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Hanson Chien

Magician Hanson Chien came onto the international radar in a big way and with much fanfare when he burst onto the custom playing card scene with his immensely successful Chicken Nuggets Playing Cards. Simultaneously a recreation of the iconic and legendary Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards, as well as a parody that poked fun at fast food culture, this highly amusing deck proved very popular (see my review here).

As a skilled magician and card flourisher, Hanson has made many other contributions to both magic and cardistry. But of special interest to us is that he entered the custom playing card industry by starting up his own publishing company, Hanson Chien Production Company (HCPC), which prints quality playing cards in Taiwan. In addition to producing his own Chicken Nugget decks, Hanson has also produced some other fantastic and beautiful designs, most of which are geared towards the world of cardistry. Examples include the stylish Red Stripe deck, the artistic Pearl, the minimalist Frostbite, and the bright Odyssey deck, and it's some of these that I'm covering in this review series. The previous installments were on the Pearl Playing Cards (see my review here) and the Odyssey Playing Cards (see my review here), while this final installment will cover the Red Stripe Playing Cards.



We now take a journey to the Cubist style of Pablo Picasso with two versions of the Red Stripe deck - which unsurprisingly has as its chief notable feature: a red stripe! Two versions of this deck exist, a digitized Classic Edition made in higher numbers (left) and a Hand-drawn Edition deck featuring original hand-drawn artwork (right).


The creative process behind the Red Stripe deck occupied an enormous amount of time. Omar created some templates, and then painstakingly spent three straight days of eight hours each colouring in pockets of colour on a blank deck of cards, then framing them with black line work. The final result was scanned, traced and digitized, and this turned into the deck pictured above.


But once he was done with an entirely hand-drawn deck, Omar couldn't decide whether he liked the digital version best or the hand drawn one. With an apparent demand for both, that's what ended up being printed: two versions of the Red Stripe deck, one being a more limited Hand Drawn edition.

Below is is how one of Omar's original hand-drawn decks looks, which demonstrates how the fanning effect looks dramatically different depending on the direction in which the deck is spread or fanned. One direction creates warm colours while the other creates cooler colours, and this represents sunrise and sunset.


== Red Stripe Classic deck ==

Our tour guide and creator of the Red Stripe deck is magician Omar Renfro, whose creative process began by hand-drawing all the cards in 2015 (hence the date on the tuck box), and then digitizing them, and now having it finally published in 2017.


The tuck box has a canvas feel that makes it feel like an authentic piece of art, with embossing for added impact, and has a wrap-around design that makes a larger image.


There's full interior printing as well, reprising the back design of the cards, plus a hand reaching into the box, which is actually the artwork from the King of Diamonds card.

Designer Omar Renfro describes the influences behind this vibrant and colourful deck as being stained glass, cardistry, modern art, and architecture. The striking design of the card backs was actually the last stage of his design, to ensure that it would resemble the court cards in some way. The horizontal ribbon is separated from the rest of the artwork with a decorative border, to enhance its visual appeal.


The court cards have been described as having humorous Picasso-style faces. To create these, Omar began with freestyling abstract lines, filling the resulting shapes with colour, and then styling them into faces based on the elements typical of classical court cards, like the sword.

The result is a radically unique interpretation that reflects a Cubist inspired style. The court cards are also borderless, with every line going to the very edge of the card.


How did Omar end up here? Well the starting point of this concept was his desire to have a bold red stripe in the middle of the deck. In his words: "The design comes from the concept of wanting a solid stripe in the middle to accent the bright color palette I had in mind. I wanted to play with the idea of having a deck that was both borderless and bordered." This vivid red stripe is very eye-catching, and has a powerful impact on all card flourishes and moves, especially spreads and fans.


This was a challenging goal to accomplish, and even Omar Renfro realized it. " I didn’t know how I wanted to execute the idea but I knew I wanted to apply the same concept to the face of the cards, so I started there." Omar wanted to change the orientation of a typical pip configuration, as well as use custom pips, and this is where his project began coming to life. The number cards all feature his hand-drawn artwork for the pips.


From there he developed the card faces, including the court cards, and last of all the all-important card backs.

Not surprisingly, these cards are excellent for spectacular card flourishes, like the one Omar himself is demonstrating here!


The Cubist style, continuous line work, and vibrant colours dominates all the cards, and it makes for a very energetic and "loud" deck that won't ever go unnoticed.


For the production, Omar partnered with the Hanson Chien Playing Card Company, which produced these decks in their Classic paper stock with their Magic finish, plus the traditional cut preferred by most card flourishers for easier faro shuffles.


See the official video trailer for the Red Stripe deck here:

== Red Stripe Hand-drawn deck ==

Given the positive response to Omar's artwork it was decided to produce a printed version of the hand-drawn deck alongside the digitized version. It's still a printed deck with top quality cards and handling, but is unique in that it features his original hand drawn look.

Here then is the Red Stripe Hand Drawn deck, of which only 1000 were printed, unlike the digitized version which had a print run of 2500.


The tuck box features a wrap-around design derived from part of the back design, which allows for multiple decks to be placed together to create a single picture.


Like the other Red Stripe deck, the material of this tuck box makes it feel like canvas, so it feels almost like holding a painting wrapped around a deck, and this effect is also enhanced by the fact of the hand-drawn look.

The faces of the cards continue the hand-drawn look, with all the individual pips being hand-drawn in a grey and deep red colour.


The hand-drawn style doesn't disguise the fact that markers have been used to colour in the different areas of the card. Brush marks are clearly evident, and this creates a very unique and visually appealing effect that makes it feel truly authentic.

Spreads are one of the best ways to showcase the amazing design.


The Ace of Spades is also composed of some lines with colour fill, and despite the hand-drawn design it still obviously reflects the shape of a Spade pip.

The Jokers feature a face with a Jester's hat, one of which has this Albert Einstein quote: "Imagination is more important than Knowledge".


The court cards are composed of a series of lines and fill across the card, with the faces being draw in between the lines. Some still maintain distinctive features unique to that card (e.g. King of Hearts with sword into head).


The back design is semi-borderless, in that some sections of the card are bordered while others aren’t, and this creates a visual appealing look in fans and spreads, with the red stripe in the centre of the card enhancing this.


The handling of these cards is great, and the Hanson Chien Production Company has produced these with a great finish that allows smooth fans and even spreads, which are perfect for this deck. The stock is a rather average thickness, and the cards do still have a snap to them that allows them to go back to regular shape after springs and shuffles. The cards seem to be quite long lasting, and the quality should satisfy both the card flourisher and collector.


In this video Omar explains all the key features of the digitized Red Stripe deck:


What do I think?

Red Stripe: Omar Renfro's Red Stripe decks have the unique distinction of originating in hand-drawn artwork, and they have a background story that is just as colourful as they look. But these decks don't just have a great story behind them, they also look great. The red stripe on the card backs is very distinctive and memorable, and the graphic design means that fans and spreads look especially stunning. And depending on which way you do the spread or fan, you can produce warm colours or cool colours, for a very different effect. The card faces have also been designed with the artistic rather than practical in mind, but for card flourishing, that is exactly what you want. To my surprise, I find myself really liking the hand drawn deck, and while the artwork visibly shows signs of the coloured markers that produced it, this is exactly also part of its appeal. Most cards today are almost over-produced to the point of perfection, but this hand drawn deck feels like an original piece of art, that also looks just as fantastic with spreads and fans as the digitized version. Both are terrific! For the cardistry fan, the Red Stripe decks will look and feel like a dream, with a blur of colour in cascade and spreads that immediately gets attention.

Quality: All the playing cards I've seen and used that were printed by the Hanson Chien Production Company have been of high quality, and performed very well. The cards are printed in Taiwan, which is where the printing facilities used by other industry leaders like Expert/Legends Playing Cards are, but in private correspondence with me Hanson confirmed that his company doesn't work in partnership with Expert or Legends. HCPC even developed their own stock and finish, as he told me about the playing cards from the Chicken Nugget decks: "We called it Artist paper stock, combined our magic finish." He described the specifications for the stock and finish of those decks as follows: "These playing cards are made of German Koehler playing card board and coated with special finish." So while these cards aren't produced by a big name or well-known publisher like USPCC or EPCC/LPCC, like other decks printed in Taiwan they are of high quality in terms of card stock and finish. Like EPCC/LPCC decks, the cut is also noticeably smoother and cleaner than a USPCC produced deck.

Handling: Not all the decks produced by Hanson Chien Production Company use the same stock and finish. For example, the Chicken Nugget decks handle somewhat like the Master/Diamond finish from EPCC/LPCC, with a relatively firm stock that is long-lasting and very snappy. In contrast the stock of the Odyssey Boreal deck is super soft, and if you are a cardist you will love it! The two Pearl decks even use a different finish from one another, with the Sunrise having a Magic finish and the Sunset having a Royal finish, which also results in a slightly different handling performance. In all cases the decks have a very smooth cut, so the edges of the deck are not rough but nice and smooth, which makes them great to handle in the fingers. And although there are variations in paper stock and finish, all of them have an air cushion style embossing that relies on tiny dimples on the cards, to ensure that the cards spread and fan easily right out of the box. Overall I'm very impressed with the look, feel and performance of these playing cards, and the level of quality seems to be close to that of other Taiwanese publishing companies like EPCC/LPCC.

Where to get them: So where can you get hold of your own copy of some of these playing cards? You can purchase some of their playing cards from their official Facebook pages here or here, or at an online retailer specializing in playing cards, like Rare Playing Cards, which sells the Red Stripe deck, Pearl Sunrise, and Pearl Sunset.



So are the decks from Hanson Chien Production Company for you? As you can see from the photos, these are all some stunning decks of playing cards. They will especially be enjoyed and appreciated by those who enjoy card flourishing - just as Hanson himself does! The Pearl decks also have application for card magic and card games; certainly that's how I myself also use these decks, and they really add class and style to a traditional card game. Thankfully the quality look is also backed up by quality printing and performance, and these Taiwan-produced decks also handle beautifully.

Clearly Hanson Chien's Chicken Nugget project was not a flash in the pan or a one-hit wonder, and with these new decks he's proving that he can't only produce the equivalent of fast food, but also the equivalent of a three course dinner. Appetizer, main course, or dessert - whatever you choose, as long as Hanson is your chef, you should be pleased with what he cooks up in the custom playing card kitchen!


Want to learn more?
Hanson Chien Production Company: Official website, Facebook, Instagram
Hanson Chien on social media: Youtube channel, Facebook, Instagram

Direct links for where some the decks featured in this review series can be purchased:
- Pearl Sunrise and Pearl Sunset
- Odyssey Boreal
- Red Stripe


BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame

====>Click here to see all my pictorial reviews of magic tricks and videos <====
====>Click here to see all my pictorial reviews of decks of playing cards <====
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"Instead of attempting to learn a great number of tricks, concentrate upon a few good tricks and master them so that their technique and their presentation is so excellent that those who see them will want to see them again." -Expert Card Technique
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