Smile Politely

What’s In Your Bag, C-U: Debbie Stewart

Debbie Stewart grew up in C-U, spent some time in L.A. and New York for school (for costume design and menswear design). She ventured into a fashion-related career, but eventually she decided “I wasn’t cutthroat enough” and came home to the Midwest. “I still do occasional things for people, make Halloween costumes, make clothes for bands sometimes.”

She now works at International Galleries in Lincoln Square Mall and at the State Farm Center, and she reads and teaches tarot.

“I never had any doubt that there was an unseen world,” says Stewart. She bought her first deck of tarot cards at 16 and taught herself how to use them, and now she teaches and does readings out of her private space within International Galleries. “I’m more of an intuitive counselor…I set up sort of a gridwork: Where you’ve been is important to where you are which is important to where you are going. Very little is written in stone.”

Twin Peaks tarot card bag: I’m a Twin Peaks fan, and a friend got this for me for my birthday.

1. Pillboxes: I have allergies, and everybody needs a good pillbox. These are two of the boxes that we have at the store. I love the Keep Calm and Take Your Pills because I think it’s really funny, and the smaller one…I really love comic book art. It’s this big burst like out of Wonder Woman or something.

2. Sketchbook and pens: You never know when an idea is going to come. I like to draw. I do a lot of mashups of pop culture things.

3. Tom Petty and Me: I always have a book with me no matter where I go. This is a brand new book about Tom Petty. It’s by a friend of his, Jon Scott, and he autographed it for me.

4. Lipstick collection: God knows every girl needs at least one red lipstick. I always have at least five lipsticks with me because you just never know what you’re going to need.

5. Business cards: This is my friend Sasha Rubel, who’s an artist in town, then my brother who is a superb guitar player. I always have his business cards with me because he teaches guitar. I like to promote my family. 

6. I always always always have hand sanitizer.

7. Hedgehog: This is my dental floss, because as Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, dental hygiene is important. I always have floss with me because you never know if you’re going to need it.

8. Sunscreen powder: This is the world’s greatest sunscreen. A woman named Jane Iredale makes it. It’s number 30, and you don’t have to wait to go outside with it. When Sasha’s girls were little we’d go to the farmer’s market and I’d say “okay, who wants fairy dust.” I used it 365 days a year. 

9. Pop culture tarot card deck, designed by Stewart: I’d always wanted to make a pop culture tarot deck. I grew up with T.V., so I draw a lot upon that. I’m getting ready to do a second printing. They are all literal cut and paste, I didn’t do Photoshop. (You can see more examples of her cards up close here). 

10. Cut the crap, I’m psychic button: This was given to me by a good friend, Judy Green, and I think it’s really funny. I read every Mardi Gras at the Esquire and I donate all the money to charity, so I’ll wear that a lot. It’s like “Okay, I know you’re drunk, let’s cut to the chase here.”

11. Tarot card pouch, made by Stewart. 

12. Second pouch: My friend Jeff Evans brought me from Belize when he was there scuba diving. The lady at the Humane Society there makes her own bags for trinkets and things. He looked at it and said “oh, that’s Debbie.”

13. Traditional tarot set: These are little angel cards. At the beginning of every reading I’ll have people pick one blindly, and they have a lot to do with the subtext of the reading or maybe what’s going on somebody that day.

14. Lachrymatory: My mom gave it to me years ago. People used them in Victorian times, and they are to catch tears. You can save your tears or catch someone else’s tears. And then if you feel the need to go back to something and look it over, or take a second glance, you can take out the tears. I really love that piece, it’s glass and sterling.

To contact Stewart about tarot card reading, you can find her at International Galleries or through her website.

Photos by Kwamé Nyerere Thomas

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