St. John’s artist Graham Blair plans to release a new set of Newfoundland and Labrador folklore-themed playing cards. (Ritche Perez / Submitted by Graham Blair)

St. John’s artist Graham Blair is trying to get his next project off the ground and into the hands of card players.

Blair’s newest creation is a deck of cards based on Newfoundland and Labrador folklore, all with their own original designs.

While not their first card game – a 2021 deck depicts the working lives of Newfoundland’s first settlers – this one focuses on the rich history of fairy tales, dragons, witches, giants, pirates, ghosts and sea monsters in the province.

“My primary medium as an artist is woodcut, so basically physically cutting a piece of wood into a stamp and creating images from that piece of wood,” said Blair, who uses the pronouns them /them, to CBC News on Wednesday.

“It’s actually one of the first techniques used to produce playing cards.”

The spades represent the folk tales of the Newfoundland and Labrador night. (Submitted by Graham Blair)

Blair said they love to pay homage to history through their work, and creating pieces related to playing cards and tarot has been a part of that for about a decade.

Each costume has its own folk theme. The hearts represent the house, the diamonds the sea, the clubs represent the antlers and the spades the night.

Finance the project

The 2021 game originated from a woodcut design created by Blair that featured a playing card theme. Audiences suggested Blair create the actual cards in the same style. A Kickstarter campaign to have the deck made was successful, but now is the time for a “companion” deck.

Blair again fundraises online to make the idea a reality. Actual production isn’t cheap, so $20,000 is the target. By Thursday afternoon, $13,436 had been raised.

Blair says their new card game could be available in early July. (Submitted by Graham Blair)

“COVID, the lockdown, finally gave me the time to convert it into a real playable card game. The first campaign just took off very, very quickly,” Blair said.

As for novelty decks, Blair said they often don’t print properly.

That’s why they turn to the United States Playing Card Company, makers of the popular Bicycle playing cards. The minimum order is quite high, Blair said, which is why the funding goal is $20,000.

Listen to the full interview:

Midsummer morning show8:39Folk cards

A game of go fish could become interesting with playing cards inspired by Newfoundland folklore. We speak with the designer, Graham Blair. 8:39

“I’ll get them printed properly,” Blair said. “The kind of gold standard is the United States Playing Card Company.”

Blair said the new deck should be available eight weeks from the time the funding goal is reached, anticipating an early July release.

Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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