Following Max Playing Cards interviews, I had the opportunity to talk with a young talent dedicated to the creation of high quality and design decks: Paul Carpenter.
Creator of Tendril, Paul, Encarded‘s designer runs a small company dedicated to artistic creation of cards. Today he has been very kindly answering my questions.
Paul has been a graphic designer for nearly 20 years and most of his work during that time has been digital. He discovered that the impermanence of digital creation left his design-sense feeling rather hollow, so creating something “real” became a goal. After stumbling through some other product attempts, Paul rediscovered the world of playing cards and immediately knew that’s what he wanted to explore.
I took advantage, of course, to ask Paul about his just new release, Aurum deck. Hope you enjoy the interview:
- Max – Hello Paul, thanks for answering some questions for Max Playing Cards’ readers
- Paul Carpenter – It is my pleasure, thank you for the opportunity to tell my story and perspective on playing cards.
- Max – Tell me a little bit about you and how did you begin designing playing cards.
- Paul – I have been designing things for a long time, but all of my work was for the web or other interactive media. It struck me that almost nothing I created still existed after a few years, as the pace of content creation is just too great. I had been looking for something to design “on the side” that was a physical product, had the opportunity to be creatively interesting and would appeal to other people, and playing cards was a perfect fit.
- Max – Which are your interests on cards beyond your job as a designer (collector, magician, manipulator, player, …)?
- Paul – If I had to pick one, it would probably be collector. However I do enjoy cardistry and simple sleights of hand and practice those as well. While I am still very amateur it is fun to hold and play with the cards and it brings a tactile joy.
- Max – When and how do you decide to start the Encarded project?
- Paul – In early October 2011 I had been using the Flipboard app on my iPad to read some random news and came across an article about the Deck ONE from Theory11. I was entranced, and my childhood love of cards came rushing back. I quickly realized that this was something I could do. In November I sat down and started to work in earnest on a card design and over the next few months developed Tendril.
- Max – Would you be able to say something special about Encarded , something you miss in other companies dedicated to playing cards designing?
- Paul – Something that I want to make sure Encarded does is to not be stagnant. I don’t want to design the same thing over again. Each deck should be a completely new concept that incorporates new ideas. I hope that things like the Tendril shadow borders, or the subtle face patterns, or the stronger use of color can inspire someone else to think a bit harder about what is possible.
- Max – How many people are involved now in Encarded?
- Paul – Currently it is just me. My wife Heather helps with part of the shipping process when we have a large order volume.
- Max – Tell me your opinion about the design quality of playing cards nowadays. Do you think designing decks is becoming a fashion style?
- Paul – The playing card market can be broken into a few groups I think: the “big guys” (like Theory11, Ellusionist, Blue Crown) and the “independents” (Lance Miller, Circle City Cards, etc). What seems to be happening is that the big companies are getting somewhat lazy. Most of the decks we see from them are recolored variations of existing decks. We see little customization, if any, and not much effort is made to do anything new. As is often the case, the big companies have the market following and can churn out anything, while the little guys have to fight for their customers by pushing innovation in design.
- Max – I always try to get the opinion from the people in this “business” about the transformation of the market we have seen in the last few months. What is your perception about it?
- Paul – Just in the short time I’ve been doing this, it’s clear that more people are finding playing cards to be a market they want to participate in. However, it troubles me that many of the instances we see, particularly on Kickstarter, are not thought through. While it might seem like a simple object, playing cards have many design elements to consider for their usage and it’s not something you can just slap together. I think that collectors will need to much more discriminating about what they choose to buy.
- Max – Tell me about Tendril. It was one of the most popular decks on KickStarter. How do you consider the success of the deck? Is it more or less what you thought about when designing it?
- Paul – Tendril was a great intro for me. I put in a lot of work and did expect it to do well, but I was very surprised when it went on to crush the existing Kickstarter funding record. It felt great, of course! The cards came out very well and it was exciting to see other people using them from around the world. I worked hard to make sure I stayed responsive to everyone and I think that went a long way in building the perception that Encarded was serious about doing quality work. In the end I did achieve my goals: I got Tendril made, got my deck out to the world and made the project profitable enough that I could move onto another deck.
- Max – Now, tell me something about your new deck, Aurum, Is Aurum going to be released through Kickstarter like Tendril? What do you think about Kickstarter as a deck launching platform?
- Paul – Aurum will not get it’s funding from Kickstarter. I planned out Tendril in great detail with the goal being that if done right, it could fund Aurum. Luckily all that planning worked and I will be self-funding Aurum. That is a little scary, but I think that Aurum will be a success as well. Kickstarter was perfect for me, it lived up to it’s name and did kickstart my business. With that being said, it also adds a lot of complication and extra work which I am happy to avoid this time around. Aurum is available for preorder on Encarded.com since November 2nd.
- Max – Please, give me the basic Aurum features: stock, finish, number of decks produced, any limited edition or related item?
- Paul – Aurum will be a limited deck, 5,000 being made. I loved the feel of Tendril and it got good reviews of its handling, so I am currently planning to use the same Bee Casino stock with Magic finish. Aurum will feature multiple metallic inks (purple, gold and near-black) along with several standard inks. The tuck box is a complex affair, with large scale embossing, gold foil, printed color inside and out and metallic ink. There will be two special versions, including the first-ever Laser Cut tuck box. The White Gold version will have 425 total, each with a numbered holographic seal. The Laser Cut deck will have just 75 in existence, making it easily one of the rarest decks ever made by USPCC.
- Max – Finally, give me some privileged info about Aurum, but don’t tell me just what you already said in social circles. I need something new that only my readers can know :)
- Paul – Aurum is an extremely luxurious deck. The metallic inks make the cards shimmer like no other deck I’ve seen before. USPCC said that this deck was making history as the most expensive deck they’ve printed. The special laser cut versions were so expensive to produce and so delicate that they gave me a limit on the number they would do, since they each require careful hand assembly. The production is not yet complete but I recently got a few uncut sheets and the cards are unlike anything else. I don’t know how much demand there will be for these, but it would probably be a good idea to get some sooner rather than later.
- Max – Thank you so much again for your kindness. I really wish you the very best on Aurum and, of course, I will talk about it when released.
- Paul – Thank you Max, I had a lot of fun and spent a lot of time designing Aurum and think that it is pretty special. I hope that everyone enjoys it!
You can enjoy all these fantastic cards on Encarded.com. There are also very exclusive collector items and decks. Get them before they sold out!