Working with Children: Tarot creations
by Roxanne Flornoy
(with an addendum by Jean-Michel David)
Jean-Claude Flornoy and I live at the foot of a Medieval village in Western France.
The town’s historical interest make it a favourite destination for teachers who wish to organise an instructive school outing for their classes. Diverse local options allow a fairly wide choice of activity for these groups. Among them is our workshop on early printing and colouring methods.
As is usual when undertaking manual activities with children, we limit the number of participants. The emphasis is on printing techniques, paper making, and stencil-colouring as a way of popularising the coloured-image market at a time when paper was becoming an affordable alternative to parchment.
For centuries a primary source of energy was water, and the river that winds through our valley was exploited by numerous mills. Among these was a paper mill whose production furnished the paper for the playing cards made here at the end of the 18th century. The local museum houses the woodblock used to print these cards, and Jean-Claude has re-edited a restored, stencil-coloured version of this deck. The children colour an enlarged version of one of these cards, but first they undertake three Dodal tarot images (hermit, popess, and emperor: also a bit enlarged).
Perfect stencil colouring is very finicky work. However, for beginners it is encouraging that even somewhat faulty results can look quite good. It is always magical to lift off the stencil and see what passing the brush over all those little holes actually accomplishes. Everyone always appreciates the RED - it goes on so well, and is so rich!!
As Jean-Claude is a cartier-enlumineur, and the tarot is his speciality, working on tarots seems perfectly natural. France can be said to have the tarot as part of its genetic cultural makeup. Furthermore, there are (non-divinatory) tarot players all over the country. Public schools are fiercely secular here, but no teacher has ever balked at, or even reacted to the use of the three Dodal images. We make no attempt to deal with what these images might convey, and the children take this work home with them...so we can say (well, we won’t say it really) that the tarot is naturally introduced into the environment of each and every one of these young souls, to wend its way as it can. The traditional message was always subliminal, direct. What better way to perpetuate it, unpolluted by generations of verbiage and speculation.
In addition to the work of the Flornoys, Pierrick Pinot, Illuminator-Painter and creator of Tarot de la Félicité, Le Tarot d’Argolance and the Tarot de Minuit, has also worked as ‘artist in residence’ at the school Léo Férré in Ambrières-Les-Vallées in Mayenne, France.
As an artistic and cultural project under the auspices of the French Department of Education, and in collaboration with the headmaster and teachers, arose the wonderful Léo Férré Tarot.
This project made it possible for children to work on the syllabus of History in connection with Literature and Arts. The collaboration of 72 students worked on a traditional “Tarot de Marseilles” design under the combined leadership of Mr Gilles Heuzé, Plastic Art teacher and Pierrick Pinot.