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Jet City Limited – Antithesis – A Deck of Playing Cards Printed by the USPCC

Michael and Adam, thank you for your time and wishing you the best with your project! (Project link at end of interview)

Here are the 10. Introducing Michael Ryan Norton, CXO of Jet City Limited and Seattle artist & designer Adam Valmassoi:

1. What got you interested in designing a deck of playing cards?
MN // Let me start by clarifying – the Antithesis designs are entirely the work of my friend Adam Valmassoi. My part in this project has been to seduce him into the world of playing cards. His style and the subject matter he’s exploring through his art and life is all perfect for the format, and I want to see it manifested. With the Antithesis project, I’m handling anything that is not directly art and design related so that Adam can focus on birthing a healthy, fully formed Antithesis baby.

I first discovered that custom playing cards were even a thing while browsing Kickstarter over a year ago. I knew as soon as I found them that I would someday make some myself. When I was in grade school I used to draw in a very detailed style quite often and for many hours. I’m resurrecting that old hobby and putting it to work.

I enjoy playing cards for a lot of reasons. I enjoy their use in games. I’m attracted to the detailed artwork. Also, the long cultural history and all the symbolism built into many designs is really fascinating. I’ve always loved stationary, papers, inks, typography, good product design, and functional forms of art. All of these things come together in the playing card format and I find it very satisfying. But more than the other factors I’m motivated to study and create playing cards out of a love for detailed decorative artwork. As I began studying and planning and sharing my excitement with artist friends, a few of them caught the bug as well. I’ve strongly encouraged them to pursue it! I’ve created the entity Jet City Limited to serve partly as a foundation or vehicle for these and other projects we dream up together.

AV // The project was largely inspired by Michael, and his obsession with playing cards over the last months. He spent an unbelievable amount of time researching other artists’ projects and presented the project to me during one of our first meetings. I found his exhaustive research inspiring, and decided to take it upon myself to begin my own deck of playing cards.

2. What was your inspiration for this deck?
AV // The Antithesis concept was born from the current state of my human mind. I’ve been struggling with the balance of good and evil on a daily basis. Our lives revolve around this concept and we are in a large part controlled by these forces. In my attempt to grow, and to take control of that governing force in my own life, I sought to express my revelatory thoughts through illustration and slowly come to terms with the way of the known universe. I’ve felt since the beginning that the Antithesis project has been a spiritual transformation of sorts. I’m seeking to understand myself through my work. My work is based on my present situation which revolves around balance and duality. Playing cards have provided a perfect vessel to represent these ideas visually.

3. Why Kickstarter?
MN // I honestly don’t have the means to produce something like this otherwise. If it weren’t for the possibility of raising crowd funding it wouldn’t be happening. When I saw how receptive and excited the Kickstarter community was toward the other artists and designers making playing cards I was so inspired I had trouble sleeping – no joke. The type of “drawing in the margins” for which a math teacher might have scolded me will be rewarded here? The hours I spent decorating the envelopes of love letters which were not reciprocated will be appreciated here? It’s too good to be true.

AV // Kickstarter is the future. Kickstarter is a completely revolutionary idea in that it democratizes the production process, taking manufacturing out of the hands of big business and putting it back into the hands of the individual. Kickstarter represents a new opportunity for all of us. It elevates us to the level of inventors, designers, creators. I’m fortunate to have chosen a profession that revolves around invention and design. I’ve been working professionally as an industrial designer for over 5 years. I’m fortunate to have the Kickstarter platform through which to materialize my ideas. The future will be a world of highly skilled, highly talented individuals who can create beautiful objects with a relatively small team of people. All of this comes together to create a radical empowerment of the human being. Kickstarter is a big step toward a new paradigm, for myself and for the world.

4. Do you have any other interesting hobbies or maybe a fun story about an experience involving your deck?
AV // Drawing and designing is all I ever do, spread across a myriad of facets. I’ve designed hundreds of beer tap handles and beer paraphernalia for companies, bars and customers. There is some furniture out there with my name on it, and some apparel. Recently I designed the entire lineup of beer cans and bottles for Apocalypse Ale Works out of Virginia. That was a very fun project and a super interesting use of my skills.

As for the Antithesis deck, each card I design is like a little adventure for me. Each new piece represents the unfolding of my mind and developing of my philosophies. Concepts often develop in subsequent pieces that were merely a tiny element in a previous piece.

MN // I have a lot of interests, but until now, none have related to playing cards directly, unless you consider collecting baseball cards as a kid. I’ve always enjoyed have a little stack of cards, looking at them, and organizing them. But I’m not a very good poker player. I can’t pull off any fancy fanning or flourishes or do card tricks. I do look forward to watching cardists play with Antithesis, and our other future designs! That will be very fun.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of musical creation – singing, writing songs, playing guitar and keyboards, and recording in studios. I practice photography which I share mostly through Instagram, and write some poetry. Some of my poems can be found in an anthology called Furniture: Poems and Stories, which I think is still available on Amazon.

5. What is one thing you wouldn’t do without?
AV // My right hand. If you want to break me that’s my achilles heel. Without it my professional career goes out the window, at least the part i’ve spent thousands and thousands of hours on. That’s really it. I’ve lived with nothing. I’ve lived lavishly. The exterior world comes and goes in waves, up and down and none of it is permanent. The only thing I can’t do without is myself.

MN // Coffee.

6. What’s the best tidbit of advice you’ve ever been given?
AV // I’m going to get a little heady on you here. The best advice I’ve ever been given is advice i don’t usually take myself. I think that is a condition all of humanity experiences. We all love to give advice and tell everyone else what to do with their lives and how to do things better, but we hardly ever follow that advice ourselves. So I’m learning to keep my lips sealed. I find the best advice is not given, but asked for, you know what i’m saying? Any other type of advice is just preaching.

MN // Since Adam is holding out on us, I’ll give you three golden nuggets that have come into play often recently. Access is more important than ownership. Never sell your tools. People tend to think that other people think and act the way they do. Buy me a beer and I’ll preach you a sermon anytime. I love giving advice!

7. What advice would you give to other aspiring deck creators/artists?
MN // Before spending a lot of time planning out the whole deck or sketching all the cards, just take one your ideas for a card all the way through from concept to a finished design, ready to print. Do this several times. You’ll learn things which will inform the way you approach them from the earliest stages. It will save you a lot of time. You’ll understand just how much work it really is. This will help you get your mind around the format. Get that workflow ironed out first.

AV // At this point, so early on I have little to offer. Come prepared, present your ideas thoroughly and do your research. It seems that issues backers have are consistent across the board, so evaluate complaints and address them when you decide to participate in this kind of undertaking yourself. Stay in contact with the USPCC people, they’ll help you make sure you’re on track and that everything you’re doing is feasible.

8 Do you have an online presence where we can view your work?
AV // I have a website: http://frozelake.com where I am overhauling to include my design work as well as illustration. You cam get a daily update and some behind the scenes pics of my studio and process by watching my Instagram account, @FrozeLake. I’ve been featured on a number of design sites for previous work, so a simple googling of my name will pull up a variety of material.

MN // My presence online is currently mostly some photography on Instagram. My user name is @TheRedHype. There are a few drawings there as well. I’ll likely be releasing more photos, poems, drawings, and songs into the wild soon. If you like that sort of thing you can also keep track of me on twitter @TheRedHype.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
AV // Thanks for your time. Thanks for sharing my work with everyone.

MN // I’d like to invite the art lovers out there to follow an Instagram account I curate called at @InkReview. I look for great artists from all over the world who are also using Instagram to share their work and promote them freely to help bring them some exposure to a wider audience. Anyone can view the feed on the web at http://Instagram.com/InkReview and I’ve also just established a Facebook page at http://facebook.com/InkReview. I intend to develop the effort into a humble online magazine with cool interviews just like this one, for artists, about artists, and by artists.

10. And finally, I would like to give you this opportunity to share three to five images and tell us a little about each.
AV // I’ll share a few pieces from my most recent personal work. Though I’ve been formally trained in sketching and rendering, I’ve worked entirely in product manufacturing and technical work most of my career, so illustration has only reappeared in my life over the last 12 months. What started as fun in a sketchbook with my girlfriend has developed into something amazing, a style i’m truly proud of that my family and friends love. This breakthrough in illustration is a large part of my transitioning into playing cards. It’s a combination of what I do professionally and what I do for personal enjoyment.

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Project Video / Link:

One Comment

  1. Michael Ryan Norton
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 23:57:19

    Thanks so much for this opportunity! It’s a pleasure to share more about our work and motivations. I really appreciate your interest and support. I look forward to seeing The Antithesis Deck in your deck reviews as well! Keep an eye on Jet City Limited. I have another project in the words that you’re gonna love! ~Michael


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