Mary Elizabeth Evans is an artist, tarot reader and the creator of wildly cultish oracle decks like the Spirit Speak tarot, Vessel oracle deck and Iris oracle deck. With their southern folk art-inspired aesthetic and feminist perspective, you can find Evans’ wares in the bedrooms of a mysticism-appreciating cool girl near you.
What’s it like running a business that’s based on invisible worlds? And what do you “call yourself” when you’re applying for a house? We caught up with the self-described morning person to see how she does it.
Mary Evans: I got my first job when I was 16, working for a non-profit thrift store in Franklin, Tennessee. It was called “Our Thrift Store.” The couple that owned it had an adult daughter with disabilities and they opened the business to offer job opportunities to other adults with special needs. It was a great experience at that age, to work for a business that focused on giving back.
Mostly I spent my days there sorting through donations, pricing clothes, and organizing the shop. I got reign over the vintage clothing section, which was my favorite. The owners there were always generous, patient, and kind to me. I think because their business was more focused on service to the community than making a profit, they saw me as a whole person and treated me accordingly … In other jobs I later worked, this was not always the case.
It depends on who I’m talking to! Because my business is rooted in tarot and metaphysical practices, it’s not always respected as a solid business. People have a certain idea of what a “tarot reader” is. If I tell people I make tarot cards, it also tends to leave people scratching their heads. Most of the time I say “I’m a small business owner” or “I’m a full-time artist.”
It’s funny because I’m trying to buy a house right now and when people ask me what I do, it’s a bit of a struggle. Of course I want to just say, “I’m a full time artist, I make tarot card decks, and I read people’s cards,” but when someone is looking at how you’re going to pay your mortgage … it is not the easiest thing for people to wrap their mind around.
The last time I went to see a house and the real estate agent asked what I do for a living, I said “I’m in publishing,” which is true. I self-publish every deck I create. I try not to get frustrated with myself or other people’s judgment and lack of understanding. Ultimately, I am doing what I love to do, I’m connecting with people and helping them heal, and I am able to support myself with that. I don’t need approval or understanding from people who are not open to it.
Before I started my business, I watched my dear friend Liz Migliorelli build her business, Sister Spinster Apothecary, from the ground up. She has been one of the biggest inspirations for me. Mostly, I was enamored with her confidence and ability to feel empowered in the work she was offering. Women aren’t necessarily encouraged to pursue business. At least, not when I was starting.
In the beginning, I had a very meek, undeserving attitude. I would work for less than I was worth, I would bend over backwards, and I didn’t have good boundaries. Liz was the person who I would talk to that would always be like, “No, girl, that is unacceptable.”
Part of making your own business is that, yes, you get to be the boss and call the shots. You’ll make mistakes, but you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do; you don’t have to settle for less. This is a self-created project, and the beauty is that you are sharing your inner world with the outer world, even down to the way you make your shop policies. Running your business should make you feel empowered, not defeated.
What does “success” mean to you?
Wow, what a big question! And one that I often mull over. We all know there is a stereotypical vision of success: The car, the house, the promotion. That’s not what I’m looking for. My art is deeply tied to who I am and how I communicate. It is sacred. In my mind, I tussle with how this special practice is tied to capitalism and making money.
The thing is, I gotta eat and pay the bills, as we all do. If I can do this by expressing myself and providing joy and healing to others, I think that’s great! Wouldn’t it be nice if more of our economy was based on healing and joy? Instead of feeling guilt about wanting success, or participating in a sometimes ugly economy, I like to see myself, my business, as an example of another option, a different way of reaching success.
How do you manage stress?
I work very hard. I learned a lot about being driven and ambitious from my father. Growing up, he always emphasized hard work and putting in your best effort. I owe a lot of my ability to be self-motivated to him. However, my drive to always be doing my best and working my hardest is something I have had to learn how to balance.
Earlier in the year, I was working seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. I had two breaks, one for lunch and a 2:30 p.m. break. At first, I felt like I was proving to myself, like, “Everyone thinks that artists are lazy. Well, I’ll show you!” The thing that I realized was this way of extreme working was not sustainable emotionally or psychically. I was already working hard, there was no reason to add extra stress or pressure.
Now I keep a close eye on how I am taking care of myself. I still work Monday through Friday, but I make an effort to not work at all during the weekend and focus on doing whatever I want. I work from home, so if I am feeling stressed I will take breaks for self care. This could be painting my nails, cleaning the house, putting on a facemask, making a new altar space, or chatting with a friend. Goals should be something you deeply want. So, I think about this when I’m working. If I don’t need to indulge in stress, if I am able to take a step back, I should!
What do you wish someone told you when you were 21?
I have to say I was very spoiled and had a mother who was my cheerleader and gave me wonderful support around that time in my life. What I would want to tell a 21 year-old out in this wacky world is to not lose focus on your goals and what you love, even if it seems totally impossible.
Growing up, I never felt that being an artist was a career option. So much so that when I started school, I chose not to study art at first. I had decided it wasn’t a “responsible” option. I was miserable not making art. If you do the work that makes you truly shine, the world will open up to you. It may not be easy, it may take many years, but I deeply believe that.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Well, being a morning person certainly helps, haha. My best hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., so I look forward to that time. I’m happy in what I do. Each day feels like a step closer to my goals, and that keeps me looking forward to each morning. For me, it’s important to include magical practices in daily activities. Each day is different, sometimes it’s making spell candles and burning sage, other days it’s pizza and Netflix while I’m drawing.
The mornings feel like a luxury. I make my tea, light all my altar candles, pull oracle cards. Sometimes I’ll dress myself specifically for work even though no one will see me, working from home. I’ll create an outfit that makes me feel comfortable, beautiful, and creative.
This may seem theatrical for preparing to answer emails, but it makes my life more enjoyable, so why not? A lot of people I know have been obsessed with this book The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. I haven’t read it myself, but the main idea is that you should only have things in your life that give you joy. I think you can apply this philosophy to your daily routines as well, especially if you work for yourself.