The first thing you might notice about Sara Lyons is her hair. Dyed a dazzling emerald green, it tumbles down past her shoulders, with short bangs framing her forehead. When you look more closely at her face, you'll realize her eyebrows match, too. Just recently, Lyons dyed half of her hair a lighter, neon shade of green.
As much as she looks like an edgy cool girl now, Lyons felt out of place during most of her childhood. Eventually, she found her way into the “misfit crowd” and hung out with “other people that didn’t feel like they fit in.”
With more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, the self-proclaimed “professional weirdo” has definitely turned not fitting in into her biggest strength. Lyons has gained a following for items like her prints and patches featuring things like ghosts, pop-culture iconography and weed. As a kid, she always found herself getting creative.
“I don’t have a lot of memories of having a lot of toys and stuff, but we always made art,” Lyons explains. “We always had a cabinet full of just craft paper and crayons and clay and paint.”
Even though she briefly thought about drawing comics for a living, she realized she needed a real job. She started working as a receptionist but then lost her job at 25.
“I was unemployed and I was pretty much on the brink of a drinking problem,” Lyons says. “I was trying to channel some of that energy into getting back into drawing. … It was a way to keep myself from going to the bar.”
With a supportive community of women she'd met online — mostly through LiveJournal — Lyons started getting some positive feedback. She shared her work and, almost two years ago, decided to focus on making things full-time.
If you ask her what she considers her title, she prefers to use the term “professional weirdo.”
“I struggled for a long time with calling myself an artist or even an illustrator,” Lyons says. “I also struggled with nailing myself down, because I never know what I might want to move forward with in the future. I don’t necessarily know that everything I do will fall under the umbrella of illustration or production.”
Case in point: her recently unveiled deck of fortune-telling cards called “Cute Little Lenormand.”
As Lyons explains on her site, Lenormand originated in 18th- and 19th-century Germany and France as a form of reading cards. Like your standard tarot card deck, the Lenormand cards each show an image that corresponds to a symbol such as natural elements, animals or archetypical figures.
These symbols then correspond to major themes: domestic life, career, travel, education, etc. "Cute Little Lenormand" adapts some of these traditional features with Lyons' playful aesthetic. It's like a Technicolor twist on tarot cards.
The deck comes with an instructional guide for first-time users (or anyone who needs a refresher). You can read your own cards (or a friend's) by either focusing on a key card or picking various cards and reading them in relation to one another.
I asked Lyons to read my cards over FaceTime. She asked me to think of a question and I settled on “Will I be able to keep being creative?” I wanted to know if I could find a sweet spot between taking on full-time work and still doing creative things on the side.
“Start shuffling your cards,” Lyons said. “Just shuffle them until you feel they are ready, until they are good and mixed up, and just focus on that intent.”
For this particular reading, she asked me to deal out the cards until I found the moon, the card that she sees as “most closely tied to creativity.”
I found it pretty quickly. She instructed me to set the moon down in the middle, set the card before it on the left and the card after on the right.
Before me: the mice, the moon and the tower.
“You know how if you have mice in your house you might not even know but they are chewing on your wires and fucking shit up and they’re eating your cereal?” asks Lyons.
These mice might refer to “all these little things you might not even have noticed that are causing this stress and anxiety.”
But the mice could mean something else, too. Lyons spent more than a year working on the deck, giving each card her own twist. This matters for the reading.
“Sometimes the illustrations themselves can sort of help you interpret the meaning, and they can vary from deck to deck,” Lyons says. “In mine I have [the mice] sort of gossiping, so that’s another way it could be interpreted.”
It could be my anxiety about “outside perspectives” or what I think other people think of me that holds me back. The solution? That’s where the tower comes in. It could be literal or metaphorical isolation.
“The tower would be your personal private space where you could not be bothered and work on your magnum opus,” Lyons says.
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But again, the isolation also could refer to just disconnecting from the internet and finding a good space to get creative. For Lyons, reading cards does not mean trying to read the future. Instead, the process should work in a more interpretative way. It's about "what could happen" and about looking at "the tools that could help you get toward the best results."
The weird thing: I really had been thinking of taking a solo trip to a cabin somewhere to dedicate a whole day to writing. Lyons didn't sound so surprised. The cards, she explains, can often bring to light something you already wanted to do all along.
"The intentions are already there and you just need that nudge," Lyons says.
The Cute Little Lernormand deck is available here.