Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Erik Mana about 'No.3'?

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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Erik Mana about 'No.3'?

From Toronto Canada, Magician and Mentalist Erik Mana has spent more than 25 years at his craft. For the past 13 years he's been touring Asia with his show, and soon will be returning home to Toronto to begin the process of a new start up company.

In High School Erik trained and apprenticed in Classical Animation, but his passion for magic took a stronghold after college and his career as a Magician has flourished. Through the years Erik never let go of his love of art, he kept sketching and drawing and when the 1st digital programs such as Corel Draw and Photoshop emerged, he devoured all he could learn of the media and since moved on to Illustrator and mutli media software such as After Effects

Erik's success as a magician is only matched by his success as a Playing Card Designer, with the stellar release of his original Mana Deck, Oracle, and a recently successful follow up Zinfandel and Indigo, Erik still maintains he's no designer.......

"I'm not a freelance designer and I actually don't consider myself as a "designer". I just love art and I like to create things. And most of my work is purely out of my own interests and of course to service my career. Even from way back at the start of my magic career, it was always a dream of mine to create my own working supply of playing cards. So this series of cards is definitely a dream come true for me."

Erik will be launching "No.3" the newest deck in the Mana line of Playing cards via Kickstarter on August 6th to a very excited audience. Projects are always time consuming but Erik was nice enough to answer a few question about the newest addition to the Mana line.

How long has the Mana Playing Cards No. 3 Gold been in the works?
After my first Kickstarter project (Version 2 : Zinfandel & Indigo) funded back in December I started planning for No.3. But at the time, it wasn't called No.3, it was going to be the Gold Oracle, which was the follow up deck to my first deck the Silver Oracle. Many people expressed their support for the Gold Oracle when I first made mention of it during my campaign. At first, the idea was just to have a color change from the Silver Oracle because I wanted the gold version to be functional with the silver version. Color changes and transformation tricks are staple card tricks in a magician's repertoire so naturally, a simple color change was all I had in mind.

Then one day I was speaking with Bill Kalush of EPCC and we got to talking about my plans for the gold. I loved the idea of having an ultra limited run of 1000 decks and I felt that the gold deserved that. But then I got to thinking that maybe the gold deserved its own special design as well, not just a simple color change and so the back design changed, the faces changed and so did the box. So the whole evolution of the deck probably took about three months. And eventually the "Gold Oracle" became No.3.

Anyone who knows me, knows that 3 is my lucky number. So I loved the fact that I could literally call the third deck of my series No.3. BUT! No.3 does have a real name and her name is SYBIL.

"Sybil" to cardists (especially) and to magicians and even to some collectors is known as a flourish move that has become one of the fundamental techniques to cardistry. I even created my own version of the flourish called the Oracle cut which you can see on the Oracle Joker. When I created the Oracle, there was a lot of double meaning behind the deck and one of that was the Oracle name. Because back in ancient times an Oracle was also known as Sybil.

So No.3, Sybil, is actually in honor of the original Oracle. Sybils were known to be prophetess and were always sought out for divine advice and playing cards have been the device for divination and magic for centuries so naturally Sybil was the perfect name for the deck.

Can you describe Sybil's playing cards themselves and how they differentiate themselves from other Mana decks?
First it's important to know that all three of my designs have the same "DNA". That is to say that they all have a similar design, yet their own special individual characters as well.

Sybil is truly for the discerning collector. It's design from back to face to box has all evolved into something more mature and classical. She has thinner borders with a new ornamental frame. There are changes inside the flourish design as well. The faces are different, especially the indexes and court cards. The colors are deep and rich. They won't be metallic faces like the Oracle or Zinfandel/Indigo decks are, but there will be accents of gold metallic in the court cards. And the jokers are probably my favorite cards out of the entire deck, because it is Sybil herself.

The deck is very different from the first two decks physically too. As you know Expert Playing Card Co. will be producing this deck and I'm very impressed with the quality of their decks lately. They have a solid feel to it, thinner yet snappier and the cut is perfect. The Master finish that EPCC offers is what I think will take Sybil to the next level when it comes to metallic back designs. The finish adds more shine to the metallic inks, more than USPCC does. I can't wait to see both the silver and the gold shine through the Master finish.

The Tuck Box looks very intricate and unique, what can you tell us about the design concept of the Tuck?
I have always wanted to create a cigarette box style tuck. When Bill and I spoke about custom tucks, I felt this was a good opportunity to try to create one. So I found a simple template that was sized for actual cigarettes and I started re-engineering it to fit a deck of cards. I even bought a pack of cigarettes and opened up the box to see how everything worked. That was not easy at all! A cigarette box design is not very forgiving if you're even off by a .25mm. I probably went through a dozen prototypes before it started to fit right. There is also a small matter of the added "sleeve" piece that needs to be tucked inside the box. This sleeve must fit properly inside to allow the top flap to close snuggly and hold it close when the flap is shut. All in all it probably took a little over a week to finally have good working prototype.

After I mastered the box template, I started working on the actual design. It wasn't too difficult for me because I already had a vision of this design long before I even found the template. The great thing about the actual cut of the box is that it works perfectly with the back design of the deck. The Gold & Silver Reserve decks will be in matte black tucks. The back design will be blind embossed on the front. There will be gold and silver foil stamping respectively. The back currently has the Mana Ace of Spades and "Mana Playing Cards" clear foil stamped. This may change in the future, but for now I like the simplicity and the throw back to the original Silver Oracle. The inside sleeve will be gold, but this too may change depending on what EPCC factory's capabilities are. These tucks are quite complex and I'm hoping they turn out perfectly.

The Silver Sybil (unlimited) deck will be matte in a printed metal grey box. It will use EPCC's side loaded tuck design with the Mana Ace of Spades blind embossed on the front and "Mana Playing Cards" clear foil stamped on the back. Again, I like the simplicity of the design. I am trying to avoid "over designing" the boxes. I want to give them an elegant clean look.

What will backers have to look forward to in this Kickstarter campaign?
A very simple campaign. The only add on's I have in this current project are the unlimited Silver Sybil decks and the uncut sheets. I am putting all my focus on the decks and making sure this campaign runs smoothly.

There are also a couple of stretch goals planned and I think backers will really like these upgrades to their reward packages. If I can offer more to my backers, I will. I'm still working on some cool ideas and I do hope I can share them with everyone. I also think the reward packages are great as well. And many of them come with freebies too! 

I will be slowly releasing images of the cards as the campaign moves along. I think it's a fun way to peak people's interest and keeping them involved in the project and to show them the progress as it unfolds. 

After a very successful outing with the Mana Zinfandel & Indigo, does the Kickstarter process get any easier, less stressful?
Yes. Definitely easier and maybe less stressful. You'll have to call me after the campaign. haha My Zinfandel & Indigo campaign was more nerve-racking than anything else, because this whole crowd funding platform was all new to me. Now, creating the project was definitely easier and faster for me. I know that the project will eventually evolve so I'm prepared for that. I'm a bit more organized in planning this time around and I'm definitely having more fun. I was also happy to see the project get approved so quickly by Kickstarter compared to my first one.

As a designer, what are your thoughts of the state of the Playing Card industries growth over the past year?
The growth can be a bit overwhelming. The industry was not like this just a couple of years ago. But that isn't a bad thing. I think it's great that more and more people are taking an interest in playing cards. It's great that more people are talking about them and appreciating the artwork and the work involved. 

A lot of that had to do with Kickstarter opening the doors for individuals like me. It empowered us to share our work with the world and we instantly got support and feedback as a result. I've had people tell me that my deck was their first deck they ever bought and it was because of that deck that they started collecting. That just blows my mind! As an artist that's probably the most satisfying thing anyone can say about your work. And all I can say is I'm honored to have any of my decks in anyone's collection. 

The biggest challenge with such a rapidly growing industry is saturation. We're already seeing days of multiple campaigns popping up in a single day. And the community is getting more and more discerning with their choices. Artists constantly have to raise the bar with design to try to deliver something unique. That's great for the community because there are a lot of awesome designs that come out as a result. But it's definitely more challenging for artists to always come up with something new and fresh and I think that's a happy problem.

Early concept of the Sybil Joker

What can we expect from Mana Playing Cards beyond the Sybil decks?
Well, Sybil will be the last of its kind in the Mana series. I'm stepping away from the classical flourish design. I actually have two completely different series lined up. The next project which I've already been working on is a borderless deck with a very unique face design and it's looking beautiful.

I'm also slowly getting into apparel, which I've always enjoyed having. My first line of Tshirts and the Club Cap that I released was a such fun addition to the brand a lot of people love it. I will definitely be putting out some new gear moving forward. Exciting times ahead!

We want to thank Erik for his time and insight into his new project. Make sure to mark your calendars for The Kickstarter launch of Sybil on August 6th, 2014. We wish Erik all the luck in the world and we have no doubt this next chapter of the Mana series will meet with just as much success as Erik's previous releases.

Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Erik Mana about 'No.3'? Reviewed by highlite23 on 7/31/2014 Rating: 5


  1. After I saw the new Mana design somewhere (Instagram I think) I went out and got some Indigo and Zinfandel decks. Haven't received them in the mail yet though. I read one of them is a marked deck, but haven't been able to find much info about the markings online. Anyone know how the marking system works?

  2. I have not seen the marking system myself... i am sure someone will be able to drop by and enlighten us. :)

  3. Lutefisk ConquistadorAugust 4, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    Yes, there's a riddle in the actual box. I've personally solved it, and my name is on the wall in the (hidden area of) Erik's site.

    How to get there, and what you must do, I won't spoil it.

    You might be able to make a guess about the mechanics of the markings if you stare at a card long and hard, but I only got half the information doing that.

  4. I got my decks today. After about 30 minutes I was able to figure out the marking system just by looking at the backs. (Hint top left corner for suit, bottom circle for value). But that riddle is really kicking my butt. I want to solve it, but I don't know where to start even. It says to look on the tuck, where there's a message around on the logo. Annnnd that's where I am stuck.


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