way, like a horoscope or a palm reading.

I had an art show booked in 2014 and randomly decided to start looking into the Tarot, and illustrating the Major Arcana as large silkscreen prints. After about six months of research and development of my own interpretations, I became obsessed with having the entire deck in my hands, and illustrated the remaining cards. I really only set out initially to create the deck I wanted to use- with imagery drawn from my life, from the specific things that are inspirational and evocative to me- and I have to admit I’m still amazed every time a stranger wants to use it as well. So I initially began the Nomad Tarot project looking at it from the point of view of an illustrator, but in the past five years they’ve really become a part of my everyday life, and now I frequently do readings for myself and friends, have lectured on Tarot, and have sold this deck to customers all over the world.

Nomad Tarot Interview Jennifer Dranttel

Image by Holly Penikas

How did you come to be inspired to design your own deck? What was the process of creating the Nomad Tarot like?

After the initial research, I have to say that most cards I had an immediate reaction to how I wanted to interpret the material in my own way, and the artwork came quickly to me. Some (The Emperor! Ugh!) still haunt me because I don’t feel I’ve gotten them just right yet. I drew all the artwork by hand, screenprinted them at double size, then scanned in the artwork and added text, borders, and numbering digitally. I prefer to work in that way- combining the high-tech with hand drawing, because I appreciate the quality of the hand that can never be perfectly replicated by a computer. I wanted to cards to be very obviously hand-drawn, not to feel too slick.

How has creating your own deck influenced your tarot practice, or your spiritual practice in general? And what about your art practice - do you feel that working with tarot has informed your creative process at all?

I have to admit I’m still a bit of a novice when it comes to Tarot. I’m not a super experienced reader who has felt a connection to this tradition for years, I found my way here mainly through the art first and then have fallen in love with the spiritual aspect of Tarot. It was always a fun tool to self-reflection when I was younger, but since I created the Nomad Tarot I’ve definitely deepened my practice. I now try to really connect with the cards several times a week, both as a reader- as someone looking for that connection to Universal energy- and also as the creator of this deck- to keep checking in and making notes about how the cards are working and feeling, so I can make slight improvements to them to improve their use.

I think that working with the Tarot- reading and using it now for myself, as well as the result that illustrating the deck had on my career- has made me more confident and focused in all areas of my art. I think it’s made me feel more dialed-in to the world around me, tapped into a larger reservoir of creative inspiration, and more sure in my gifts as an artist.

Nomad Tarot Interview Jennifer Dranttel

Image by Fern Gray

Tarot geeks can't help themselves, so I just have to ask - what are your favourite tarot or oracle decks? What were the decks that helped to inspire or influence the creation of Nomad?

I love the spirit of the Wild Unknown Tarot, though I was pretty conscious as I was illustrating the Nomad Tarot to not look at a lot of other indie decks, because I wanted to keep my interpretations original and not be influenced by what was already out there. And I’m currently crushing on the aesthetics of the Wooden Tarot and the Ophidia Rosa Tarot.

The Nomad Tarot has been through a couple of editions now, and this relaunch looks like it'll be an exciting new chapter in this deck's story. How has your relationship with Nomad evolved since you first conceived of it? What can we expect from this new edition?

As I said, when I began this journey with the Nomad Tarot nearly five years ago, I just created the deck I wanted to use. I was new to Tarot, didn’t have a lot of experience reading, and I think that really influenced the type of deck I created. I wanted something that felt modern and fresh, that would appeal to people like me- who had dipped their toes into the Tarot pool but hadn’t really connected with a deck yet or felt slightly offput by some of the more typical and traditional Tarot imagery. So I used imagery drawn from my life, and drawn from my specific interpretations of the cards that were mostly very personal.

I’m interested in creating a new edition of the deck because after actually working with it for five years, I have a lot of new insights and small changes that will improve the Nomad Tarot for readers everywhere. There are some cards that made complete sense in my head, but after receiving tons of feedback from customers, they’re not responding to them in the way I’d intended- and I can see slight shifts that will improve their clarity and the ease of using this deck. I think the biggest improvement for this relaunch will be in the guidebook, however. I am working with a professional Tarot reader, Sara Galactica, to add new insights and make it both more specific by including way more information about using the Nomad Tarot, as well as including a lot of general ideas about how to use the Tarot as a tool for self-knowledge and realization. It’s going to be worlds better, with beautiful full-colour photographs, more ideas for spreads to use, and inspirational words from Sara. I can’t wait to get it into my hands!

Nomad Tarot Interview Jennifer Dranttel

Image by Jennifer Dranttel

How can we help get this new edition of Nomad out into the world? Where can readers find and support your work?

Well, if you don’t yet have the deck, buy one through the Kickstarter! There are also some options in there for items like limited-edition screenprints and the new edition of the Nomad Guide to the Tarot, for those who already have the deck but still want to help us get it out to a wider audience. And of course, word of mouth is the most important way to support an indie deck. The success of this deck so far has always depended on the tight-knit community of tarot fans, who have shared it, gifted it, and used it in their readings for years.

You can also follow @thenomadtarot on Instagram, and tag pictures of the deck if you’ve already purchased one with #nomadtarot. The more pictures we have out there the more people will fall in love with and want to support the project! If the funding goal is met, the deck will be available through Two Sides Tarot (Australia) [THAT'S ME!], Little Red Tarot (UK), and Altar PDX (USA).

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You heard that right, Two Sides Tarot will have the new edition of Nomad in stock later in the year, but only if we all band together and get this Kickstarter campaign funded so Jennifer can send the deck to print!

Head over to the campaign to secure yourself a copy of the deck, pick up a print or book, or make a donation to help make the new edition of Nomad a reality!