Interview with Riccardo Minetti
Conducted by Diane Wilkes
Riccardo Minetti is the face of Italian tarot publisher Lo Scarabeo to many in the tarot community, because of his involvement on various e-lists and forums. His interest in tarot is not simply as a publisher, though--he co-created the Fey Tarot with Mara Aghem and his brainchild, the Gothic Tarot of the Vampires, has recently been published by Lo Scarabeo.
This interview has been in the pipeline for over a year, but Minetti is a busy man. Read this interview to see what he's been up to...
Diane: What was your introduction to the tarot?
Riccardo: The beginning was a family story. We went by the mountains for skiing, and in the evening we used to play tarocchi. It may seem strange to many, but I didn’t even realize that the tarot was more than a very colorful kind of playing cards. My first realization of that came when my brother was shocked to find how impossible it was to find a tarot book not related to divination.
Years later, when I was in high school, I was approached by a girl...(what else can be said?) and she used tarot. She taught me, and I found it very interesting (I remember it was a Marseille deck). And, at the same time, I discovered my best friend also used tarot. And so I had two teachers...my best friend used Tarot of the Gnomes.
Years later, when I interviewed with Lo Scarabeo, I found my interest came in handy. I was forced (happily forced) to make my interest grow into a passion... or maybe into a profession.
Diane: What is it like working for Lo Scarabeo? What is a typical day like?
Riccardo: Typical? That’s a very difficult question. To answer honestly and thoroughly, I would have to include both good things and bad things. But I should also say that Lo Scarabeo would have both good and bad things to say about working with me.
Lo Scarabeo is a very small company, with just seven employees, including the owners. Basically, we don’t have very precise boundaries of what each person does, and what someone else should do. So, we cross each other's paths in relative harmony and sometimes relative disorganization.
I mostly work with Piero, the artistic director, a genius, and a creative...
Depending on what I’m doing, I may be working on a PC (called “Pi Chan” on the Lo Scarabeo Lan), and that means I can answer e-mail and do a bit of looking outward, while editing texts and everything. Or I may be working on a Mac (called “MondoPiccolo” on the Lan), so I become blind to the world, and I work on graphics. Usually, these two parts are balanced. When they are not, it usually means we are in a terrible, busy period.
Diane: Tell me a bit about the decks you have worked on.
Riccardo: More or less, I have been involved in some way with almost every single Lo Scarabeo deck. Sometimes not for the best, of course, and sometimes just on the technical part. Most Lo Scarabeo decks come from an idea, either personal or collective. Something like: “Why don’t we do this?”
An example of my contribution in this direction could be the Comparative Tarot deck.
After the idea, we usually prepare a more detailed (not much more, actually) layout of the project. It is usually at this time when we decide who will carry on the project, either inside Lo Scarabeo or outside.
An example of this is the Tarot of the Animal Lords, where I’ve been the “chief editor,” alongside the author. Other times, I just translate (in a broader term) between a writer and an artist, like I did – heavily – for the forthcoming Pagan Tarot.
Other times, again, I figure as a full author. For example, there is The Fey Tarot, which I worked on with Mara Aghem. It is the source of my greatest pride. There is also the Gothic Tarot of the Vampire, which I created with Emiliano Mammucari, and, to a lesser extent, the Etruscan Tarot with Silvana Alasia.
These are decks I am really and definitely proud of. They have been three totally different experiences, difficult to compare and to synthesize. But, in the end, I think I did something good. And, at the same time--and it is not modesty; I’m not a humble person--I realize my contribution was just a small part of the whole. A necessary part, but small, nevertheless.
Other decks I worked significantly on have been the Tarot of the Imagination, Tarot of the III Millennium, Tarot of the Journey to the Orient and Tarot of Manara. I have mixed feelings about all of these. I like some part of each of those decks very much. And there are parts I would have preferred to be different. I think this is the way choral things work.
And, of course, I have written, corrected, and edited instruction booklets of every kind.
Diane: What are you personally working on now, and what decks can we next expect from LS?
Riccardo: Right now... don’t make me think about it. Right now we are overworked, so, for 2004, I will just be an editor of the decks, without any deep personal involvement.
I hope that as soon as the “run of the mill” work pressures ease, I will have the opportunity to work on some new ideas. I have a few that I really care for. It’s just a matter of waiting for the right time to make them properly and not rush.
Regarding Lo Scarabeo new decks... well...the new catalogue will be out soon, and I should not say more than that.
Diane: Many deck buyers are in the U.S. How does this impact what you do?
This is a very important question, but I don’t think it does, exactly.
The U.S. or, in a broader sense, the collective of English speaking countries, are not the majority of the deck buyers, though they are a significant part.
What I see is that they are the hub of the tarot community. The English-speaking tarotists are a growing, dynamic, and very important community. More...they are the only community that far-reaching in the world.
We look to this community--and Tarot Passages is one of the hubs around which the community is growing--for feedback, reference and as an attempt to learn more. We don’t want to be an Ivory Tower. On the contrary, we like exchange.
But we also know that that community is not necessarily representative of the whole world of Tarotists.
The trick (we have found...with many failures) is to find a balance between listening and adapting to others...and remaining ourselves. It is just one more balance we must try to accomplish.
Another balance we try for is choosing between decks that sell well and decks that are important, as well as including experiments. It is a difficult challenge, to mediate all of these things.
I would not want a tarot world that could be described as American...or European, or Korean, or Japanese, or Italian. My idea of the tarot global village is one where differences are appreciated and amplified around a mutual understanding and not where everything belongs to same culture and is judged with the same set of values.
Diane: What does the tarot mean to you, and where do you see it going in the next decade? Where would you like to see it go?
Riccardo: Last but not least question. To answer this, I should reflect what tarot is in my opinion. As an editor, I cannot afford to have just one opinion. I must look at all (well, maybe not all) possible opinions. I must understand the person that considers tarot a tool of personal inspiration, as well as the one who considers tarot an art object, and all the shapes and forms in between and beyond.
I don’t know what I want tarot to be. I just know that I want it to evolve and to grow. I want it to be and be able to be something that is not already. Whatever that may be.
On a more pragmatic level, I have witnessed the terrible increase of decks on the market. Too many decks, never enough money or attention to follow the whole. And, to my despair, I have seen poor decks prosper and great decks wither (life is life).
I hope consumers will rethink and will find a way to cope with this invasion and I hope that quality and good sales will walk hand in the hand.
Then, the next step again will be to create simplicity out of complexity. There will come a deck that will synthesize the huge changes in our world, culture and spirit since the 1910 Rider-Waite-Smith. And that deck will be the next milestone to build on.
Photograph © 2002 Valerie
Interview and page © 2003-2004 Diane Wilkes