Many people know that Llewellyn's history is rooted in the publication of annual calendars, almanacs, and datebooks. Llewellyn George founded the company in 1901 and focused on astrology. He published both books and annuals (how we, internally, reference those publications that come out once a year—annually, hence the name—like almanacs, calendars, and datebooks). The annual Moon Sign Book (which provides information for those who live by the cycles of the moon) has been a Llewellyn best-seller since 1905.
To this day, Llewellyn still creates wonderful annuals of all sorts. You can see the full listing here.
There is an entire department devoted to the development of new ideas and to maintaining the vitality and relevance of Llewellyn's annual publications. It's a special group of people with some amazing skills, great taste, and extensive knowledge. Every once in a while, they come up with new ideas or ways to revitalize old ideas.
Llewellyn's 2018 Tarot Calendar is one such idea. As you probably know, Llewellyn LOVES tarot, and has tried off and on to offer a useful and beautiful tarot-themed annual. They produced a calendar for three years, starting in 2000. The calendar market is pretty competitive, and tarot was just starting to get really popular, so, sadly, the calendar didn't work out at that time. Then in 2006, they tried Llewellyn's Tarot Reader: Your Annual Guide to News, Reviews, and Tips & Techniques. It also ran for three years but was eventually dropped. In my opinion, both of these were wonderful, and I still have my copies of all of them.
In tarot, everyone has cards they like and don't like for various reasons. Sometimes we have mixed feelings about a card. I felt conflicted about the Knight of Pentacles. In public I would tease about him, saying he was the most boring card in the deck and certainly the most boring knight of the four. In private, I felt sad because I identified with him. Cautious, watchful, not wanting to make a mis-step. On the other hand, he is also really smart and patient, able to wait until just the right moment before taking action. I feel like our new Llewellyn's 2018 Tarot Calendar is like the Knight of Pentacles. It had to wait until the time was right.
Last year, Llewellyn asked me if I would be interested in working on the calendar, and I jumped at the chance. Of course, count me in! I knew it would be a great experience. Even my high expectations fell short of the reality. During the brainstorming meeting with the annuals team, we came up with such great ideas. Everyone contributed and the art folks were there, too, listening to the ideas and then coming up with creative ways to visually present them. It was one of the best meetings I've been to in my twenty years with the company. With that kind of energy behind it, it really had no choice except to be brilliant.
We decided that we would have four different general templates (with variations among the four), so no two pages have exactly the same layout. Each page includes a card (all the cards are from different decks) and the color scheme was chosen to highlight the card. Every spread is a different color. Everything is designed to enhance the content and to be visually appealing. The designer put so much work into this, and it shows.
I got to pick the twelve cards that would be used. The Art Director did get final say, though, because two of the ones I originally picked wouldn't be interesting enough at a large size or to stare at for a month, two aspects I had not considered. (See, it takes a team!) Nevertheless, I found two new cards and then the fun continued. I picked cards that I wanted to write about. I also tried to pick them to match the energy of the month (well, at least for the northern hemisphere), so it was a little tricky juggling things.
Then it was time to start writing and creating. All the pages include the card image and a few lines about the card. They also include a few other elements, but not all the possible elements. On the pages you may find spreads inspired by the card, short essays about a theme relating to the card, detailed discussion (and visual call outs) of specific symbols in the card, and general tips and tricks that have proved useful to me throughout the years.
I've worked on a lot of projects and been really proud of some of them. But this one, I don't know why, is hands down my favorite from conception to completion. Maybe because it began with such a great experience of teamwork and brainstorming. Or maybe it was the joy of working with individual cards that I loved. Or perhaps it was seeing the designer bring my ideas to beautiful life. It could have been the editor polishing my words so they shine. In the end, like so many things, it is so much more than the sum of its parts. There is magic in this calendar and I'd say that whether I worked on it or not.
But don't take my word for it. See a few example pages for yourself!