The Ancestors Speak: In Conversation With Kelly Harcus

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Kelly Harcus is an artist who has created the most wonderful deck of oracle cards. After using them a few times, I really wanted to talk to her about their creation and she very kindly agreed to answers a few questions.  
You can read a review of the cards here


Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative life
 Sometimes I say I’m a recovering teacher. I loved it, but I burned out a few years ago and it would have been foolish to continue. I’ve always been a maker, but I didn’t feel like an artist until I discovered art journalling in 2005. It gave me permission to pull in all sorts of techniques and influences. I could express all the feelings that I had no words for. Within the pages of a journal, I didn’t have to please anyone but myself and didn’t have to worry about “good” or “pretty’.
In 2007, I discovered artist books and fell hard. They are still my main practice, at least in what can be called fine art. When I need validation, as we all do sometimes, I can remind myself that my books are in artist book collections and one of them even won a prize. 18 months ago, I took the plunge and started renting a studio, about 20 minutes away from my house. It is a refuge and a joy. I think of everything now in terms of studio rent. Sure, I could have that new dress, but it costs a week of studio rent – no thanks!

What inspires you to create?
 The material itself is often my inspiration, especially with clay, yarn or fabric. Exhibitions often inspire me, not to create how like the artist shown, but just to get my hands into paint and clay again. If you saw me, you’d know how inspired I am by a show, by how tightly I’m clenching my hands behind my back. If you hear I’ve been arrested, it will be at a Henry Moore exhibit for touching everything! Otherwise, it’s usually nature, especially my home province of Nova Scotia in Canada. The curve of a beach rock, a bit off drift wood, a bright leaf tucked into green moss. Another big theme for me is the wabi sabi beauty of human creation returning to nature in peeling paint, dripping rust or sea glass. Even typing this, I’m wiggling my fingers the way I do when I can’t wait to get stuck in – my husband calls them my happy paws.

I absolutely love your oracle deck; can you tell me a bit about what inspired this?
 I was fortunate enough to be at a retreat in Glastonbury held by Erin Faith Allen. It was over Halloween, and we were working with intuition. Polly Pring led us in some powerful ancestor meditation and ritual. Erin’s teaching is very process driven rather than result, so everyone’s work turns out differently. We weren’t “supposed” to be making pictures, or to ascribe meaning to our cards, trusting that this would become clear in the future as we used them. On the contrary though, I awoke early one morning, when my cards were just bits of collage on plain cards. In the liminal space of early morning, I suddenly saw all those faces, nearly human, but nearly spirit too. When I went back to the studio, the faces made themselves even more clear and meanings came through strongly from what had just been random collage the day before. They aren’t like anything anyone else created that weekend, or even like anything I’ve created before. They just really wanted to exist.

Why did you choose to create an oracle deck in particular?
 I’ve craved it since I went back to the cards in 2013 after a long absence. I still want to make a tarot deck, but it seems like such a massive undertaking – I’m sneaking up on it. I was lucky enough to be a teacher in Mindy Tsonas’s Wishcraft Tarot course this year and worked with The Hanged Man for that. I never intended to make these public. They were just for my own use. After a year of reliably powerful guidance, and enquiries from a few friends, I looked into how to have them printed. When I am looking after myself properly, oracle cards, meditation and my journal are part of my best morning routine. There’s something extra powerful in using cards you’ve made yourself. Having said that, please don’t stop me buying more decks!

What are your thoughts on the subject of magic? Do you incorporate it in your daily life? If so, how?
Oh, it varies. I believe in a lot, and then my skeptical side comes in. Often with the cards, when I’m doing a reading, I offer this disclaimer, especially if it’s for someone new to cards: “Maybe this is just a bit of fun. Maybe it’s a way for us to access the wisdom of our subconscious. Maybe it is a message from spirit or the universe.” It’s like I need to give myself permission. The thing is, they’ve been spot on too many times to count. What I really believe is that there is a lot beyond what we know, and maybe a hundred years from now we’ll understand it all better. I have a main altar at home, and several small ones. I take part in a Women’s Full Moon dance – such an amazing experience! I arm myself with crystals suitable for whatever situation I need support in. So I can’t really say I don’t believe, can I?

Do you have any projects coming up you would like to share with the readers?
 Early this year, I got a lot of clarity that as well as my own creative work, part of my purpose in the world is to support others with their creative work. So I’ve been supporting other creatives with tech and admin; so many people have so much to offer, but are stopped because making a website or an ebook feels hard. I’m making aprons, journals and sketchbook wraps to sell on Etsy. I’m running art journal playdates in my studio, and a small story-telling group. In my personal work, I’m just diving deep into my own art journals.
The cards available to buy from her Etsy shop

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