Who are you and what is this?
My name is Joumana Medlej, an artist from Lebanon transplanted in London. I work with the ancient Kufic script to create art infused with meaning and reverence. When looking for beautiful Arabic words I often turn to Sufi tradition, and being as fond of tarot decks as anyone, I've long wanted to gather these words into such a "usable", hand-held format. Finally, I'm taking the plunge! With 3 successful campaigns under my belt, I'm turning to Kickstarter once more to produce a beautiful deck in a special hand-finished edition limited to 100 copies (part of the January Make 100 prompt!)
How is this different from the gazillion tarot/oracle/meditation decks already out there?
To date, only a couple of decks exist that can be said to relate to Sufism. But Sufi Meditations is not another variation on a tarot deck; it is rooted in its subject matter and took shape around it. I've been thinking about how to approach this for years, so that it is true to the tradition, not merely using it as a selling point.
Not all Sufi practices are relevant to a wider public. The ones making up this deck were chosen for their ability to bring that essence down into everyday life. We cultivate these qualities to help us remain true to our higher self, protect our inner light, through the highs and lows of life (not to mention the complete madness of the times we live in.)
It’s also worth mentioning that Sufism is not about self-development or empowerment etc. Rather, it's about being less concerned with oneself, out of love for something bigger than oneself. This gives the deck a particular flavour that I believe will feel different from most others.
"Strive to become the true human being: one who knows love, one who knows pain. Be full, be humble, be utterly silent, be the bowl of wine passed from hand to hand.” — Al Ansâri
Okay, tell me more about the cards.
- There are 33 cards/words, the number of prayer beads on a misbaha (knowing that 33x3 = 99, the number of Divine attributes). There's one extra, blank card, that I leave for you to understand (or modify) as you like. Their size is large: 89x127mm, a handful!
- A seed thought quoting a master is provided for each word, in order to shed some light on its intended meaning. The fuller commentary consists of a Sufi story. Teaching stories are not moralistic, nor do they offer a single “right answer”—they may not even offer an obvious one. They are like koans, to be chewed on for a while, and at different times in your life you will understand them in different ways. This seems to me a richer approach than an outright commentary, and one far more consistent with Sufi etiquette.
- The 33 cards fall loosely into four categories: How to be with the world, with other people, with oneself, and with the Divine (in whatever way you conceive of It). These categories can be taken into account or ignored, as needed.
- The booklet also offers tradition-derived ideas on how to use the cards, which are only indicative. Ultimately, the way you use the cards is totally up to you.
I created much of the art specially for the deck, and any pre-existing designs were reworked specially for the small canvas. The box is also getting special attention: it will not be a tuck box (I hate how quickly they fall apart) but a beautiful, sturdy jewellery-type box. The booklet cover will match the box.
Nice, what are the pledging tiers and rewards?
As befits a simple project, I’m keeping the rewards simple (but to spice things up, all pledge amounts are symbolic numbers.) My heartfelt thanks go with any pledge, as well as access to backer updates, where I'll discuss various aspects of the deck and symbolism in more detail.
NEW TIER! £33: Standard Edition. There is so much demand that I had to expand my offering, but without taking away from the specialness of the limited 100 edition. This is the same deck in the same box with the same booklet, minus the handmade touches: the band around the box is black instead of gold, the booklet is not gold-foiled, and they’re not signed/numbered. Also, I’m really sorry but I can’t subsidise any more shipping :( But this tier is unlimited — tell your friends!
- £2: Taster. If you just want to give me a thumbs up and be in on the updates, here's a tier for you! But if you so choose, I will also pull one card for you – one quality you might want to meditate on – and email it to you with its accompanying story.
- £11: Digital Edition. You'll get a PDF version of the booklet, modified to include the card images. All of the content is there, and though it’s not something you can hold in your hands and shuffle, it can still serve as a “book of hours”. Ideal if you’re more into the subject matter than into owning decks of cards. All other tiers will also have access to the download.
- £33: 1x Sufi Meditations. The object itself: cards + book in their box, numbered out of 100. The price is exclusive to the campaign, and any remaining copies will retail for £49. In addition, shipping is free in the UK and subsidised everywhere else.
- £60: 2x Sufi Meditations (limited tier). Two copies of the above, with a small discount!
- £99: Silver Edition (limited tier). In addition to the object itself, this reward allows you to choose one word from the deck, which I will make into a fine silver pendant for you (or keyring if you prefer). A unique way to keep close to you a word that means a lot, or that you wish to remember the most. The photo below shows an older piece of jewellery made in this fashion (this word, Courtesy, actually is in the deck). The shape of your pendant (square or circle) will depend on what looks best for the word you picked.
How are you making this?
I am using three local (UK-based) providers to achieve the high-end result I envision.
- A specialised card maker is printing the cards with the finish and rounded corners that will ensure they can be handled over and over without wearing out.
- My usual digital printer is handling the booklet, which I am then cutting to match the size of the cards.
- The box will be made by a small specialised company, and hand-finished by myself.
If the deck proves successful, I may pitch a more run-of-the-mill version of it to a publisher later, or make one available via print-on-demand. But this special edition is limited to 100 numbered copies and they won’t come back!
Last question – how long will that take?
By far the most time-consuming part is designing the artwork and finding the right stories (which also need to be re-written for brevity and coherence). I’ve already done most of this work, and will focus on finishing it while the Kickstarter is live. At the time of launching, I have "locked in” 22/33 images and 22/33 stories.
In terms of process, I’ll need to complete the images before I can order the deck, and the texts before I can print the booklet, but turnaround for both of these is about 1 week from ordering. The boxes I can order as soon as the project is funded, and they take about 4 weeks, after which I’ll need up to a week to hand-finish them.
All in all, everything should be ready about 6 weeks after the campaign ends. The May delivery date is a worst-case scenario to take into account any possible delay.
Thank you for reading and for being part of it!
Risks and challenges
I am well familiar with all the techniques involved, and the limited scale of the project excludes any surprises related to unexpected scaling up. My producers are UK-based so there is no wait related to importing from overseas. There's a chance it will take me longer than planned to finalize the art and stories, because I want to be perfectly happy with the result before printing. I have taken this into account in my delivery estimates.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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