In August of 2017, local tattoo artist Mo Richard, 31, collapsed while at work at Jackalope Tattoo. She died of an aortic aneurysm, leaving behind friends, family, and one big unfinished project.
Before she passed, Richard had been working on a tarot deck in her spare time. “It was a passion she had,” says her surviving husband, Sam Richard.
Soon after her death, friends began to ask, “What about Mo’s tarot deck?” says Sam’s sister, Kari Johnson.
Richard had spent two years working on a whimsical, animal-filled deck. She had completed the Major Arcana, the 22 symbolic trump cards found in a 78-card deck. She had finished all of the aces, and all but one of the twos, the last one being semi-complete.
So Sam teamed up with Bambi Wendt, founder and former owner of Jackalope (she sold it soon after Richard died), and their friend, artist Joe Rheault, to figure out how they could realize Richard’s artistic work with the help of the community. They put out a call on Facebook, asking for artists to contribute works to complete Richard’s deck.
Many did, but the project lingered, incomplete.
“Both Bambi and Sam had such an emotional attachment to the project,” says Johnson. “It became burdensome. So two and a half months ago, I asked, ‘How can I help?’”
Johnson, whose background is in the corporate world, helped with coordinating the project, and soon things were back in motion. Rheault did a lot of the art collection and scanning, while Wendt worked on the Kickstarter campaign. “Sam is always the heart of the project,” Johnson says.
The Kickstarter campaign went live last night at a launch event at Lake Monster Brewing, where Richard’s designs and original works donated by local artists were on view. A tarot reader was also on hand.
Many of the people who attended had tattoos designed by Richard.
That includes her father, Tom Elliot. “He took her to get her first tattoo,” says Richard’s mother, Mary Elliot.
Tom Elliot, a juggler by trade, says Richard designed his first tattoo when she was 12, which he gave to a tattoo artist to implement. Richard gave him another one of his tattoos, an origami crane, after he had heart surgery. Elliot also has a painted lady butterfly tattoo by his daughter, who was enamored by the creatures. He notes that two days after Richard passed, he and Mary were surrounded by a flock of painted lady butterflies in their yard.
Mary says that she feels proud that her daughter’s work is being brought to life, but it’s bittersweet. “My only hope is that somewhere, her spirit is here,” she says.
Richard’s sister, Katie Rockvam, also sports tattoos designed by Richard. “We are all really lucky with all of the art we have on us,” she says.
“It’s about healing,” says Wendt of the art project and tarot deck. “She touched so many people. Sometimes, the only way to heal as an artist is to have a direction to funnel that grief and sadness.”
Sam met Richard in 2012 at the downtown Grumpy’s during Stone Arch Festival weekend. He hung out with her three times in four days before they realized they were dating. A year later, they were engaged, and a few months later they were married. Finally releasing the project out into the world has brought about mixed emotions for him. “It’s pretty strange that she is not here,” he says.
Kickstarter campaign offerings include the complete tarot deck, with about half of the art made by Richard and the other half by contributing artists. There’s also a book that includes anecdotes about Richard, as well as sketches and commentary by contributing artists, and a limited supply of an earlier tarot deck found after her death that Richard most likely designed in college.
Funds go toward the costs of creating the book, and Richard’s legacy foundation with the Family Tree Clinic.