This is a longer post exploring the themes I was working with during my sabbatical. For a shorter summary of the changes I’m making as a result of this, please click here.
It’s been… two moons.
Since I started my sabbatical in early Feb, spring has arrived in mid-Wales. Blackthorn trees have burst into flower. Bright yellow celandine star-scatters the riverbank. Warm, sun-filled, lazy days mingle with howling, dark ones, the last remnants of the cold season giving way to the light. Equinox has been and gone, we danced on the beach at dawn.
I’ve been thinking. Feeling. Moving. Hiding. Showing up. Sleeping. Crying. Hitting the wall. Laughing. Trying not to work. Trying to work. Making art. Playing with a toddler. Drinking wine. Dancing. Celebrating friendship. Unlearning white supremacy. Banging out dreams on a typewriter. Hanging out as much as I can in a space of imagination and sci-fi and possibility and alternative futures.
There are so many things I want to do in this brief little life of mine. I’ll never manage them all, but it’s my responsibility to make space for at least some of them.
Two things emerged from this ‘time off’
One is that it is time to recentre my values in the work I do. The other (which is really just part of recentring those values) is that I need to shrink this shop.
One of the most profound ways I can think of to disrupt capitalism is to notice what ‘enough’ looks like, to feel its enoughness, to hang out in that space. I know what enoughness feels like in this shop, in this livelihood. And I know what too much feels like, too. It’s time to lovingly contract. To choose depth over breadth.
In short, LRT has become too much for two part-time workers to handle, and I have zero desire to grow this into a company with more employees, premises, etc (which is the other route we could take). A few years ago, Little Red Tarot sat happily in my spare room and everything had a place – now, boxes spill onto the landing and are piled in other rooms and there’s cardboard…everywhere. I used to spend my time communicating happily with customers and creators, now I’m more often chasing shipments and stressing about VAT paperwork. You get the picture.
So I’m asking myself what I can joyfully, wholeheartedly sustain. If it sounds like I’m harking after ‘the good old days’, it’s because I used LRT’s history as a starting point for working out how I wanted our future to look. And how I want it to look is smaller, slower, more rooted, less stressful. More focus on the art and the artists, less on selling products. More time to pack orders slowly and carefully, less rushing to serve ever-increasing numbers of people. More spacious. More sustainable.
I do less, so I can love more.
I want to stock fewer decks, and show each one, each creator, more love. Inch wide, mile deep. I want to spend time making packages utterly pleasurable to receive and open, creating postcards and bits and pieces to delight customers. Also: I want to work less, and spend more time on my allotment, volunteering, training to become a barber. I want to give more time to the fight for racial justice and to unlearning all the ways capitalism shapes my life. I want to make more art. I want to slow down.
Even with a system that’s purposefully aims to be the opposite of Amazon in its culture and practice, it’s still easy to get caught in the more-more-more and the now-now-now. There are so many beautiful and important decks coming out all the time now, it is an utter joy… and it’s overwhelming. Because I know I’m missing so much, I have this constant feeling of not-enough, not keeping up. And the side effect of that is I spend less time getting to know new creators, moving too quickly towards a transaction. That’s not how I wanna operate.
I’m letting that whole more/now thing go. I’ll still be foraging the internet for fabulous new tarot projects (one of the joys of my job) but without the urgency or the need to know about *everything*. And I’m totally here for those transactions – I like to see money flowwww – but relationship building needs to come first.
Below is a summary of the tangible changes you’ll see in the shop when we re-open.
All of these changes are experimental and are intended to meet at least one of the following aims:
- Increase focus on creators
- Increase joy and connection
- Reduce sales to the level of ‘enough’, no more
- Disrupt capitalism in any way I can think of
Realigning our inventory and values
For as long as LRT has had ‘a mission’, this has been to celebrate and proliferate radical magic, with a strong, proud focus on LGBTQ+ and BIPOC+ creators and others holding marginalised identities. In the early years it was necessary to stock other decks, big sellers, to bring in enough money to support some of these ‘smaller’ decks, but that’s no longer the case.
From spring, Little Red Tarot will (almost) solely stock queer and trans artists, Black, Indigenous and artists of colour – there will be a few exceptions). I want these decks and books centred and celebrated, not overshadowed by bigger sellers.
We took inventory of our QT/BIPOC-centred goods last summer. We will revisit this later this year. The aim here is not tokenistic inclusion targets, but to challenge the white gaze that I bring to this ship as a white woman, and ensure this shop’s offerings step outside the narrowness of what is ‘familiar’ to that sometimes cisnormative and white supremacist gaze. A lot of the work in curating this shop is researching decks, speaking with creators, and so shifts in our inventory reflect the building of relationships.
Focus on artists, not products
I want to disrupt the speed and mindlessness with which retail transactions are increasingly made by putting our creators front and centre. My hope is that customers are encouraged to get to know the human and the creative ideas behind the decks before checking out any shopping carts. (This is definitely something that already happens in the LRT shop, we know that! But I want to facilitate more of this through the design of the site).
No longer shipping to the EU
By far the hardest of the decisions I’ve made, and I’m aware of how disappointing this is for our EU customers, customers we love and value. Please believe me when I say I am gutted to cease serving people who have helped this shop to grow into a business that supports three people and so many artists. It has been a joy to serve you since the start…thank you for being with us this far.
So why are we doing this? A mess of reasons. Brexit is, unsurprisingly, chaos. Returned parcels, incorrect paperwork, customers being charged VAT where they’re not suppose to be, unhappy business and customers both sides of the Channel. With hikes in shipping prices too, it seems impossible to offer good value to our EU customers. Many companies have ceased trading between the EU and UK in both directions – in the first weeks of 2021, I thought we might not have to follow them. But watching the mess and the headaches unfold, it feels sadly wise.
Ceasing to serve an entire continent is a (brutal, I know) way to reduce a large amount of work and paperwork. It really hurts to stop serving customers we love, but it is also one of the simplest ways to meet my aim of drastically shrinking the shop. Meanwhile I see other tarot shops are springing up in Europe, and I’ll highlight some of these soon!
No more pre-orders
In the spirit of slow commerce and things arriving when they are ready, we are happy to be retiring this stressful service! Pre-orders are where we sell hotly-anticipated decks while they are still in production, allowing customers to reserve one in advance. But self-publishing is hard, mistakes and misprints of course happen, damaged stock is very real, and when things go awry we end up spending a lot of time working with customers who’ve already paid for things, working on solutions that don’t come at a cost to creators.
From this spring, we’ll only sell decks we have on the shelves, so we know we are able to honour every order. (Meanwhile our waiting list function allows customers to sign up for notifications when items are back/in stock.)
On the flip side, wholesale pre-ordering forthcoming decks is one way that we support emerging artists – placing a large order for the first print run can make a big difference to some smaller projects, especially where crowfunding is involved as it so often is. We will continue to invest in emerging artists in this way. We also have a policy of never, ever competing with the artists we stock, and pre-orders always felt a little weird in that sense – by not taking pre-orders, we encourage folks to support creators directly at a time when they really need that injection of cash.
Taking this sabbatical has been revolutionary for a workaholic like me, and I’m now firmly a fan. Breaks of between a week and a month will be built in to the seasonal rhythm of this shop – currently I expect to close for rest and reflection around the equinoxes and solstices, though I am still figuring this out.
Small price increase
The cost of pretty much everything has gone up (including many decks), so our prices will be slightly increased to reflect this.
Bloody beautiful packages
On the joyful end of all of this is time to put more care and love into your packages! We get sooo much lovely feedback from customers who enjoy receiving our heart-stickered parcels and deciphering the random (or is it?) tarot card we include with every order. So we’re doubling down on that with lovely extras to make receiving a Little Red Tarot package feel like a ridiculously nice treat.
It’s scary, hitting ‘publish’, sharing these decisions with you.
These changes are so rooted in permission and desire and challenging the way that capitalism works through me, I am wracked with the fear that I am not allowed to make such choices.
But I know they are the right choices for me, for my life, for my body, my heart and my soul, and I know that I must make them. I am feeling my way back to ‘enough’, and creating space in the process. As I said when I started this sabbatical, I want to fucking love this work, or not do it at all. These changes are in service of the first option. What I’m sharing, in sharing these shifts, is a business I can truly love.