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The Kitchen Tarot by Susan Shie
The Kitchen Tarot

A 22 card deck by Susan Shie

10 of Cups tarot card
10 of Cups card
from the Rider-Waite tarot deck

Soon after she finished it, Susan Shie said flatly, "This is my favorite piece of mine, ever."

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More quilts by Susan Shie

Kat Soup by Susan Shie

 Detao; pf Lat Soup bu Susan Shie

 Detao; pf Lat Soup bu Susan Shie

Susan Shie discusses Kat Soup:

The family is our strength.

That’s what I could have titled this piece. But I named it Kat Soup, after putting that big soup pot into it and all the cats around it. Maybe Kat Soup is what it feels like around my house sometimes! Big nourishing love of cooking for each other, and having those crazy cats always with us, being their amazing selves, giving their quiet and consistent love.

This is my 8th minor arcane card quilt for the Kitchen Tarot, after the 22 major arcane pieces that are now published. There are 56 minor cards, so I’m only 1/7th done with the minors, and expect to finish that part of the 78 card deck in 2022. I have big plans!

There are four suits in the tarot, and my Kitchen Tarot suits are: Pyrex Cups for cups, Paring Knives for swords, Wooden Spoons for wands, and Potholders for pentacles/coins. I randomly drew a tarot card from another deck, to see which minor card this piece would be, and the 10 of Cups came out. It’s the card of the great blessings of family love and strength.

What started my thinking for the imagery here was a thing that happened last August 28th, when Jimmy and I went to see our kids: Eva, my granddaughter, and I were drawing, and I asked her to show me what the Space Station looked like, when she and her parents watched it orbiting over their house in Lakewood, Ohio. Eva drew me an ice cream cone. I asked her if it really looked like that, and she said yeah, with some sticky out things, and then she took off, tired of drawing! So I drew the sticky out things as spirals, and added her looking up at the floating ice cream cone, as well as her parents and their cat Cricket as an astronaut cat. I guess that’s how the cats got into this picture, but I didn’t make them as astronaut cats. Just plain cats with long, curly tails, like the sticky out things coming off the ice cream cone space station.

My first sketch for this project was my birthday card for Gretchen, since that was the day I selected the card to work on. That was Dec 19, and I didn’t sketch more til Jan 17. The designs of the birthday card and the next early sketches were all things I didn’t want to use, but when I remembered to go back and study the drawing of Eva and her ice cream cone space station, things clicked fast, but I didn’t use that drawing we’d made in late Summer. By my second sketch of this idea, I had pretty much what I used in the actual painting, only I had to modify it from a wide rectangle to a square, so some things got moved around, added, or taken out. I try not to look at my sketches while I’m painting with my airbrush, making the black line drawing right on the blank cloth.

I made a big soup pot with Eva standing on it, looking at the space station, and me reaching out to her. I’m the cook. I put the ten green Pyrex measuring cups floating around in the sky, and after drawing them in, I went back and put numbers on them, in the order in which I drew them, so you can trace my path, and so you can verify that there are, indeed, ten cups!

Jimmy, Mike, and Gretchen are portraits on the soup pot. I put a lava lamp on Eva’s head, since she got one for Christmas, and I put our three cats climbing up my back, and GEM’s (Gretchen, Eva, and Mike’s) cat Cricket standing in front of our big puppy Libby, at the bottom of the piece. I put a big pink kitchen sink on the left side of the painting, with a compost pot for turning anger into peace under it, and a big pink stove on the right, baking a Creation Pie in its oven. I’ve got a lot of pies in this piece. I love them, and they stand for gifts and blessings, in my symbolism. Of course, they have my big eyes on them, and the eyes are all over this piece, especially as the third eye of intuition and my invented four eye of honesty on all the people, including the Buddha girls.

Eva and I both have St Quilta the Comforter’s cross doilies on our chests, so we’re mini St Qs.

I drew GEM’s house on the left side, with a big Peace Palm above it, and our house on the right, with another Peace Palm of its own. when I got to actually drawing on the cloth, I added the three Great Pyramids of Giza to the top right corner, because I like pyramids, and I wrote “Pyramids for Peace: US and the Earth” below them. This happened four days before the huge uprising happened in Egypt, and I sure didn’t know anything about it coming. I was just using pyramids as symbols of peace and wisdom. As I said, our puppy Libby is sprawled out on the floor, below the soup pot, to show how very large and sweet she’s gotten in the months we’ve had her sine we got her at 8 weeks old on October 8th. and I added my parents as angels, below my dress. I was getting into the groove of really making this be about my whole family, up and down. The ladder I drew on my skirt is a tool for reaching our goals. Money is really tight, and we’re all searching for better ways to keep surviving right now, in this terrible economy. I want to climb right up that ladder and succeed in making us stable as a whole family, because money should not cause us misery. That ladder is my secret strong tool for succeeding right now!
The big waves on the bottom of my dress are the oceans of the world, the energies of life’s constant changes but sameness. We are all one, that ocean says to me.
One of the last decisions I made on the imagery was what to draw in the soup. I settled on some fish, and added one little mousie, so Eva would have to find it. (I just told her there was a little mousie somewhere in that big painting, and could she find it?) Eva found it right away. I used to lay my big pieces out on GEM’s floor and have Eva find all kinds of stuff, when she was littler and I was her nanny. She walked around, crawled around, and rolled around on a LOT of my work, blessing it with her powerful Eva energy!

After I drew all the imagery on my fabric piece, I started adding some airbrush written lines, since my airbrush was really behaving extra well that day. I wrote more with it than I usually do, before switching over to painting in the colors with the airbrush. Then I came up with this very soft but lively color scheme, as I painted first with yellow, then orange, then decided to make that coral sky, instead of a blue one. That pleased me so much, and I kept going with funky color choices, ending with the dusty purple of my dress and the compost pot. On my Facebook page I have a photo essay of me airbrushing this piece, that you might enjoy seeing. Its at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=286829576771&aid=276988.

So the painting with airbrush took only 2 or 3 days total. This piece just poured out of me, and I was loving drawing and painting it, like I haven’t loved making a new piece for years and years. It just all felt right from the start to the end!

Then, what always takes the longest started: the airpen writing with fabric paint on the painting. For this stage, I work on my studio table, as the airpen is held like any pen, and you write on the surface like you would with any pen. Only this pen uses a syringe to hold the paint, and a surgical needle to put that paint on the cloth, and a fish tank pump and other gizmos to hold the syringe inside a sheath that makes the air push down on the paint, when you regulate a hole, much like a flute hold, with your finger. It’s tricky to use, and it’s much trickier to clean out and refill, but that’s what I do, since I really, really want that exquisitely rich and crispy black line for my writing! Remember: I used to have to hand embroider over my writing to get that nice of a line, so I am the world’s biggest fan of Silk Paint’s Airpen!

Anyhow, this writing takes the longest time, but in this piece’s case, I really, really pushed it, working more than I normally do, ignoring the soreness overdoing it gives my hands, and just researching, writing, cleaning out and filling my airpen, researching, etc. I told some family stories, as this IS a piece about my family. But the huge upheaval in the Middle East had begun, and I was busily trying to keep up with the news. I was glued to Al Jazeera English’s web site and also Democracy Now’s site. CNN on tv and the web. I reported what I’d heard and read about and made my own comments.

We’d started with Tunisia’s rebellion in Dec-Jan, and all of a sudden, Egypt was blowing up into that massive protest that actually toppled Hosni Mubarak! And then the explosion came of so many countries all erupting at once! Iran. Alas, Iran. Will they ever get free in Iran???? And the terrible struggle still going on in Libya with Gadhafi killing over 1,000 of his own people over this! But it’s also Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, and other countries. More Middle East countries with protests than the ones that are without them. I have never studied Middle East maps like I am now, wondering why I never paid this kind of attention to them before.

Hardly any of us has. My friend Carolyn Robinson lived in Lebanon and then Jordan in the 2000s. She knows so much more about all this than I do. I ask her questions about what’s going on, and she has some answers, but no one really knows what’s going to happen there. It seems awful that our own country has contributed so much to hold up the dictators in the Middle East, as they blatantly abused their citizens. All for us to have cheap oil. I guess it’s the fear of Muslim extremism that’s made America cozy up with such abuse and keep a lid on it. Til now. I hope that Democracy – real democracy – can now come to all the world, and I don’t see why making millions of people free has to mean the end of the world economy of oil. I know we’re headed for big financial problems connected with the uncertainty of all of this, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just spread that oil money out to all the people. Let them all benefit, instead of having sickeningly rich rulers and painfully impoverished citizens. Let us all live in peace and goodness, as one very large human family.

As I said: The family is our strength.

I finished “Kat Soup” two days ago. But the revolution for freedom in the Middle East goes on, so I have to get back into my studio and start something new fast!

Susan Shie, Feb. 27, 2011


Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

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Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)


Bottom left and right: Toward Barred Island (detail) by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade