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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Anthony of Jocu Playing Cards


Fillide: A Sicilian Folk Tale by Jocu Playing Cards is a set of luxury playing cards retelling the legend of Fillide. Designed in Italy by Sicilian artist Alessandra Gagliano, Fillide playing cards draw inspiration from the folk legends of Sicily, where ancient Greek temples and Roman theatres still stand almost side by side. The intriguing history of the island has created a diverse mix of cultures and ancient traditions, and these beautiful decks of cards showcase the imagery and symbolism from Sicilian folklore.

The decks come in two colorway, Aqua, and Terra. The face cards are fully custom and feature custom traditional pips; easily recognizable court cards with characters from Sicilian folklore- a mix of Greek and Roman mythology; beautiful Aces revealing the tale of Fillide- from the couple meeting, Fillide and Amacante parting, the death of Fillide and finally her blossoming upon Acamante's return. Gold and Silver metallic inks are used on the court cards and backs of the respective decks.

The decks are packaged in a luxurious matte tuck box with foil accents (gold or silver) and feature embossed details and interior print. For the collector, Fillide is a beautiful deck celebrating the beauty and magic of the natural world. For the magician and cardist, they are a spellbinding and mysterious tool to inspire wonder.

Last week, we had a quick chat with Anthony Holt of Jocu Playing Cards about their design background, inspiration and design process behind the Fillide deck.

For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us about yourselves and what is your design background?
Hi everyone! My names Anthony and my partner Alessandra is the designer of Fillide. We’re a couple from England and Sicily and we live in the mountains above lake Como in northern Italy. I’ve been into magic since I was about 18 but I drifted away from it after university. I fell back into it a couple of years ago after finding my old cards and stumbling across Theory11, Ellusionist and a world of custom decks. I’ve been trapped down the rabbit hole ever since.

When it comes to Jocu though, Ale is the one with all the talent! Both her father and aunt are established artists in Sicily and she followed in their footsteps. After graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome she worked as a graphic designer for many years in Rome and Milan before taking a step back to focus on her own creations.


Can you describe Fillide Playing Cards and why you’re passionate about it?
Fillide is a story that’s thousands of years old but is little known by those not expert in ancient mythology. Unless that is, you come from Agrigento in the south of Sicily. Alessandra was born there and every year there’s a huge festival to celebrate the blossoming of the almond trees. At this time the story of Fillide - the legend of how the almond tree came to be - is retold and it has become synonymous with the region.

The deck takes inspiration from nature and history, combining Alessandra’s beautiful designs with my love of custom playing cards. We’ve worked hard to ensure that the deck will have a lot of premium features as standard such as metallic inks and a beautiful foil tuck box to really capture the feel of the story and the period from which it is inspired.


Walk us through the process you took to design this unique deck. How did you come out with the idea and how did you get to this finished product?
We’d been thinking about designing a deck of playing cards ever since I rediscovered card magic a couple of years back. I started to collect decks again and we kept talking about launching our own but never quite got round to it.

However, when we moved to Lake Como we were suddenly surrounded by some incredible views and nature. That’s when the idea really jumped out of us - we wanted to design a deck based around this beautiful, inspiring nature around us. That’s where Fillide started. We started with the tree design which is quite common in mythology - the idea of Mother Earth and the tree of life. Little did I know that Alessandra was actually taking inspiration from a folk tale she remembered from when she was young about a woman turned into an almond tree - Fillide.

As this progressed she told me about the story and we fell in love with it as the theme for the whole deck. It kind of snowballed from there. We didn’t abandon the connection with nature either. So whilst we have the story of Fillide and the various mythologies of Sicily we also have suits that correspond to the elements and the seasons as well as references to traditional Sicilian playing cards. There’s a lot of symbolism in there tying everything together.

What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
For Ale, she says that designing the King of Diamonds was her major breakthrough. It was the first court card she did, and it took about two weeks just for that one. Her normal style is very different, so for her, it was the moment where she discovered the whole direction of the courts and could finally visualize everything.


For me, the Joker was a big moment. Jokers are often afterthoughts in deck design but when Ale suddenly came up with the idea of the Trinacria - the famous Sicilian three-legged Gorgon that appears on their flag - it was just perfect. It seamlessly tied in classic playing card conventions with all the mythology of Fillide and Sicily in one moment.

With so many playing card projects competing for funding, why should potential backers choose your deck?
I think our deck is unique in that it’s a rejection of the trend to make the designs more simple and minimal. It’s a complex design, not just in terms of detail, but in the amount of thought that’s gone into linking the imagery with the story and our vision.

Also as the experience with cards and magic comes from my input, Alessandra has designed something without prejudice or influence from existing decks which I think has been a massive advantage. She’s not copied or been led one way or another by a huge collection of successful decks on her shelf - it’s all from her heart and her talent with design.

Overall this will be a really unique deck, combining a fantastic, passionate artist with a lover of quality playing cards to make a really top quality piece.

What’s next for Jocu Cards? Are you planning to release more playing card decks in the future?
Ale’s bursting with ideas and this is definitely just the start. In researching other legends and folk tales we’ve discovered a wealth of themes just from local folklore here in northern Italy. Almost too many great ideas! I’ll admit that we do already have plans for our second and third decks, and they follow a logical connection. After that, we may take a break from the folklore themes and experiment a bit. But it’s still early days in our first campaign so we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves!


Finally, what are your favorite playing cards?
That’s a hell of a question! I must admit that for magic I tend to use standard bikes as they get used heavily, written on, torn up and so on. But as a collector, I’d have to say my favorite right now is Betrayers Invictus by Thirdway Industries. I love the whole Betrayers theme but Invictus is the only one on Cartamundi’s B9 stock, which I love, and the gold cold foil on the back seals it for me. Incredible handling deck and gorgeous designs.

Ale has obviously taken more of an interest in my collection in these months and she says the same! Great minds think alike and all that... she also has a soft spot for the Bicycle Brosmind deck.

Thank you for your time Anthony and all the best! 

Fillide playing cards will be printed by our friends at Cartamundi. Having raised 90 percent of its £10k goal in less than a week, with another 23 days left to go, a pledge of £12 sets you up with a deck. Check it out on Kickstarter here!

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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Anthony of Jocu Playing Cards Reviewed by Ivan on 4/29/2019 Rating: 5

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