Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Stephen O'Neill of Chillies Playing Cards

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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Stephen O'Neill of Chillies Playing Cards

Now on Kickstarter, Chillies Playing Cards designed by Stephen O'Neill is a deck that celebrates Mexican design and Maya culture. The fully custom deck features a mirrored card backs in a monochromatic repeated chilli pattern and enhanced standard court cards with an added twist of spice. 

The eye-catching Ace of Spades showcases two Chillies shaped into the spade and engulfed in flames and taste testers Jokers of the Maya Chilli harvest until they weren't. The deck is packaged in a classic tuck box with hidden influences from Mexican Design and Maya Culture. 

Late last week, we had a chat with Stephen about his design background, the inspiration, and the design process behind Chillies.

For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background?
My name is Stephen O'Neill, I live in the UK with my amazing Wife, 10-month-old Son and my Beagle, Franklin. I graduated with a degree in Digital Design and slowly moved away from digital work to explore other careers and see the world. I eventually found myself designing full time five years ago in the children's fashion industry where I mostly create repeat patterns for footwear and clothing. I joke that I haven't 'worked' in five years, because I'm lucky to do what I love.   

Can you describe the Chillies Playing Cards and why you’re passionate about it?
The Chillies decks are a series of decks that celebrate Mexican design and Maya culture. I love chillies and I often incorporate what I enjoy personally into my work when I can, I find it incredibly motivating. I'm always excited to see where a project can go and the fire for these decks comes from a philosophy of anything is possible. 

Walk us through the process you took to design the deck. How did you come out with the idea?
When I designed the Beyond deck, it was simply an experiment for me to visualise what traditional standard court cards would look like as astronauts, but while designing these I was finding inspiration everywhere. All these ideas were flooding my mind, so I decided to write every idea down, good and bad. I attempt to grow chillies each year and I was in the greenhouse when I thought a chillies themed deck would be a good idea. I'd already started a second deck before my first Kickstarter launched but I couldn't shake the chillies idea so I created a moodboard for them. I always include what colours I want to use and images relating to the message I'm trying to convey, from there I start with sketches and move to digital recreation when I'm happy with my designs. There's a few ups and downs during the design stage and many changes are made before I start sending everything to Cartamundi. 

What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
I would say there were at least two Eureka moments that lead to the final designs. First would be the back design, originally I wanted a chilli at each end where the logo is currently, but I wasn't happy with how it looked and went through a number of iterations before scrapping it. I was working on a repeat pattern when I realised I should be working to my strengths and create a patterned back, one where I could incorporate a broken border would be perfect and when I made the first draft I was instantly happy with the direction I'd taken. The second breakthrough was after my tuck file corrupted and I was set back a couple of weeks, I'd already sketched an idea for the Picante Edition so I worked on that instead, but loved it so much that I created the Original Chillies from that design and how they all fit together afterwards just felt right. 

We first noticed the deck on Instagram. What do you think of the community in terms of the feedback and support that you’ve been getting?
Oh, the community is fantastic, I wouldn't be making another deck without my backers and the community that's welcomed me with open arms. The feedback for my first deck has been phenomenal, from people finding hidden features to the feel of the B9 stock, it's overwhelmingly positive. I've found the support for the Chillies Originals has been just as positive and the feedback of what people would like to see from the series has led the process in many ways. So many ideas are shared and I find the community very friendly and helpful, I've never worked in an industry where you can freely share your work and ideas so respectfully. It truly feels like everybody wants everyone to succeed, we're all in it together. 

What’s next? Can we expect more deck designs in the future?
Yes, I'm planning to go back to my partially finished deck at some point, and I've planned for six Chillies Originals, three more chilli varieties to come soon. Hopefully, a couple of Picante Editions too. I'm going through my list of ideas and I'm working towards a couple of collaborations so I'm sticking around for a while. I do have one idea I'm really excited about but I'll share more about that when the time is right. 

Finally, what are your favorite playing cards?
Kings Wild Project decks are a clear winner for me in terms of design, I love the matchbox Tigers and Legal Tender. I'd be picking up the gilded tigers if I'd not spent the budget I had on the Chillies! I also love the illustrations in the Space Tube Vacuum deck, so I can't wait to get my hands on that. I have a couple of sentimental decks that are my favourites to use in games, a few decks I've collected on my travels in meaningful locations. I'm looking for other decks that use the B9 stock to practise cardistry. I really love the softness of it and it's made picking up some techniques much much easier.
Thank you for your time, Stephen, and congratulation on smashing the funding goal! At the time of writing, Chillies is already 132% funded with 13 days to go! If you like what you've read here and want to support Stephen, you can find it on Kickstarter Here! 

Pledge starts at $14, there will be four editions available on offer during the campaign- Original Chillies, Jalapeno Original, Habanera Original and Picante. All The decks will be printed by Cartamundi with Premium B9 Finish.

Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Stephen O'Neill of Chillies Playing Cards Reviewed by Ivan on 8/20/2021 Rating: 5

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