Paris, 1695: The men laughed; surely she couldn't be serious? Unfazed she raised her sword: She would go on to duel all three men... and win.
Berlin, 1936: Ilona Elek stood proudly on the Olympic platform, a Gold Medalist in Women's Foil Fencing. Though the next two Olympics were cancelled due to World War II, she would return when they finally resumed in 1948. Once again, in her 40's, she would win the Gold.
Tianjing, 1860: Her twin swords glittered like ice as she directed the movements of her all-female army. As Queen she admonished the King to be more ruthless: "You are far too kind: others may not return the favor."
And Many More...
From the Ravenswood Academy comes an entirely new deck of Fine Playing Cards, based on the tales of Swordswomen.
Each King, Queen and Jack has been completely re-drawn and re-imagined to portray a female fencer from a different culture and time period, each with varying weapons and styles of swordplay.
Infused with luxurious art and rich historical detail, there will be plenty to ensure that you have new facets to discover with each glance.
The diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs were all hand-painted by an artist of the Academy, utilizing a marbled coloring and classic Renaissance-Era inspired shapes for a vintage feel and design.
Drafted in calming blue and complexly-shadowed white, the back design features an exquisite white peony supported underneath by four swords of finesse from both the East and West: two spada (Italian rapiers) and two 劍 (jian, Chinese straight swords). A mysterious woman looks solemnly on...
As jokers are typically associated with play and lightheartedness, we have chosen to feature two women locked in a friendly practice match with 竹刀 (shinai, bamboo swords). This art is taken from a traditional Japanese woodblock print created over a century ago, re-colored to match the theme's aesthetic and re-purposed as a fine acknowledgment to the history our deck draws from.
Even more compelling than the beautiful art, more excellent than the smooth paper on which the cards will be printed, are the incredible stories of these women that deserve to be preserved. Here is a roster of all the swordswomen that will be featured in this luxurious deck:
1. Rani Lakshmibai (India, 19th Century): Warrior Queen of India. When her husband the king died, the British Empire refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of her adopted son's right to the throne, insisting that she subjugate her own lands to Britain's rule. Instead Rani formed and led an army, becoming one of the greatest figures in the Indian Rebellion against the British East India Company.
2. Esme Beringer (England, 19th Century): English Victorian-Era thespian who fenced extensively in her theater performances of Shakespearean plays. Critics hailed her as "...one of the most sensational feats of swordsmanship ever seen..." while her fencing instructor, war veteran Alfred Hutton, insisted she was the best student he had ever had. Our court card depiction is based on one of her greatest historic photos.
3. Hua Mulan (China, 6th Century): A legendary Chinese warrior who fulfilled her familial duty by taking her father's place as a soldier on the battlefield. While the specific tale of Mulan is often viewed more as folklore, there remain solid historical accounts of female sword fighters, soldiers and military leaders in the wars of China's millennia-long history. To summarize their stories in a single artistic entity, we chose Mulan.
4. Mino (Africa, 18th Century): From the Kingdom of Dahomey came the women warriors of West Africa who trained to defend their tribes and home with a variety of weapons (swords among them). Despite being outnumbered by foes with more advanced weaponry, they were noted by the Europeans they faced as being "incredibly courageous." Skilled in bladed combat, these protectors referred to themselves as "Mino" (Our Mothers); they deserve to be included in our project.
5. Walpurgis (Germany, 14th Century): Of all the swordswomen featured in our new deck of cards, perhaps Walpurgis is the most mysterious of all. She shows up in the pages of a Medieval Era book on sword fighting techniques, now named after her: the "Walpurgis Fechtbuch." Interestingly she is depicted as defeating the men who throw sword cuts at her by using her own stance: the "Woman's Guard." She must have been something...
Above are all the portraits we have commissioned so far. With your support, we hope to add the following:
1. Ilona Elek (Hungary, 20th Century): Though Hitler sought to promote the "superiority of the Aryan Race" at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, it was in fact a Jewish-Hungarian that would stand in front of him as the Gold Medalist in Womens Foil Fencing. After World War II was over, Ilona would come back to win the Gold again in her 40's. Winning more international fencing titles than any other woman in history, this woman could not be stopped.
2. Joan of Arc (France, 15th Century): We had to. Yes, Joan could swing around a sword (and was even wounded twice in different battles), but far more impressive was the fierce presence embedded in this teenager: during the war dozens of enemy towns immediately surrendered upon her mere arrival. Joan reminds us that the power lies in the woman, not the sword. An enigmatic cross-dresser and commander who was both condemned and later venerated by the Catholic Church, the Maid of Orleans will definitely be a part of this project.
3. Tomoe Gozen (Japan, 12th Century): There are many stories of women from Feudal Era Japan training in martial arts and fighting in battles. The one we will most likely choose to portray is Tomoe Gozen, one of the more famous 女武芸者 (onna-bugeisha, female martial artists) who fought against large armies and beheaded her opposition. We are confident our depiction of this warrior, armor and weapon will look amazing.
4. Soldier from the Women's Regiment (China, 20th Century): There existed an all-female, Chinese unit of soldiers during the 1930's that refused to sit inactive while their country was under attack by Japan. It was reported that this Women's Regiment could hurl grenades just as well as the men, while in extreme close combat they relied on the 大刀 (da dao, big sword) to cut through their enemies. They fought on the front lines and were noted for their bravery, physical fitness and discipline.
5. Julie D’Aubigny (France, 17th Century): Opera Diva with a glorious voice, Expert Fencer with a swift sword. She would crossdress and show up at dances to kiss the girls, then when the boys got angry she would beat them in duels. She fell in love with a man she defeated in a sword fight, she- Okay, look: when your plan to spring your girlfriend from a nunnery involves disguises, a cadaver, and burning the nunnery to the ground, you need a court card in our Swordswomen deck. That was Julie D'Aubigny.
6. Gladiatrix (Italy, 1st Century): Like their male counterparts, Gladiators, there were high-class and "low born" women alike who actually freely chose to fight and compete in the arenas of the old Roman Empire. What were their battles like, their plans and ambitions? Was it wealth, fame or adventure that drove them? Much of their history remains shrouded; we hope to highlight a piece of it with a custom court card featuring one of them.
If you would like to make the above portraits happen, please support us by purchasing a deck of cards. While you're at it, why not add a poster?
To appreciate and showcase every detail of our beautiful artwork, 11x17 posters will be printed for patrons. You will be able to select via Backer Survey which warrior you would like to be on your posters after the campaign has ended (we will send you a questionnaire). To add posters, pick a pledge and simply add one of the below amounts to your total.
$20,000 Reached: The Golden Age Deck will be UNLOCKED
If our stretch goal of $20,000 is reached, you will be able to choose which color deck you want your order to consist of (for example, on an order of 4 decks you can choose 2 blue and 2 black/gold; surveys will be sent after the campaign is over asking your preference).
$12,000 Reached: Custom Seal, Ace of Spades and Embossed Artwork on Custom Box
If we reach $12,000, tons of detailed artwork will be poured onto the Card Box, the Seal, and the Ace of Spades (perhaps a duel scene or an ornate display of swords). While these elements are in the early stages of being planned and we need funds before we can continue, trust us: if you like the back design and the portraits already, you will love what we do with the rest. We plan on making it fit the aesthetic of the whole project while keeping it uniquely beautiful.
Meet the Team
Jenny: The Suit Painter You saw her card handling skills in the above video, but Jenny is also a talented artist who happens to take fencing at the Ravenswood Academy. When this project needed beautiful hand-painted suites to adorn the entire deck, we knew she was the right woman for the job.
Fabiana: The Portrait Artist Classically trained in her home country of Italy at the Accademia di Brera, Fabiana has been doing a marvelous job with painting the court cards and breathing new life into these old stories. Her attention to detail and masterful technique speaks for itself.
Alexander: The Historian Founder of the Academy, Alexander was telling his nieces a swashbuckling bed-time story of pirates and mayhem, when one piped up "Uncle Alex, were there any GIRL sword fighters?" He smiled as a dozen images and stories flashed through his head: That's when he knew he had to launch this project.
If you would like to support these young artists in their endeavors, consider purchasing a deck of Fine Playing Cards and sharing this project on Social Media to see it succeed.
Link for Sharing: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1167684454/1063309136?ref=761939&token=4f6c103f
P.S. "What about your JEUX D'EAU Playing Cards?"
Only two months ago we sold out of our last creation, JEUX D'EAU Playing Cards. The behind-the-scenes work on them is going so well, we are actually ahead of schedule, and hope to have them shipped months earlier than anticipated! All that extra time left us room to do something for International Women's Day, and thus the Swordswomen Deck was born. Our promise to you is that no more playing card projects will be launched until the shipping begins; both the JEUX D'EAU and Swordswomen projects will have our priority and concentration, each of them arriving ahead of schedule. If you have any more questions, feel free to message us! Thanks.
Risks and challenges
Kickstarter has proven itself a tried and true way of crowd funding playing cards. We do not foresee any serious problems with the printing process or remaining art production. Should any hurdles arise, rest assured that we are hard working and honest artists who will ensure your cards ultimately arrive.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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