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2024 - Ongoing

A key tenet of Atom Futures is that art is a crucial and transformative medium through which to shift perspectives and create more equitable and sustainable futures.

It is true of craft as well. In our explorations of the futures of craft, we have been examining how craft is not just a technique or process, but a way of living, thinking and representing cultures, identities and belief systems. The contributions of craftspeople have historically shaped our human experience through political, economic and social expressions of craft.

One such craftsperson who inspired us on this explorative journey is Pamela Coleman Smith, the artist behind the famous Ryder-Waite-Smith Tarot deck. Commissioned in 1909 to co-create and illustrate the cards, she revolutionised this divinatory form through her vivid depictions of the human condition through detailed archetypes and symbology.

Like many female artists, she did not receive due recognition for her work at the time. But in her cards lie her legacy, one where expressions of gender, power and spiritual belief gave a different perspective in an era when women, and particularly women from minority backgrounds, had little agency.

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THE ATOM TAROT: A Search for a New Universal Symbology

We considered how the symbology in Smith’s illustrations in the Ryder-Waite-Smith Tarot deck have largely stood the test of time, with many of the signs and symbols in the cards still resonating today. As humanity has evolved and changed over the last century, however, including our understanding of gender, culture, nature, technology and power, there is an opportunity to reimagine a new universal symbology. Inspired by the craft and innovation of Pamela Coleman Smith, we at Atom Futures seek to capture this new symbology through a reimagination of the Major Arcana – the 22 “trump” cards in the tarot – by applying the arts, semiotics and futures thinking, and by drawing on emerging archetypes rooted in different cultures and beliefs. This will become the ATOM Tarot Deck at the conclusion of the project.

A Preview: Reimagining

The Hierophant / Pope Card (5)

Inspired by “Pope Joan”, the female pope that never was, the Authority is a card about creating a new order of institutional understanding and authority, and the passing on of that knowledge. The Elephant behind the figure is symbolic of matriarchal societies, which teach unity, equality and fairness. 


If you would like to learn more about the ongoing project, or to collaborate, please follow us or reach out on LinkedIn or

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