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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Jody Eklund of the Golden Spike Playing Cards



Golden Spike Playing Cards are inspired by the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad on May 10th, 1869. It was the first rail line that connected the east to the west and revolutionized transportation and commerce in a post Civil War United States. A Golden Spike was created as a commemorative piece to celebrate the completion of the railroad and was driven into the ground where the Union Pacific met the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah.

Created by Jody Eklund, the Golden Spike deck has been illustrated using a cross hatch technique to mimic the style of engraving and lithographs that were common to the time period. Each card has been carefully researched and each illustration meticulously refined.

Between his busy schedule, we were able to catch-up with Jody for a quick Q&A on his design background, the design evolution of the Golden Spike deck, the playing card community and his thoughts Kickstarter.



Can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background? 
I guess you can say I’ve been a designer/ illustrator since my grandfather taught me how to draw cartoons and bi-wing airplanes as a kid. I animation briefly at Columbia College in Chicago, then after a stint in the military, I finished my bachelors of fine arts degree from Southern Illinois University.

After college, I worked for a signage company designing signs, marketing pieces, retail products and webpages, but didn’t really get the chance to dive into what I love- illustration- until I ran point on a series of children’s books. After working for other people for 14 years I decided to start my own design business last October. I moved my wife and kids to Colorado and Fluent Inc. became my opportunity to be more selective in the type of art I work on.

Can you describe the Golden Spike Card deck and why you’re passionate about it?
First a little history about the theme of the deck. The Golden Spike Playing Cards commemorate the completion of the transcontinental railroad which happened on May 10th, 1869. The name “Golden Spike” comes from the last ceremonial spike which was driven into the rail at Promontory Point, Utah where the railway from the east (the Union Pacific line), met the tracks from the west (Central Pacific line). The illustrations in the deck are in the style of the era and mimic the line and cross hatch drawings that were used in print at the time. Each court card is the face of a key player in the event and can be a mini history lesson in who’s who in the building Transcontinental Railroad.

I’m so passionate about this deck because it depicts a time in our country's history where men with vision, leadership and true grit changed the face of history. Stories of triumph, determination and the entrepreneurial spirit were a real inspiration to me. I’m also passionate about this deck because of the sheer time it took to practice and perfect the style of illustration. I was really stretched and saw my artistic abilities grow as I sketched, inked- and sometimes several times over- each image that will be in the completed deck. I really feel like The Golden Spike deck has true artistic and historical value. Hopefully my contribution through the Golden Spike will help keep the era and the accomplishment of the Transcontinental Railroad alive in the minds of those that will collect and use this deck.

How much time did you spend working on the deck and can you briefly go through the design evolution of one of your unique card design?
For the the past four months I have been working on the designs and illustrations for the Golden Spike. For the first month, I spent a lot of time researching the 1st Transcontinental Railroad and the Golden Spike. I then came up with concept sketches and got feedback from many of my closest colleagues. For the last couple months I have been refining the artwork to present on Kickstarter. After much of the research and art direction has been made, I am looking for my backers input to finish the deck off nicely.



We’ve been following the Golden Spike deck for awhile in the forums. What do you think of the playing card community in terms of the feedback and support that you’ve been getting so far?
To parody a commercial... “Absolutely priceless!” The playing card communities have been a great place to connect with my target audience and get a handle on what they want in a deck of cards before I launch on Kickstarter. This is where many collectors are and I want to know what they think. I’ve been given great feedback and encouragement that helped fine tune my ideas as they’ve told me what they want and what works. Their honest and real responses (sometimes hard to swallow) have made The Golden Spike Deck look awesome and I can’t wait to show all the full project when I launch on June 23rd.

You have previously launched a playing cards projects on Kickstarter. Are there any takeaway lessons from your previous project you would like to share? 
Big Yes. My First project was called “The Hipster Deck” and people either really loved it or really hated it because of the theme. So, my first lesson was to pick a theme that wouldn’t be so polarizing. I needed to find out what the collectors actually wanted, not just thematically, but what makes a deck desirable and work for the cardists and magicians. I was completely new to the world of playing cards so the learning curve was steep. I also learned that just because I could design a deck and put a page on Kickstarter didn’t make the project successful. I needed to do my homework and really figure out the business end of my plan. My ongoing plan isn’t just to keep getting people to fund individual decks, but I really want to raise revenue to start my own venture that can produce ongoing income for me and my family and be self sustaining- not based on raising funds.



What are your thoughts about the continuous strong growth of playing card projects on Kickstarter?
Well, I guess that is good, right? Actually, my belief is that playing cards on Kickstarter are being refined. No longer can I artist come in and just launch a deck of playing cards and see it funded easily. These days backers are getting pickier about who they will back, frankly because, they have more to chose from. So, I am happy, because I rather be in an arena where the best come to the top, and I hope that I am one that the backers deem worthy of backing.

Finally, what are your favourite playing card decks? 
Well, because I am an illustrator, I love good illustration skills and when I see that in a deck of cards, I want it. Of course, right now I am low on funds, so I have to be pretty picky about who I back on Kickstarter. Here’s the deal though, I think anyone who puts their heart and soul out there for everyone to see is worthy of my respect. That being said, I think Federal 52 and anything Jackson Robinson has done is amazing. Of course, my work if very similar to his, so I know what goes into the creation of such a deck. Also that extra card that Shane Tyree did in the Sherlock Homes series was beautiful work. I would love to have seen a whole deck like that.



Thank you for your time, Jody and all the best! If you like what you’ve read here and want to support the Golden Spike Playing Cards, you can find it on Kickstarter here.

The Golden Spike Playing Cards will be available in two editions- the Bicycle branded deck, printed by the USPCC and the Gold Edition deck, printed by Legends Playing Card Company. The Gold Edition features gold foil embossing and gold metallic ink tuck. The cards will also have gold metallic ink for the Pips and Index symbols. Pledge starts from $12.


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