Meet the Creator: Krystal Banner on colour, culture, & 2020 Visions

I hope to encourage self-discovery and inspire people to determine what their own spirituality looks like. I believe we are spiritual beings, but we can’t bypass that whole ‘having a human experience’ part and everything that comes with it.

Krystal Banner is one of those creative powerhouse people.

Originally from South Carolina and now based in Washington DC and NYC, she describes herself as an artist/author/entrepreneur/intuitive/creative (!) She’s passionately hardworking, putting her engineering and design training to use creating decks such as the Kaleidadope Tarot that play with familiar symbols and memes of modern life, especially Black pop culture.

Through her brand, Kaleidadope, Krystal offers not only tarot and oracle decks, but greetings cards, apparel and more. Her 2020 Visions Tarot is coming to LRT in the new year (yes we know it’s a bit late – don’t ask!) and she also has a new deck coming out with bigtime publishers Hay House in 2022.

I caught up with Krystal over the holidays to hear more about the inspiration for her work and how her unmistakable sense of humour helps her create modern spiritual tools that celebrate Black culture and won’t shy away from tough topics.

Hi Krystal! How are you doing today? What’s playing on the stereo? It’s cold and pouring with rain here in Wales…I’m having a work from home day in my kitchen with my cats and listening to a mix of dance songs I made – perfect for a Monday morning :)

Hey Beth! I’m good! I’ve been splitting my time between DC and NYC and lately I’ve been very inspired. At the end of the year I tend to get reflective and the holiday season always brings a sense of wonder and possibility for me. Lately I’ve been in a very chill and emo mood, so my music choices mirror that. As a water sign, I’ve always been emotional and willing to express these emotions, whether that’s verbally or through art or music. I’ve been listening to a lot of Alex Isley. She makes R&B that makes me feel like I’m floating. I’m actively working on a new deck (yay!) so being in touch with my emotions helps me tap into all the different feelings that are reflected.

I spend way too much time working, but am very passionate about what I do. I’m actually inspired by everyday life. The music I listen to, my emotions, what makes me laugh, pop culture, what’s going on in the world, etc. I’m a low-key person, so getting out of my protective shell has been a bit of an adjustment (in a good way).

I know you draw your inspiration from popular culture and especially Black pop culture, your cards and other products are filled with simple, recognisable symbols and objects – The Kaleidadope Tarot deck is brimming with those kinds of nods to community that say ‘this is for us’. As a queer woman I know that representation matters – a lot! What has the community response to Kaleidadope been like?

I’d say the response has been a mix of “Wow, this is cool” and “This is a breath of fresh air”. When I started I wanted to create something that I didn’t feel was available. I wanted to create what I would want would stand out to me on the shelf. Most of the decks I owned or would see in stores had the same design style, the same content, no diversity, etc. It was very cookie cutter and I’m an out of the box kind of person.

My engineering and design background was what inspired me to make products look interesting. Just because it’s a spiritual product doesn’t mean that it has to be bland or boring or fit into this neat box of how spirituality “should” look because it doesn’t have a look. It’s as unique as you or I.

So I think that’s what I’ve become known for in terms of my approach. I want things to look cool, but I also want people to connect with them and the depth that they offer. It’s pretty, but it feeds your soul and has meaning too.

People tend to be drawn to my use of modern themes/imagery and pop culture. I think with art, people gravitate towards what they can relate to and what is familiar. Black people are often not centered in this way even though Black culture is everywhere, so I thought it was important to change that. Since I didn’t see it happening, I decided to do it myself.

One thing I really love about your work is how you toy with capitalist morays (your ‘Capitalism’ Christmas card might be my fave thing in your shop!) And your Monopoly-style tarot deck feels so bold and witty to me. There’s this ‘trademark’ confidence and clarity in your work that I really aspire to (as someone who feels permanently conflicted about *everything* to do with making a living under capitalism!)

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going for! I always say I’m thankful for my sense of humor, otherwise I don’t know how I’d deal, lol. I use humor and wit to encourage people to look at things from different perspectives, but also point out irony or similarities. For example, in my Life Is Like A Board Game Tarot deck, the Justice card is a police hat. Some people don’t get that it is a very deliberate ironic take on the Justice card, especially as a Black person in America. It’s a nod to the “Go To Jail” space in Monopoly, but also the fact that a symbol of the police SHOULD represent justice, but oftentimes does not. So it adds another layer in tarot and prompts people to think about things like ‘Is justice always served?’ and ‘what does justice actually look like?’ Spirituality is all of these nuanced things, not just the love and light.

I feel like my brand is a reflection of the duality I see in myself: I’m secular and spiritual. I listen to meditation music and rap. I’m logical and I channel spiritual messages. All my work is a reflection of my different sides and being in tune with my spirituality allows me to feel confident in expressing them exactly however I feel. I hope to encourage self-discovery and inspire people to determine what their own spirituality looks like. I believe we are spiritual beings, but we can’t bypass that whole ‘having a human experience’ part and everything that comes with it.

…But the 2020 Visions Tarot – this feels a lot less playful, with many cards that will make readers flinch. The ragged stars and stripes, Liberty without her torch, the red cap, and the Black Panther symbol for Strength. Oof. How was the process of making this deck? Did the ideas flow easily?

I feel like this deck wasn’t even my idea lol…it flowed out of me DEMANDING to be created. One morning I woke up and drew four cards. The images popped in my head and I just felt like I had to draw them immediately. The idea for the deck flowed so seamlessly it was like I had no choice, but to create it.

2020 Visions Tarot

Some cards I was actually hesitant about drawing, but it is what it is. Art just is. The beauty of the deck is that it is a true reflection of literal events that transpired in 2020. Although some of the cards are very heavy, just like in life there are moments of levity as seen in the Magician card, which is a standing broom. For those who don’t remember, there was a challenge where people were standing up brooms ‘magically’ on a certain day, but it turned out that’s just what you can do with brooms. This was also hilarious because people began jokingly blaming the subsequent events of 2020 on these ‘magical’ brooms.

This is also seen in the Chariot card, which is illustrated as a UFO. 2020 was so chaotic, no one even blinked at UFO footage being released and the government admitting they had a UFO task force. As I was creating this deck I said to myself many times, wow, I am not making any of this stuff up! So in essence, it was truly what I feel tarot is all about – an illustration of the human experience. Everything seemed major in 2020 which is why I focused on the Major Arcana. I think it can spark discussion that spirituality oftentimes tiptoes around. I believe this is how we move forward and face shadow aspects of ourselves and society in a productive way.

Do you have a favourite tarot card at the moment, one that feels especially significant or that’s been haunting you?

Hmmm, that is a tough question! But at the moment I’d say it would be The Fool from my Life Is Like A Board Game Tarot. When I created that card, I laughed because it’s so basic and dry, but so accurate and recognizable. It’s like “GO! Move forward. Collect all the things. What are you waiting for?” Since we’re ending one year and about to begin another, I feel this is very significant. I also feel like I’m coming upon a new phase in my life, yet I tend to overthink. I embrace the energy of “JUST GO Krystal!”

From the Life is Like a Board Game Tarot

What’s cooking for 2022 – anything new in the works? Or anything else you’d like to share with us?

Yes! I’m excited to share that I’m finishing up the illustrations for my upcoming oracle deck that will be released in 2022 with Hay House, called “The Signs of the Times Oracle”. I’m hyped about it because it includes many of the signs and symbols that I’ve experienced in my journey, which are sometimes everyday things. I think it’s super relatable and will connect with many people. It’s a project that encourages people to be open to all types of signs. They’re not always mystical; sometimes it’s simply seeing a quote that you need in that moment.

Where’s the best place for folks to keep up with you?

People can catch me on Instagram @krystal.banner and @kaleidadope as well as on my websites and I’ve also recently started tweeting and my twitter account is @krystal_banner. The past few years I’ve been challenging myself to put myself out there more so I can share more of myself. I’m usually a behind the scenes person, but there is value in people knowing who I am and the passion I have for what I do :)