I have a vivid memory of seeing The Dark Crystal at a movie theater as a young child. It was beautiful and, at times, a little scary, but still completely captivating. Much of the otherworldly look of The Dark Crystal is attributed to Brian and Wendy Froud. Brian was the conceptual designer for the film. Wendy, a puppet and doll maker whose other credits included The Muppet Show and The Empire Strikes Back, sculpted the characters Jen and Kira. A few years later, the Frouds' went to work on Labyrinth (their son Toby played Toby Williams in the film as well). You could say that much of what remains memorable about '80s fantasy films is a result of the Frouds' work.
The Heart of Faerie Oracle is Brian and Wendy's collaborative effort, a tarot card deck based on the faerie realm. Combining Brian's illustrations with Wendy's instructive and intriguing writing, the project is as much a tarot deck as it is a piece of art, one that perhaps offers some insight into the Frouds' creations. We asked Brian and Wendy a few questions over email.
How do you see The Heart of Faerie Oracle as differing from a traditional tarot deck in its use?
Wendy Froud: Tarot cards in general are used in a more structured way than we envision this deck being used. We both feel that the cards are especially effective when used in an intuitive way – although tarot can of course be used in a totally intuitive manner and often is. The images and the writing suggest ideas and pathways that the user may wish to explore. The images are portals into the world of Faerie and each one has the potential of drawing the questioner deeper into this realm.
Brian Froud: The cards put you instantly into Faerie Space, where there are answers and revelations about you and your relationship with yourself and the world around you and the people you interact with meaningfully.
What was the inspiration for The Heart of the Faerie Oracle iPhone app and what was the process for developing it?
WF: When this was suggested, we felt that it would be a new and interesting way of reaching people and introducing them to the world of Faerie. The cards and their written meanings can be experienced in an abbreviated way by using the phone app, which will hopefully inspire people to want to delve deeper and experience the complete deck with the full written text. The app is certainly an advance in technology but, personally, I feel that there is no substitute for holding something in your hand and experiencing it in a physical way.
BF: However, although there is no substitute for the deep experience of holding the cards in your hands and indeed up to your heart, I feel that faeries can never be pinned down. Their energy moves forever outwards, their meaning shining through the various technologies of paper and pencil, paint, printed ink and card, but there seems to be a mysterious affinity to digital media that is directly expressive of their nature. The phone app allows the ability to be simultaneously in your own particular space – in a quiet corner somewhere or a busy street intersection, and Faerie space.
Is there a particular card in the deck that is a favorite of yours?
WF: It's a dangerous thing to have favorites in Faerie! The cards each become a favorite at different times depending on how I'm feeling and where I am when I draw one or look at the deck as a whole. They're like children – difficult and not particularly fair to have favorites!
BF: I particularly like the back of number thirty six.
Was film an early aspiration of yours? How did the experiences affect your work?
WF: I loved film as a child, and being American grew up with Disney as did most children of my generation. Having said that, I was always much more influenced by books. My mother read fairy tales to me and when I was old enough I loved reading – The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, C.S. Lewis and many other fantasy tales and mythologies. I remember seeing Star Wars for the first time when I was in my very early twenties. I was amazed by it and absolutely loved it, but I never at that point, imagined that I would become a part of the fantasy film tradition myself. It was an astonishing pleasure to be able to be involved in it, and not only involved but respected and remembered for what I contributed. Often now, when I finish a piece, I look at it and think how wonderful it would be to see it moving and coming to life on film. I do hope at some point, to have the experience of seeing my pieces brought to life in this way again.
BF: The films that influenced my work most were probably Great Expectations and Oliver Twist – both black and white with dramatic lighting and in particular a range of quirky characters. But oddly enough, it was fantasy films using stop motion animation that I found so dissatisfying and worrying that inspired me to seek another way. I felt that there must be a better way to do it. I liked the direct connection of puppets and so when Jim Henson asked me to collaborate on a puppet film, I jumped at the opportunity.
In both of your work in film, as well as in The Heart of Faerie Oracle, there's a striking balance of beautiful and frightening characters. How do you maintain this balance in your work?
WF and BF: Faerie is a beautiful and infinitely large place where dark and light are in constant play. It is not, in our experience, a fluffy, cute and forever reassuring experience. It is a place for deeply felt passions, a place where you will be called upon to use courage, intuition and inner strength. It is also a place of profound healing and goodness, where if called upon, the faeries will guide, inspire and lead you to the heart of your own inner world and your own inner wisdom. In our work, we try to portray many aspects of this world. We however, never intentionally create anything evil. We feel that as artists, we have a responsibility for what we create and healing energy is present in all of our pieces, whether painted, sculpted or written.
Brian and Wendy Froud will be signing The Heart of Faerie Oracle at the Abrams ComicArts booth (#1216) on Friday, July 24 from 11 a.m. to noon and on Saturday, July 25 from 4 – 5 p.m. They will be on hand at Archaia's booth to sign Dark Crystal posters today from 3:30 – 5 p.m., as well as Friday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 1:30 – 3 p.m. Brian Froud will appear at the Archaia/Henson panel on Sunday at 11 a.m.