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The Deal with Mr. Fulton Part I: Buck Twins, History of Cardistry and Creating Playing Cards


For this exclusive interview, we are honored to have a guest post from Austin Perez (Instagram: @austin100s). In part one of this guest post, Austin interviews Brad Fulton (@fultonplayingcards) for an insight behind Fulton's brand, relationship with the Buck twins, history of Cardistry and creating playing cards. Enjoy!

Playing cards are used for various reasons. Whether it’s playing a game of poker, performing magic, conning people with Three Card Monty, or making moves for your cardistry video. All these things involve the use of the hands to show why the cards are there. They need you to make something out of them.


Fulton’s Playing Cards are quite peculiar in a way it seems. They tell you stories by you just looking at them. From the cards to the tuck no detail is ever spared. The creator intended for the users to be able to look at them and go, “Wow, I wonder where that place is…” That creator is Californian native Brad Samuel Fulton. Mr. Fulton and his love for playing cards have been influential in the custom playing card world since its earliest days. From working with Dan and Dave Buck to now he has been a voice for the storyteller and artist that can be formed with a medium that is meant to be hands-on. Today, he takes time out of his forever busy schedule to sit down and talk.

So what really brought you to playing cards? Could you recall your first memories of it?
My first memories of playing cards were probably like most Americans. I played “Go Fish” and draw poker with my grandmother and never really thought about their design. Cards to me were Bicycle or Tally-Ho. In fact, playing cards seemed so standardized that it was hard to imagine changing them—kind of like money—nobody imagines redesigning the five-dollar bill. That all changed when I met Dave Buck when we were very young adults. For years I’d go with him to Costco where the Buck Twins would buy the mixed brick boxes of Bicycles. The twins would open two bricks in the store and remove half the color from one to create either a totally solid red or blue brick not mixed. It was the first time I thought about playing card colors.


As a playing card brand what was the first big challenge that really made you go all in, win or lose with this market?
I never thought about starting a brand. Clip Joint was a passion for me. I had the idea and needed to bring it to life. There was no spreadsheet forecasting sales, or even thinking about making money. It wasn’t a cash grab. I’m an obsessive person and it is was pure bliss to create that deck and then finally hold it in my hand and also see my friends use it. For the brand to become popular was really a bonus.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to start their own?
Be passionate. Don’t do some parody. Have respect for the genre. Playing Cards are such an amazing medium that you should really love them and think about each step of the process and have fun. You know the old adage if it’s not fun why do it?

Any advice for brands that are out there right now?
No, I don’t. Everybody will just do their own thing and it will work or it won’t.


When it comes to archiving some of the history of cardistry you were one of the first with Dan and Dave. Looking back what did you think would become of this?
That’s an interesting question. Somebody at a local meetup said to me last week jokingly “You S.O.B. You started this Cardistry photography craze and now it’s all I see on Instagram!”. It was pretty funny. Dan & Dave were my friends. Dave was working at the Apple Store with me so trust me nobody was getting rich or even seeing that as a goal. We just had a lot of fun together. I was finishing up at USC Film School and wanted to experiment with photography and what better subject than your friends? They were always ready to go, and we worked tirelessly. I knew the Bucks were special. They had something very few people have and that’s creativity and obsession. But on the other hand, I always thought that with a talent as unique/marginal as theirs it would be hard to make mainstream money. So, in all honesty, I didn’t have a clue where Cardistry would go. Certainly, I never imagined a convention for it. The Bucks envisioned going into filmmaking as did I. So, in a way I guess we’re just failed filmmakers Hahahaha.

Did you ever tell yourself that this hobby could become your passion as it is today?
Honestly, I’m not sure I ever thought it through that far. I felt so lucky to be working with my friends and getting paid to create ideas.


With so many playing cards nice being printed with an air cushion finish as the standard, what made you stick to the cambric 37 and ivory 37 finishes for your recent cards?
I’m a big card stock fanatic. I really beat cards up doing shuffles all day long to really see how cards change and handle. It’s a big deal to me. We developed the crushed stock for the Guy Hollingworth project which was another obsession/passion project of mine. Guy loves the old Studs that have this really thin, pliable feeling. The Bucks love it too. So, we used that for some of the new Ace Releases and I insisted on an Ivory 37 for the metallic gold since it shows off that ink so well. There’s no embossing to take away from that glorious finish. The downside is that people now are used to the crushed stock after it took off, so an Ivory 37 is going to feel quite hard in comparison.

What deck would you go back and do touch ups on if you absolutely had to? What would be those touch up if there were any?
The metallic gold printing on Chinatown is not up to my standards. That was an era of custom printing that wasn’t as defined or accessible as it is today. We had to pioneer a lot of things back then. The proofs were very different and the metallic gold the USPCC uses today is so much better. The design and box of Chinatown are still great, but that metallic gold doesn’t pop enough so that’s my one past obsession.


Looking at the names of the colorways of the recent three Fulton Casino’s decks they seem to have the similarity of being named after movie-inspired things. Do movies ever inspire you for the colorway or do the colorways come first and then the name after?
Well, I love the Wizard of Oz. So back in 2014, I had bought the book to read to my kids and it made me revisit the movie. I thought how cool an “emerald city” and a “yellow brick road” deck set would be. So, in that case, the movie inspired my color choices. On the other hand, Pink is one of my favorite colors and I love John Hughes, the writer of Pretty in Pink so that name was just a chance to name something after an era I grew up in.

Looking at your sci-fi photography portfolio is something of a treat with what seems like Twilight Zone and David Lynch inspired aesthetic. Will we ever see any sci-fi decks from you that are like your photography?
I’ve been working on one since 2013. The mood board and archive of designs for it could fill a room. This is actually Dan Buck’s favorite project I’m working on and he’s been a champion of it since its inception. Hopefully, it’s just a year or so away. But that’s an aesthetic world I live in. Just my point of view is pretty obvious aesthetically from my cards and photography, and it hasn’t changed since I’ve been a small boy.


Has it already played a role in any previous decks you’ve created?
The way I see the world is probably quite skewed. I live in a black and white episode of Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone. I’ve always had a quirky way of seeing things so I guess you can say that anything I make will be in that universe.

Looking at the iconic Fulton design philosophy of making sure the cards have a story to tell, how long does it take you to come up with a brand new deck idea?
Well, the ideas come easy. I have an entire folder of decks that are conceptually made but the process of getting that idea completely fleshed out and executed can break your back. Clip Joint, I had the idea and sketches in 2010. I had numerous artists lined up but, in my gut, I knew nobody could make it happen like Daniel Phillips (DLP). Together we have a real connection where our frame of reference is so similar that it’s a shorthand. I can say “like the gold door design on...” and he’ll say, “Dragon Inn on El Camino Real in Oceanside.” It’s bizarre. Dan turned me down for six months for Clip Joint because he had a fear failing since he’d never designed a card back. But I’m very persistent and he wasn’t getting off the hook. The rest is history. I think that deck took a year. Right now, I’m working on my new Halloween Themed Deck that’s fallen through three different artists and been conceptually finished since 2014. So, it’s frustrating but at the same time, I can’t release a FULTONS Deck and feel I really did it halfway. The most difficult deck DLP and I ever worked on was Ace FULTONS believe it or not. Simple designs are extremely difficult. As DLP says, “there’s nowhere to hide.” And our finished Ace Deck had a few changes made by Dan Buck that in hindsight, make the cards work. He’s really the master of looking at a card back and adding these touches that make it sing. Easiest deck ever was October with Steven Noble. That came together so fast. Steven is a genius. And I’m not sure when he sleeps because he’ll hit you with proofs in a few days and I can’t understand how he does it.


With some of your works being in, what I would say, different genres of art, which one of the decks was the hardest to put to press for you or come up with?
Ace Fulton by far. It’s the only deck where I thought it might never work. It went through 100 revisions and I could probably make a living off the “B Roll” alone. Some of the old designs for it in hindsight are amazing. DLP and I work so smoothly together but I think that deck took us to the edge of sanity, and a case of beer for DLP. But it was worth it. It stands the test of time.

Read the second part of the interview here! Brad talks about Art of Play, new Fulton's, industry trends and Keanu Reeves.  Stay tuned! 


This segment is written by Austin Perez (Instagram: @austin100s). No part of this article can be reproduced without written permission from the author and Kardify.com.

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The Deal with Mr. Fulton Part I: Buck Twins, History of Cardistry and Creating Playing Cards Reviewed by Ivan on 7/19/2019 Rating: 5

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