Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Corona Playing Cards Collaborative Project


The Elephant Hearts Suit
Elephant Hearts Suit

Here is an absorbing and ambitious project to get you through at least a month or two of pandemic ennui. Better yet, you get to engage in this with three other people of your choice. You may form a quartet of far-flung family members, friends, members of a book or gardening group, or a gaggle of artists. As I pitched the idea to my nine and eleven-year-old grand nieces and my older sister, think history, think rare historical artifact, think about your own grandchildren having this heirloom passed down from the global pandemic of 2020. Each person ends up with a complete 52-card deck created by four different makers. A perfect endeavor for thosw who find themselves isolating alone for the duration, who will be able to avail themselves of this wildly creative personal deck to play a very artful game of solitaire.

Each person commits to creating a full deck of 52 cards. I suggest that you think in terms of a different theme for each suit, which helps maintain interest and variety. All participants use the same card template and agree on using the same card stock in their printers (we used index card weight card stock). Here is a link to the blank card template - Blank Card Template.

The only cautionary rule is that everyone must, in whatever fashion, be sure to include the number or rank of the card along with the suit symbol in the appropriate corners.

A must: identifying numbers and symbols placed correctly

We would check in with each other about once a week during our Zoom maker sessions. After completion of each suit, each participant mails select cards from that suit to the other three participants, which means everyone gets four delightful art mailings as part of the project. It took some serious brain wrestling to come up with this distribution scheme (you may also click on this link to download a PDF of distribution instruction - Distribution Instructions):

Distribution Instructions
Distribution Instructions

The four suits I created include the following:

Elephant suit - hearts

Fish suit - spades

Ginkgo leaf prints and bug silhouettes - clubs

And one of my favorites, which features both fertile turtles and flying turtles as well as some coronavirus symbols.

Turtles - diamonds

Not an artist? No worries! My sister came up with the idea of using "focus words to get us through the pandemic" for one of her suits. One of my nieces, currently obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons, used symbols from that game for a suit. You could use quotes you like instead of artwork to decorate your cards. Though I think this opportunity for self-declared non-artists to stretch themselves a bit can pay off, and I love the pictures of plants and birds my sister used for other suits.

Of course, you will need a box to contain your precious historical artifact, and have I got a template for you! 

Box template

Just download and print the PDF Box Template to print directly from your computer onto cardstock. Decorate the blank template yourself in any way you wish. Some samples are offered below. 

Hand-decorated boxes

I have also included a JPEG Option for the box template. It is the same blank template, but you can manipulate the JPEG in any graphics program to create a slicker looking box using computer graphics, which is what I did for our quartet's box.

Box graphics created using Photoshop and InDesign

Box back (and lovely little sea bird card by my sister)

It all sounds very ambitious doesn't it? If we could pull it off with a distracted children via Zoom sessions during the pandemic in a chaotic effort that included the nine-year-old losing all of her cards half-way through, so can you. And the payoff is pretty fantastic. Here is my final Corona card deck with artful contributions from three loved ones, displayed in all their glory during a game of solitaire.

Playing solitaire

One of my very favorite cards is displayed in the lower left corner above - a hummingbird doing a split - created by the nine-year-old (who eventually found her cards).

As a final icing on the cake, I also created labels for the backs of the cards because we experienced some bleed-through in the card stock onto the back of the cards. Here is a blank Label Template you may use to create labels for the backs of your cards if you wish (hey, if the pandemic is still going on you'd be surprised how far you can carry this project). They incidentally can also offer an entirely different game that can be played with the same deck of cards.

Back label templates

Simply draw or paint or collage a picture across all nine labels on the one-page template sheet. Once you have cut them up into individual labels and glued them randomly onto the backs of your cards, you have created a fun graphic puzzle. If you get tired of solitaire, you can play at putting together graphic puzzles instead.

Labels glued onto the backs of cards

And that is it for today from this obsessive little corner of the world. Enjoy.


  1. This is amazing! Also, thank-you for generously sharing your templates with us. I have made at least one thing from your templates (a tiny corona window book) which I would not have been able to figure out on my own. :)

    1. Oh that makes me happy! This was a little tedious to document, but I really do think it is a fun project with so many possibilities. I would love it if others gave it a shot.


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