We’ve all been there: perusing what feels like the entire internet for a mystical object that catches the eye. You want something new but also true to the magic you already know; something that is unique and that feels like, well, it’s been made just for you. Pam Wishbow, a Seattle-based illustrator and goods maker creates just these objects. She works from a tiny apartment with a desk pressed up against one of the walls in her living room where she creates all of her goods by hand. This, she explains, is directly connected to the work she creates: “..like most work in art you’re kind of bound by limitations and it is your job to figure out how to get around them.” Her work consists of illustrations, divination decks, and casting cloths with a modern twist among other familiar mystical objects. Pam’s magical world is welcoming to 21st century witches of any level.
Pam’s work is at once contemporary and terrifically ancient. Shopping with her feels as though you are procuring cursed objects at a booth run by a mysterious merchant. Viewing her artwork is like entering a world similar to your own but also tinged with something extraordinary.
Pam’s illustrative objects are bright and inviting. They depict the symbols that we have come to connect to spells and witchcraft in bold, thick lines and modern palettes. Within her work you will find hands of glory in blues and pinks or spirit boards with loose, cartoonish skulls peppered throughout. Pam’s work carries classic witchcraft into our world, making each rune stone feel as though we’ve seen it, owned it, and held it before. Her work preserves what have historically been a witch’s greatest essentials while also giving them new life.
Much of Pam’s work is created with the intention to modernize a mystical object in a way that preserves its integrity. Pam’s magic is relevant to the seasoned millennial witch but also any other purveyor of magic who has experienced the ordinary.
Many of her divination decks do not feature our much beloved Major Arcana. You won’t find a High Priestess or a Hierophant among the gold inks but rather objects from your everyday life. A trodden plant suddenly holds meaning; a cockroach could be the answer that you so desperately seek. You will find clay hex breakers with fish-eyed skulls, women in sweatshirts practicing palmistry, and tri-colored casting cloths that double as wearable bandanas. These goods take witchcraft and the practice of magic from merely spiritual to physical as well. Pam explains, “…we still sweep and cook in pots we got at Goodwill or if you’re lucky, a hand-me-down Le Creuset. I decided with the first item I made that I would make a deck for me, for the symbols I see day-to-day that when you sit down to think about them have a lot of meaning and implication. I hoped, and from feedback I think I did pretty well, that other people would also relate to the symbols and have similar feelings about what their meanings could be.”
Looking around us, we can find power and force in all earthly and man-made entities. Our existing is the only key to accessing the power of the world that Pam creates (which is very much on purpose): “I like the idea that we all go through our lives but have these silent little associations with objects or things around you that we rarely talk about. The thrill of catching the silhouette of a cat in a window while you’re on a walk alone is a kind of magical feeling. Having a little cigar box of stones or seashells from childhood vacations. There’s something secret and special to things like that. Those secret, special, personal moments are what I hope to create for people by making things.”
Most of Pam’s physical goods are made completely by hand, giving them a beautifully organic feel. She makes pins out of copper and clay, cuts each deck of cards herself, and experiments with different types of ink so that no two pieces are exactly alike. She stamps the packaging and uses twine to tie zines and stacks of cards together. Some items are shipped in small glass jars filled with other trinkets. Every illustration and item travels straight from “Professor Pam’s” hands and mind to yours and it brings all of the purpose, devotion, and energy with it.
In a culture that is so focused on intention, Pam brings something very personal to the modern witch’s table. She states, “When producing work I really want to have the stuff I put out there have a little story. I want there to be depth and a whole history implied. I like the idea that I can make these precious hand sized objects and put them out into the world, that someone else can place meaning on because I present it to them in particular ways. Setting mood is a large part of why I love packaging and making stuff. I want to give the feeling that someone stumbled onto something special.” Her work feels like it’s been created specifically to satiate whatever kind of magic you’re looking for.
The women depicted in Pam’s work are dynamic. They are usually mid-action, summoning ghosts on a spirit board (a familiar experience for most anyone who has been to a middle school sleepover or who practices spiritual communication in their everyday life) or exploring a forest filled with skulls. Often they are simply alone with their cats, viciously tearing through spell books or brewing coffee with their hands. These characters are all of us, existing in this world of everyday magic and trying constantly to bring ourselves closer to something truly divine.
Have we caught your attention yet, dear darkling? Take a look for yourself here to see if the mystical work of Pam Wishbow wakes the witch within you. We are dreadfully positive that it will.