The Ancestors Speak: In Conversation With Kelly Harcus

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

Lindsay Lane’s Tea Picks

Creativity plays a huge part in my life and always has been; I grew up in an artistic family and it’s something I am very proud of. Both my father ánd my grandfather (from my mother’s side of the family) are -and in my grandfather’s case were- amazing autodidact painters and were mentors to me throughout my creative life, always encouraging me to find my own creative path.

As a child, I visited many art galleries or went to museums where I set eyes on famous paintings from Dutch painters such as van Gogh, Vermeer, Bruegel, Rembrandt, et cetera. In my gut feeling, I knew that art was to be my life’s course. I am simply not made for a 9 to 5 job; I am free-spirited, unconventional and a little bit of a bohemian. However, making a living out of art is almost an art in itself, it is very difficult (Vincent van Gogh comes to mind), but doing what I love most is very important to me.

I started drawing and painting as a very young child and animals were my favorite subject to draw. I spent a lot of time watching my father paint in his atelier; the smell of paint and the soothing brushstrokes of his brushes made me calm and had an almost hypnotizing effect on me. And it still does; whenever I smell oil paint or acrylics I get thrown back 20 years into the past. It is a comforting scent to me.

Wherever I went I always had a little sketchbook and some pencils with me, and, suffice to say, drawing was my favorite lesson in school. I excelled in it and it won me high grades.

Yet, there came a time where, when I was an adolescent, I quit drawing and painting due to some traumatic experiences that happened to me and it simply stopped having a place in my life. I wanted to have nothing to do with it. But once a creative always a creative, I did start to seek out other creative outlets in which I could find some solace and I found it in photography and writing. I worked as a model a little while, but I am now entirely dedicated to spending time behind the camera instead of in front of it.

I absolutely love to venture out into the world and photograph it the way I see it and I do so as often as I can. I always bring with me some vegetarian sandwiches and a thermos bottle of green tea with Jasmine; a favorite of me as of late. Besides green tea being very healthy, it also makes me feel calm. Grounded. Awake. And the scent of Jasmine makes me happy.

What I do is, I travel to a place (preferably nature or old graveyards) and go sit in a quiet spot, drink some tea and become one with my environment whilst scouting for things to photograph, sketch or write a poem about.

I used to be a coffee drinker for a long time, but a few years ago I found coffee to be a little too aggressive for my body. It wrecked havoc on my skin and the jittery feeling I got from coffee started to annoy me a lot.

Slowly I started to detox from coffee (which was tough!) and had green tea instead; I began to notice that I started to look forward to having my cup of daily green tea early in the morning, which was not the case with coffee. I simply consumed coffee to avoid the headaches a caffeïne addiction gives you and to feel instantly awake. I have to say: I feel so much better now without coffee, and green tea actually makes me feel so much more productive, awake and present than coffee did.

In 2015 I finally picked up painting again and I particularly found utter happiness in painting with watercolor paint; something I used to do together with my dad.

I remember the first watercolor painting I made, when I was very little, was a sunflower field in the Provence, which reminded me of summer vacations I spent in France with my family. Unforgettable memories I hold very dearly.

I am an early bird; I like to wake up very early in the morning and think, in all quietness, about my next project. I simply love to spend time at my (oftentimes chaotic) workplace, with all my materials laid out in front of me, a large pot of tea on my 1930s tea warmer, to simply relax and become one with my brushes and paint. Painting and drinking my tea calms me and makes me forget whatever worries I carry with me.

I am also an herbalist and my pantry is stocked with all kinds of herbs I use for tinctures, salves, and teas, et cetera. One of the things I love to do is painting herbs in my herbarium with watercolor paint and at the same time brew and drink tea of the herb I am painting; it makes me feel close to nature, which is what I love.

Of course, as someone who works with watercolor paint, I often make the mistake of dipping my brush in my tea mug instead of the water intended for my brushes. Coming to think of it, I should really get me those two mugs that are on the market that have “Paint water” and “Not Paint Water” printed on them!

Being your True Self – Welcome To StyleLikeU



Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.

Kurt Cobain

I have been following the StyleLikeU Youtube channel for a while now. It is packed full of wonderful interviews with people living their lives creatively. It is run by a mother-daughter team whose primary focus is to empower people to accept and express their true selves. The whole idea of this has inspired me to share this project with you. I am yet to purchase it but they have just released, what looks like a gorgeous book packed full of amazing people –expect a review of that soon.

Over the years I have realised that fashion is only fashion if you follow. Your personal style isn’t fashion. It is an extension of your soul; if you ripped out my guts right now it would be dressed in black fringe, glitter and a demon leather jacket. I am just projecting what I feel inside. I am not dressing to impress, I am not showing off my wealth nor am I pretending to be someone else just to fit in. This is why I enjoy the videos so much, these people are unapologetically themselves and they tell us why. StylelikeU dissects the artist, the person, the bohemian in a way that only leads to self-acceptance.

My favourite video is of Stav Bee,  a performance artist and DJ based in London. She has a fierce demeanor that is so inspiring, I see a lot of myself in her especially when it comes to letting people into her life, formulas, being different and facing death.

“There’s no formula to love, no formula to be a human being, no formula to be a worker, and there’s no formula to how to live.”

I am going to share the video with you and hope you look through their other videos to inspire that soul to come on out and enjoy itself through the world of creativity.

Patchwork People: Musings on being multi-faceted


I see it too many times, I see people shying away from their true selves because they worry about the opinion of others. They believe that people will evict them from their social circle, if you have friends like that then we will not call them friends. True friends know you well enough to enjoy your company whether it is head banging at a gig, walking around bookshops, getting tattooed or reading your poetry out loud to a hall full of patchouli wearing bohemians (which will include yourself of course). I am and have always been – multi-faceted. I am not afraid of it either. I can be whimsical and wear a victorian style dress or I can get some skinny jeans on and cowboy boots. I am just me and within that; there are a lot of different pieces waiting to be discovered.

I am an entity, a full person who is not rich in pocket but rich in appetite; an appetite for knowledge and exploration. I am interested in so many things in this world that my brain spins in my skull as every second ticks by. My observations show me that there are many people with a certain façade but inside they carry a great patchwork of loves and hates. Some of these patches are so unlike each other yet some are nearly identical, however they will never be shown to anyone else because the façade is so strong and so influenced by onlookers that the patchwork is like another person, a secret person nestled inside you. It is all good and well to have guilty pleasures but when you are not fulfilling your life when time is so short, it brings great sadness.

I may have a job but my purpose in life is undoubtedly; writing. If you look into my history, I believe I may have covered a lot of ground when it comes to my craft. My writing career has ranged from publishing traditional to surrealist poetry, gothic short stories, producing autobiographical zines, I was an occult columnist, a creative copywriter and the editor of a rock and roll magazine. I have taken the route of which I started and I am writing for myself, incorporating influences from the people that took my hand and led me down the path I so wished to walk down.

I am however, susceptible to obsessions. I may have years of reading a certain circle of authors and then I may discover something else but for me, within art, obsession is completely healthy and it feeds the mind, it feeds the soul – it is a beautiful experience because it shows you are hungry. I am always hungry, if not starving.

Whet your appetite and open up to yourself. You only have one chance on earth and you must use it. Drink it up, indulge, learn, discover and never be afraid of making mistakes. Be yourself.

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman


I call Neil Gaiman my gardener. He helped to plant seeds and constantly water my creativity. I have a lot to thank him for.

The View From The Cheap Seats is a huge tome filled to the brim with brilliant essays on just about everything. From his life as a writer, making good art to introducing us to some of the people he has come across in his life that have made a difference. From start to finish this is a wonderful read that just inspired me so much I thought I might burst at the seams. Libraries, bookshops, music, fairytales and a bounty of creative influences – this is absolutely jam packed with so many amazing tales and inspiration for the modern day writer.

Neil isn’t someone who thinks he has a gift and that no one else can have it. Some writers tend to have egos that are so big that there is no room for anyone else in the literary world. Neil is very down to earth and open about his craft, the very nature of writing is to share stories and he does this well both in fiction and non-fiction, as you will find out in this book. He is passionate about his work, even after all these years his mind is still churning up stories that are as magical as they day he started writing these fantastical tales. He is a true gem that everyone should treasure and if you have never read any of his work then go out and find a world you will never want to come back from.


The Art of Creative Thinking by Rod Judkins


Discovering this book was a fortunate stroke of serendipity. I was in a creative black hole, it was pretty bad and I had considered just become a normal person. My personal life had made being creative a chore yet the desire was still there but I didn’t know how to get it out. So, one day, my train home from work was delayed and I went into the WHSmith at the station to browse and kill some time. This book was staring at me; I stared back at it. I took it as a sign and flicked through the pages only to find some really interesting concepts and ways of thinking. I was straight to the till and I was reading it on my late train home with a hot cup of tea.

Each piece is taken from the perspective of a creative so it isn’t a stuffy writer telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing; these are the trials and tribulations of real artists making their way through their creative life.

The format of this book is not linear. Of course it isn’t, why would you want it to be? This book is something you pick up, turn to a random chapter and be inspired. Rod Judkins, of the world-famous St Martin’s College of Art has studied creative people for most of his life and this really shows in the passion behind the words. He knows how creativity is crushed and pushed aside at school so he gives you this opportunity to open up this book and get back to being that child. It urges you to try various techniques, methods and thought processes, which can help artists, writers and even office workers to indulge in their creative side.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury



I picked up this book a couple of years ago on the advice of many Amazon reviews because I am very weary of the “how to write” books. When I first set out to write in my early twenties, I combed through the local library for every “how to write” book I could find. In my mind, I was obsessed with the idea that there was a formula that I hadn’t quite worked out. I wrote a lot but I thought I needed something extra to unlock that door to becoming a proper writer. Each book I picked up was so dull and uninspiring so it was an amazing feeling (although 15 year later) I would find this book; with a writer such as Raymond Bradbury you would hope the last thing you could call this book is dull.

Raymond certainly has a way with words and his advice is very thorough and straightforward. He tells it from the inside, giving writers advice that isn’t set in stone but is left for them to take away and make it their own. He is very focussed on keeping this a book for you to explore as an individual and for it not to be a “how to” book. One size does not fit all. Rewards do not come with fame and with such an individual gift as creativity inside you, why would you just be a copy of another author? All of this is explored and makes for a very interesting read which will allow you to reflect on yourself as a writer.

I would highly recommend this book if you want to be inspired. As times change from rigid publishing to bursts of DIY self-publishing, zines and blogs – this book is perfect for the writer of today. It certainly stands the test of time. It isn’t a step-by-step workbook. It is packed full of simple advice that leaves you pondering. This is about using your imagination and your experiences and getting it down on paper. To be a writer, you have to write. Right?

Create A Feast For The Soul


From a personal perspective, the artist’s mind is never still. We may have crystal clear clarity on a project but our minds are still thinking of 1001 different things we can write or create. This had led me to take on many projects over the past 15 years. I have been a magazine editor, the owner of a zine distro, a zine writer and a publisher. The latter is still very much in my blood and I will continue to publish anthologies. However, I have done many other things that may not have lasted or have changed in the course of their infancy. I have beaten myself up for years because I truly believed that I didn’t actually make anything out of these ventures. I was expected that this “writing thing you do” would bring me my own house, two cars and the luxury to go on holiday three times a year. It is only now that I realise, I haven’t failed at all. You see, we all let our upbringing, our peers and the media dictate success. It also dictates our happiness and I have learned that watching foxes play or hearing birds singing in a nearby tree is much more rewarding than a £250 handbag. I enjoy buying second-hand books, inexpensive journals and tea. I like to feed my soul and not my ego or anyone else expectations.

We want happiness and that doesn’t always come with success. True happiness comes from within and from personal accomplishment. On my daily commute I am always sat with people in suits, obviously on their way to their high paid, high-powered jobs. They look down at this black clad girl that is dripping in silver jewellery, dark lined eyes and raven hair. They think I am below them but do you know what I really want to do? I want to stand up and shout “I am the richest person on this train” – I am. I don’t have a great deal of money but I have what I need. Yes, need not want. I have a home, I have food on the table, enough money to buy books and I write. It’s all I need and to me that isn’t failure, that is success. If success to you is being rich and famous then we are obviously using a different ruler to measure things.


Have the courage to cut things dead if you don’t feel like your project isn’t working. Re-evaluate it first, sit down and brainstorm, sleep on it and then wait a few days. Still don’t want to pursue it? Then put it aside. Never think you have failed. Move on. It’s like looking at your CV and telling a new employer that you failed at all these jobs because you left them, no, it is called evolving, growing and moving on. Just because we are discussing creativity it doesn’t make it any less real. Feedback can be good and if it’s critical then take that on-board but remember, don’t tolerate the backwards, conformist way of life; let your freak flag fly.