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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with David Verburg of the Thunee Deck

The Thunee Deck is an exotic deck of playing cards that embodies various elements of Indian culture, heritage and tradition. Inspired by an age-old South-African game named Thunee, each card has been meticulously designed and produced to evoke the feeling of a bygone era.

The design of the deck has been well researched by the design team of Patrick and David to encapsulate the historical significance, Hindu legacy and script and to commemorate the Indian Indentured Labourer in South Africa.

Earlier last month, we had a chat with David about his business, Trumpmen, the Thunee Deck, and Kickstarter.

Could you introduce Trumpmen to our readers? What is your design background?
Trumpmen is a cooperative venture that specializes in designing and printing premium custom and collectible playing cards. With the resurgence, growing awareness of magic and with the growing number of poker players, cardists and magicians, a significant consumer market has emerged and evolved for bespoke high end playing cards. With a magician as one of the partners, we have recognised that a deck of cards is not just a tool, but in the hands of a skilled player, magician or cardist, playing cards become a work of art to be revered and admired. Our team synthesises the design expertise with the experience of a magician.

Our team consists of 4 professionals that are working in the field of graphic design, 3d design, marketing, finance and magic. We aim to create cards with functionality in mind but we wish to harmonise our design skills with traditional games to enhance the playing experience. Our strategy is to design and produce thematic decks with historical or contemporary significance which will not only appeal to the target market that play specific games, but also the market for collectors, cardists and magicians.

This will be the first Kickstarter project. Why Kickstarter? 
We have identified that Kickstarter represents a unique crowd funding channel to access purveyors of high end playing cards. We have a financial specialist as part of our team and we thought that it would be unique to finance the production of the deck through kickstarter instead of going the tradiotional funding route. We also have an established bricks and mortar distribution channel within our main target market, so funding through kickstarter will allow for the production and holding of stock for wholesale and retail purposes.

Can you describe the Thunee deck and why you’re passionate about it?
The card deck is inspired by the South-African game named Thunee. Thunee has been part of South African culture for 140 years. Thunee, which means water in the Tamil (South Indian) language, is a popular trick-taking card game that originated in Durban, South Africa. The game was invented by indentured Indian Labourers who were brought to South Africa in the 1800's from India to work on the sugar cane plantations. Since then the game has developed a cult following and is played by family and friends and on a competitive basis. It occurred to us that despite the long history of the game, no deck has been designed that captures the historical significance of the game. We therefore decided to design a deck and meticulously researched the history to incorporate the elements into a deck that commemorates the inventors of the game. For example the joker design embodies the authentic dress of the indentured labourer. And the background is symbolic of the sugar cane plantation. The sixes have special significance because they are used as "ball" cards to keep the score in the game. So special attention has been accorded to the sixes in the deck.

Preba Moodley said “I grew up playing Thunee. Some of the best memories I have are of playing Thunee with my father at family gatherings and with my friends at school and university. It was a tradition to meet in the cafeteria after lectures to play Thunee. Whilst the world is converging on the internet and mobile apps and electronic media, it is wonderful to combine my love for card magic to design and produce a deck of cards that symbolizes the game of Thunee.”

How much time did you spend working on the deck? Also, can you briefly go through the evolution for one of your unique card designs?
The idea was first conceptualized 3 years ago when one of our team members was performing magic to commemorate 150 years of the arrival of Indians in South Africa. Floowing a chance meeting in a restaurant 5 months ago, we were just discussing the concept and the idea behind it. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, what followed was a roller coaster of different visions, ideas, moods and expectations. A month of researched helped us on the right path, a path all of us were happy to take, moods ands styles were set. From then on we were able to go ahead full throttle.

We’ve spend 5 months in total working on the cards, from courts to number cards, to the joker and finally the tuck box. In the process we’ve decided to begin with The Original Thunee deck and at a later stage when that deck becomes successful start on a Limited edition deck, which has more premium inks and finishes. On a singel court card we would spend 3 to 4 days till the final design. The start of a court card would mean; diving into our research, looking at the necessary images of ancient Maharajas, Rajas and Maharani, colours, indian art and paintings, all to get the decoration and the expression right. Then the sketching phase started where we sketched out the specific court cards in the proper dimensions. After weeks of sketching followed the implementation of the design in the computer where we trace that sketch and amended the design where necessary. Obviously the design is it's initial phase, we will take in account all the comments we'll receive since we brought the design online for everyone to look at.

From the project page, what are a few of your favorite reward levels and why?
During the setup of our campaign we’ve always said to ourselves ‘what reward would we like to have personally? With that mindset we’ve carefully made a selection of beautiful items that we would offer our backers out there. One of these items is a beautiful crystal block with 3d engravings of the indentured labourer joker card. I personally have never seen that before and it would definitely would be a nice item to have on any desk. Also the Skype session with magician Preba Moodley where he personally teaches 2 of his favourite magic tricks is interesting and quite unique.

Playing card projects on Kickstarter has grown expotentially over the past few years? What are your thoughts?
We believe that playing card projects will continue to grow on kickstarter. We have identified multinational corporations with strong brand identities who are willing to use kickstarter not only as a platform to lend their brand to high end playing cards, but also as a platform to get into the business of high end playing cards which may complement the product range whilst utilising the crowd funding platform as a means to create brand awareness and an alternative source of funding. A playing card project in the eyes of a multinational is not a significant project in terms of funding, however the added benefit of brand awareness makes the platform interesting. These elements combined with a global resurgence in magic and cardistry will continue to propel the growth of playing card projects on kickstarter. We have already planned three more thematic decks with a specific target markets in mind.

Finally, what are your three favorite playing cards?
As a designer I always look for balance and harmony within the design of a deck of cards, also the concept and the story behind it is a very important factor for me when I consider backing up a project. Obviously the cards of Jackson Robinson are truly a work of art. The idea behind it is simply genius. It’s probably the simplicity of the idea that make it so strong.

Our team member Preba who has been a magician for a long time says his favourite deck has been the Bicycle Masters Edition. However these have been discontinued. For performing purposes his favourite pack to work with would be the Red Bicycle deck. Whilst these are not kickstarter launched decks, The Bicycle shadow masters deck is also a firm favourite as well as the Bicycle Black Tiger.

Thank you for your time and all the best, David! I love the vibrant colours of the deck.

The Thunee Deck will be printed by the USPCC and is available on now on Kickstarter for $13.60. There are multiple add-ons available such as artwork print, t-shirts, uncut sheets and our favorite, Thunee card guard. Stunning!

Kickstarter: 7 Questions with David Verburg of the Thunee Deck Reviewed by Ivan on 6/05/2014 Rating: 5

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