Deck creator Jen Kruch on the Frau Grand Duchess Tarot

So I wrote earlier this week about the Frau Grand Duchess Tarot

– a totally brilliant (and not a little kinky) tarot deck which creator Jen Kruch was generous enough to send me.

Jen Kruch
Jen Kruch

This is Jen

As you can imagine, I had some questions. The deck, which is made from 50s/60s magazine cutouts pasted onto vintage index cards, is unlike any I’ve used before and had me gleefully out of my comfort zone as I did my first reading with it.

I dropped Jen an email to ask her a little more about how and why she made the deck, starting with the process itself…

I think (looking back at Instagram photos to refresh my memory!) I started the actual deck in November of 2012. Because I found the index cards at this old amazing office supply shop in town in September and I was making weird little collages on them of other things.

Then I went to a used bookstore and found Stuart Kaplan’s Encyclopedia of Tarot (volume III) in the beginning of December. That’s when I realized that some of the collages were based on tarot cards. There are some really amazing photos of collaged decks in there and they totally inspired me to keep going and make the full deck of 78 cards.

So I was working on the card collages from late November to the beginning of March. I had a lot of time on my hands because I had quit my steady job of seven years, and then the new job I had landed didn’t work out and the company dissolved. Collaging the cards was all I did aside from work on a few boring corporate graphic design jobs.

Having had some fun using the deck myself, I asked Jen how she would like people to use the Frau Grand Duchess Tarot.

I think the main thing to do when working with any deck that isn’t an exact Rider-Waite-Smith clone is to keep an open mind. Take your time looking at the cards and draw your own conclusions.

My main regret with the Frau Grand Duchess Tarot is that I was in such a hurry to publish it that I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked to on the Little White Book. If you’re looking for all of the answers in there, you won’t find them. Plus, while I did work with some traditional R-W-S imagery, I was really looking at the Medieval Scapini Tarot (based on the ancient Italian Visconti decks) for inspiration and direction. That was the main deck in my life for a long time and while it was a tough deck to study as a beginner, I was immediately drawn to it because of it’s intense symbolism. There are so many layers of messages hidden in those cards. Essentially I was playing a game of telephone, filtering my ideas through decks I admired and my own associations with each card, and then creating my card and having the final say.

Some of them do stray from what people may imagine to be the accepted meaning of each card. But I go into all of this in depth in my blog (which I swear I am going to update this week). It’s the best resource to understanding why I made each card the way I did. Eventually I will have written about all of the cards, and maybe then I could make a companion book that would be more helpful.

Also, I included the Celtic Cross spread in the LWB which I think was a mistake. Another tarot friend pointed out that since this deck is different than what people are used to, starting with three card spreads is really the way to go. I totally agree.

So – what everyone wants to know is… where on earth did the name come from?

This button, mostly…


I spent some time in Germany and my nickname became Jenny Frau due to my own insistence as well as my newfound obsession with cooking giant German dinners. Before that I had been using some sort of Duchess alias, and my friend Jessy knew all about these things and since she has that amazing skill of finding the perfect things at thrift stores, she found me this button. Frau Grand Duchess became my full nickname/alias/moniker. I didn’t even think twice when I named the deck.

Also, this is a weird aside, but the reason I made the box all white with black text stemmed from my experience at the grocery store as a kid. We had this isle that was all no-brand food. I think it was before large supermarkets did their own brands. It was kind of creepy but also beautiful to walk down because it was so stark. I had never created a tarot deck before, and I knew no one would know who I was, so I made the box as a sort of homage to that idea of having no brand. I should have just made it say “TAROT” though if I really wanted to take that idea all the way.

So there it is. One cool tarot deck made by one cool lady. If you wanna check out the Frau Grand Duchess Tarot here are the linkies:

She gets cooler, by the way. Jen is also one half of Shipwright & Co, a letterpress and design company specialising in *beautiful* custom letterpress work. They have an etsy shop too – go nuts.

Jen card

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