A new tarot arrival in the shop is always cause for excitement, and a virtual visit from a new tarot creator is positively thrilling.
I recently became a proud stockist of the beautiful, original Future Ancestor Tarot, and I’m honoured to have been able to catch up with its creator, Alexa Villanueva of lexa luna studio, to learn more about this wonderful deck.
Read on to learn more about Alexa’s work as an artist and tarot reader, and to find out what inspired the Future Ancestor Tarot.
Hi Alexa, thanks so much for taking the time to share your story here on the blog! First of all, could you introduce us and tell us a little about who you are, your work, and your art practice?
Hello, dear Two Sides Tarot Community! I am Alexa Villanueva, a Filipino-American artist, witch, and grateful human currently living in Montevideo, Uruguay. My business, lexa luna studio, is where I offer handmade art and tools for healing and inspiration through the spirit of clay, paint, and tarot.
I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and prior to my move, I lived on occupied Duwamish Territory (known to settlers as Seattle, Washington). The last two years have been quite transformative, as I left my full-time job in the world of architecture to follow my calling to serve others through art and tarot. Of course, this leap was terrifying, but in my heart I just knew it was the right decision and gave myself permission to dive right in with full trust, just like the Fool card. I didn’t see it then, but my experience as a designer would later come in handy in so many instances in this career I’ve carved out for myself, especially in the making of the Future Ancestor Tarot deck.
As for my art practice, it has shifted in a big way—it’s completely different than it was in Seattle, a lot more spacious and open. Last April, exactly three months ago as I write this, my partner and I moved to Uruguay to stay for one year to return to his roots while connecting with the land and family here. Moving brought on a lot of hesitation at first on my end since in Seattle, I was in a wonderful, yet crazy-busy flow of producing ceramics non-stop to sell at markets and shops. But while I was in Seattle, I also didn’t make a lot of time to play and explore my craft. This move gave me the opportunity to pause and breathe, shifting away from my then-production mode to an open-ended creative mode. I felt, and still feel like I’m returning to the role of the student as I learn from other incredibly inspiring artists in the area. This spaciousness around my art practice and business has given me a chance to really ruminate on what my ideal workflow feels like, as well as what I want to explore artistically moving forward.
I also love a tarot origin story! How did you come to be interested in tarot, and how did that lead you to creating your own deck?
Art has been my favorite mode of self-expression ever since I can remember…especially when it comes to navigating dark and tough feelings. Drawing or painting my feelings has always been much easier than words ever could be. So in hindsight it only makes sense that tarot, whether pulling cards for myself or interpreting the artwork for others, would eventually become such an incredibly grounding force for me.
Tarot found me at a perfect time in life: I was in my early twenties, working as an interior designer in a huge architecture firm, and was a total mess. It became more and more clear to me that the work I was doing at the time was no longer aligning with my values and that designing healing spaces for others wasn’t enough—there was always a tugging feeling that I was meant to connect deeper with clients than the job allowed.
One day after work I went to volunteer at a local gallery and a friend of mine mentioned she owned a tarot deck filled with cats. I remember thinking, What? There could be more artistic interpretations of the cards?! and well, the rest is history. I went home and researched all of the different decks on the market and I felt like I had just found a treasure chest filled with precious gold. I was starstruck by the variety of decks made by so many incredible artists, but I didn’t feel the call to create my own deck right away.
Working with tarot from then on felt like tending to a relationship with a wise, old friend that I could bring along in my tote bag everywhere I went. It was and has continued to be a mirror for whenever I could use a fresh perspective on any given situation in life, or when I’m in need of a gentle and straight-forward consultant. And it’s allowed me to serve others on their journeys through the visceral feelings and messages I receive from the cards.
I finally see the ways that my experience as an interior designer helped to set me up on a path as a tarot reader and artist, but it was actually the experience of loss that initiated the creation of my own tarot deck.
The origin story of the Future Ancestors Tarot is so beautiful and bittersweet. Could you tell us where the inspiration for the deck came from? And what was the process of making the deck like?
After the passing of my grandfathers in the spring of 2020, my hands and heart needed time and space to heal. Not only was I grieving the loss of two sacred pillars of my family, but I was also carrying the weight of fear, uncertainty, and sadness of the pandemic that was, and continues to echo in it’s shaking of this world. A lot of my time was spent in reflection on my grandfathers’ legacies here on earth, as well as the realization that I am a future ancestor too.
Art is a form of therapy for me, so I knew I had to get my hands moving and allow my feelings to pour out. (I am a Pisces after all, lol). With every brick-and-mortar art store closed due to the lockdown, I ended up gathering materials I had in my home: sumi ink, watercolor paper, scissors, and some old brushes from my ceramic studio. Slowly, I noticed the more I painted the lighter the weight of grief felt with each stroke. On my piece of paper, the shape of a praying woman began to form. In front of her, a small grave. But I knew something was missing…something that resembled life. I wanted to honor their lives in this image with something living.
That’s when I went outside. I found a stem with two leaves, and knew instantly that these were the missing pieces. From there, the Death card was born, the very first card of the deck.
It was never my intention to create an entire tarot deck, so I call this first and foremost a project that allowed me to work through the process of healing. Working in collaboration with the the ink and the land I lived on made the process feel completely effortless and sacred. My design background helped me organize and edit the final pieces, but it was the genuine process of feeling my way through each card as I painted each one that made room for so much magic in between.
As is tradition, I must ask, apart from your own beautiful creation, what are the decks that have influenced your tarot work over the years? Any must-have desert island favourites?
Thea’s Tarot (created by Ruth West in 1984) has by far made the most impact on my life as a tarot reader and it is a deck that I’ll always make space for on my altar. The entire deck was created with black and white paper cutouts and the queer imagery with different types of bodies and relationships made me feel so comforted and seen. This deck was a huge inspiration for making my own, especially its style of collage and the muted black and white palette that encourages the viewer to focus on the subtleties of each card.
How has working with your own deck (assuming you do!) informed or shifted your own practice, whether for yourself or for clients?
Giving readings for my clients using this deck allows me to connect deeply with my intuition in ways that are hard to describe but feels so grounding and in full alignment with my higher purpose.
Because I illustrated the cards the way I interpret them, using them for my readings lets me offer another layer of personal insight, not just verbally, but visually, as well.
When I illustrated each card, it really pushed me to connect them with situations in my day-to-day life, which is why I shifted the names of the suits and archetypes. Because we were all in our homes at the time I was creating the deck, I wanted the cards to feel more relatable to the domestic energy surrounding many of us, so swords became sewing needles, wands became candles, and pentacles became seeds.
What stories or ideas do you hope folks working with your deck will receive? What messages would you like your work to impart?
It is my sincere hope that the cards bring feelings of warmth and comfort to the hearts these cards go home to, and that they can be a place for folks to contemplate what their roles are as future ancestors and how they can connect with their ancestors.
For those who are driven to dive deeper, I am actually creating a companion book for the Future Ancestor Tarot that will include more detailed descriptions of each card, reflective questions, self-care exercises, and ideally serve as an interactive journaling guide for both experienced and beginner tarot readers. I hope to have this available once I return to the U.S. in the spring of 2022!
Finally, where can readers learn more about your work?
I also invite you to join me on Patreon where I share more about my art explorations and musings here in Uruguay, as well as exclusive access to behind-the-scenes of the making of the Future Ancestor Tarot Guidebook!
My books for tarot readings are also open, and you can book one with me via my website!
Since I’m embarking on my guidebook creation and have shared much of my origin story here, I felt like it was fitting to talk about The Fool and leave this invitation as a sneak peek of what’s to come in the book:
Guided by instincts & heart,
the world is your canvas
and you are the ink.
What was one brave leap you’ve taken in life thus far?
How did this leap feel like in your body?
What new adventure is calling you now?
With love and gratitude,
I hope you can see why I love this thoughtful and beautiful deck – and I hope that perhaps you’ll come to love it, too!
You can find the Future Ancestor Tarot available to purchase here in the shop.