I’d like you to meet the wonderful Sian Rhys of Glitter and Tentacles. Artist, costume maker, set builder, mother and a bit of a witch, she’s been whittling away at drawing a tarot set. Each one is an intense pen study of masculinity’s diverse beauty.
Tell me about these cards then. Why did you want to make a tarot set?
SR: When I was younger I was always told that tarot was evil. (Christian family on mum’s side and superstitious on my dad’s) so for ages I avoided them, even after I got into the esoteric. I then found one that was darkly beautiful and realised that they were able to be something more than just the rider deck and a bunch of ‘mumbo jumbo’, they could be art. Some of the other decks I have seen have been simply stunning. Something that you would want to collect. I wanted to make something like that. Something that is art but more than just a picture.
Do you find that magic influences your art in other ways?
SR: It can do. I like the idea of it. Following nature even down to its darkest parts. I find myself inspired by the concept of magic more in the winter when there are frosty mornings and the trees are black and gnarled. I find the death element fascinating. That makes me sound like such a goth!
“I like dead things and darkness!”
Secretly I’m batman.
You are a bit of a goth… The cards are all about masculinity. Why did you choose to explore that?
SR: Initially I didn’t have a clue what theme I wanted to do, I just knew that I wanted to create a deck. Then I had a dream in which 3 archetypes came to me. All of them male. I think they were, ‘the sage’, ‘the protector’ and ‘pan’ or the spirit of nature. I think it was one of my more manic dreams because I woke up so inspired, I wanted to draw them straight away. Once the idea properly formed, I wanted to do a full deck based around the men that inspire me. I’m quite a feminist and one of the biggest things that people misjudge about that is that it is about stomping on guys to further women. Actually it is about bringing us up to an even keel. Guys can cry and girls can be strong etc. I wanted to make a deck that not only celebrates the actual good guys but also turn the idea of masculinity on its head.
One of the cards depicts a friend of mine who is this bearded, seemingly masculine guy but with cheerleaders pompoms. He is the guy that is always sending support. Usually loudly in the form of whoops and hollers. He’s very slightly camp but is very confident in who he is. He doesn’t go out of his way to be macho. Instead his appeal is that he is kind and supportive of any venture that those around him seek to try. I think it’s really important to make work that challenges gender binaries.
Do you find raising boys challenges your assumptions of masculinity?
SR: Fuck yes! I mean, the shit guys; the abusers, the misogynists (how the fuck do you actually spell that?), the gaslighters… These guys were kids once! They can’t have always been that way surely! What is it we do to these kids to make them turn into that? I know for a fact that both of my boys are gorgeous, kind (mostly!) kids. They play however their imagination tells them to, they don’t think about if it is for boys or girls, they just DO.
We teach them these stupid ideas of what masculinity should be. If they were left alone with what feels right to them, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as toxic. Let your boys play dress up, let them play dolls and take ballet if they want to! They will become who they want to be and not who society says they should be!
Do you feel like the punk/alternative scene is good at supporting diverse masculinity?
SR: It can be. Diversity in general yes, but there is always going to be negative stereotypes in any subculture. I guess it boils down to the people who you surround yourself with, whatever their background, if they are good people, being yourself around them is easy. If you hang out with shit heads, it won’t. Whether they have blue hair and piercings or spend all of their time in a suit. It’s not what you wear, it’s how you treat those around you. Be excellent to each other!
Last but not least, have you had any problems working in the creative industry because of gender?
SR: Not from a stereotypical artists sense, no. Artists are meant to be a bit weird, it gives us license to be whoever the fuck we want and people don’t really question it much. However, as an artist that has worked in theatre creating sets and such, there is more stigma there. Like, girls shouldn’t be allowed to carry heavy things or use power tools. I mean seriously? Offer help if someone is struggling but if not, let them get on with it. Have you seen a woman carrying heavy shit and wielding a drill? It’s fucking sexy as hell!
Ooh! And where can we buy this?
SR: The deck is only partially finished right now, there are going to be about 40 to 50 cards and each one takes between 4 hours to several weeks depending on detail and my attention span. So far I have almost completed a batch of ten and will start the second batch soon. Nearly all of my art is available as a print upon request, either via my Facebook page or my Instagram. Just send me a message. Both are under the business name, ‘Glitter and Tentacles’.
I’m hoping once the deck is finished you’ll be able to get it from me or if there is enough interest hopefully in a few local shops. Tbc on that though!
Prints start at £10 for 8×12 and original commissions start at £20 for a5.
Will set build for minimum wage plus tea and company.