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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Alex Chin - Part 4a: The Apothecary series (Spring & Winter) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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*** ALEX CHIN & SEASONS PLAYING CARDS ***

This article continues my series of reviews on Alex Chin and his brand, Seasons Playing Cards. Established in 2011, Seasons is described as "a global lifestyle brand dedicated to the art of card collecting." Alex runs a one-man design studio called Shung Shung, and considers himself a visual communications professional who specializes in interactive package design. He especially pours out his passion into custom playing cards, and is considered an important contributor to the industry, and an innovator. He's also used his superb digital skills to produce Portfolio52, a free online collection tool, and to build an amazing website for his own brand.

Alex has already won numerous awards for his playing cards, which include several stunning series, such as Seasons, Magna Carta, and Apothecary, each of which contains several high quality and artistic decks. His decks have especially been praised for their attention to detail, their luxurious look, their rich elegance, and the innovations they employ especially in the area of packaging. In my previous articles I introduced Alex and his Seasons Playing Card company, and looked at the four decks that make up his Seasons series, his Magna Carta decks, and his NPCCD decks. In this fourth and final article, I'll cover the decks that make up his charming and luxurious Apothecary Series.

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*** THE APOTHECARY SERIES: Part 1 ***

Primavera Ponderings & Inverno Insights (Spring & Winter)

You might think that after tremendous successes like Seasons and Magna Carta, Alex Chin might not have much left in the tank in terms of new ideas, because those stellar projects raised the bar very high, and are very hard to match. Yet match them is exactly what Alex seems to have done with his latest project, Apothecary, which was recently finalized and produced.

Similar to the original Seasons series, this newer series consists of another themed set of four decks, produced in pairs, the first being Primavera Ponderings & Inverno Insights (Spring & Winter). This set is already available, while the second pair, Seronda Sentiments and Verana Virtues (Fall & Summer) is currently being crowdfunded via Kickstarter, so you can get on board with this project with your support.

Overview

The name Apothecary alludes to Alex's own source of creativity. He describes it as the place "where curiosity thrives and inspiration is always at your fingertips. The Apothecary is an homage to the mystical, to the handcrafted, to the detailed, and to the inspirational. It emphasizes the craft of what it takes to create playing cards, embracing the mystery of what we strive for."

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So what kinds of curiosities might the Apothecary have in store for us? Well it turns out, two wonderful decks, Primavera Ponderings and Inverno Insights. You'll recall from the Seasons decks that Primavera represents Spring and Inverno represents Winter, and in these contemplative decks, Alex has continued his visually lush style that captures unique elements of the different seasons.

Of course, the standard versions of these decks (which we'll look at in a moment, one at a time) have all the luxuries we've come to expect from Alex and Seasons Playing Cards: embossed tuck cases, gold and silver foil stamps, and beautiful metallic gold and silver ink.

The tuck boxes also list mysterious and humorous "Ingredient Logs" and "Directions for Use". For example, the Primavera Ponderings deck states the following:
Ingredient Log: Handpicked Primavera Ponderings distilled in essence of curiosity.
Directions: Use to keep sense of curiosity high and inspiration at your fingertips. For best results keep Ponderings prominently displayed in the home or office for daily doses of inspiration.


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Inverno Insights

The Inverno Insights deck features a soft green and yellow, with silver accents.

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The borders are white, and match the white of the face cards. The court cards are absolutely exquisite, with a very nostalgic feel.

I'm also a huge fan of the pips in this series, which are very stylish. For instance, the Diamonds have a kite shaped design, and the points and curves on all the pips make them look very elegant and classy.

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Primavera Ponderings

The Primavera Ponderings deck features a soft red and blue, with gold accents.

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Like some of the deck pairings we've seen previously, this deck uses similar artwork to its companion, but with jet black cards.

The use of ornate borders on the court cards also helps set this design apart from some of Alex's other creations.

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Aces

Here are the gorgeous Aces from both decks. In the case of the Primavera Ponderings deck, it is the Ace of Clubs that has the honour of elaborate artwork, rather than the usual Ace of Spades.

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White Label edition

We know that Alex specializes in innovative packaging, and the Apothecary decks have given him opportunity to stretch boundaries and enter new territory with the White Label edition.

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These amazing decks have beautiful gilded edges, with silver for the Inverno Insights deck, and metallic gold rose for the Primavera Ponderings deck seen here.

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But what's especially unique thing about this remarkable edition is that it features a colour changing box design! These tuck boxes use heat-sensitive technology to literally respond to touch! See a visual demonstration of this here and here.

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This fits perfectly with the theme of the Apothecary series, which is designed to create a tactile experience that goes beyond what the digital age can provide, and to encourage us to explore our curiosities. "Curiosity is the engine of achievement."

Black Label edition

Some exclusive Black Label editions were also available, which were hand engraved in metallic ink, and hand signed, numbered, and wrapped by the artist, to create a truly unique item.

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All in all, the first two decks in the Apothecary series did not disappoint, but provided classy and stylish additions to Alex's already distinguished and growing list of quality playing cards.


*** CONCLUSIONS ***

What do I think?

Packaging: It's obvious from the moment that you look at the packaging of any of these decks that Alex isn't an amateur. There is good reason has won design awards for his creative packaging, and he knows how to make decks incredibly stylish right from the outset. These decks have all the luxury you can expect: not just the embossing and gold/silver foil accents that we often come to expect of high end decks nowadays, but also a very elegant style, with innovative wrap-around artwork that is stylish and beautiful.

Innovative: Alex likes pushing boundaries and doing things differently. Not only has he really done something special with his wrap-around packaging concept, but he's shown innovation in other ways as well - a colour changing deck, for example, which adds a whole new element to a tactile experience; and the two piece design of the 2017 NPCCD deck. He's a guy who likes to create and experiment, and that immediately makes his decks very unusual and unique.

Artistic: I appreciate quality artwork, and the artistic designs of these decks are terrific. That begins with the tuck cases, but is especially evident on the card backs and the court cards, which are very stylish and stunning to look at. Everything feels beautifully balanced, and the colour scheme works well to enhance these delightful visual aesthetics.

Elegant: Everything about these decks screams elegance and class. The packaging. The artwork. The colours. The design. Alex really has what it takes to produce an absolutely classy product in every way. Even his website is stunning, and an outstanding example of elegant design!

Luxurious: I own quite a number of decks of playing cards, but these are easily among the most luxurious in my collection. Everything contributes to an experience of complete class and luxury, with refined and beautiful artwork, goil foil accents, and high quality tuck cases.

Thoughtful: I also really appreciate the depth of real thought that lies behind Alex's designs. For example, the Apothecary deck explores the theme of curiosity, and highlights the importance of exploring our curiosity, a sentiment that is largely becoming lost in our digital age, and yet which is an essential element that serves as the engine of achievement. Also the 52 Plus Joker deck explores the paper making process in all aspects of its design. This kind of thoughtful and philosophical underpinning behind Alex's designs gives them extra significance.

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Quality: From the decks I've seen from Seasons, the quality of the cards themselves is excellent, and they handle well. Seasons states that "Our Aristocrat stock and New Magic Finish give a guaranteed performance and handling over other standard decks". They give great performance, as you'd expect from decks produced by US Playing Card Company. It has slightly thinner cards than the Casino Bee stock used by USPCC, but the Bicycle stock used has the performance coating used in the higher end decks, making it even better quality than a standard Bicycle rider-back deck.

Outstanding: With the large number of custom playing cards constantly appearing on the market, you really need to do something different to stand out from the rest of the pack. But Alex of Seasons Playing Cards has achieved exactly that. These are truly outstanding pieces of work!

Expertise: You only need to visit the Seasons website to see that Alex really knows what he is doing. He is a skilled graphic designer, and whether he applies his talents to designing a website or a deck of playing cards, the result of his passion and expertise is clearly evident.

Portfolio52: As a creator of playing cards, Alex knows all too well the need for collectors to manage their collection, and his own passion for this has led to the creation of the Portfolio52.com database, the world's largest database for card collectors. It's an outstanding resource - and free to use. If you collect playing cards, then you absolutely can't afford to miss this wonderful tool. And do look out for the National Playing Card Collecting Day decks that have been launched on his website and portfolio52.com on October 17th each year!

Future projects: Alex is by no means done with designing playing cards, but is continuing to build his brand. The last couple of months are a good indication of how much of a contribution he is making to the custom playing card industry. The Apothecary series is in the process of being completed with the recent launch of two new decks (Seronda Sentiments and Verana Virtues) on Kickstarter. And last October the 2017 National Playing Card Collection Day deck was launched in support of Portfolio52, while the same month Alex had the honour of being the designer of 52 Plus Joker annual deck for 2017. Clearly the future is bright for this creative and talented designer, and if you're a collector of playing cards, you should definitely keep a close eye on his work, and follow what he creates next!

Where to get them? Some of the decks featured in this review series are now sold out, and you'll have to head to the secondary market to try to acquire them. But many of the decks are still available directly from Alex at his Seasons website here. Some of the National Playing Card Collection Day decks might still available at the official website here, but when I last checked they appeared to be sold out. You'll find the new Apothecary Kickstarter which has just launched here, and for news of other new decks in the future, tune in to Alex's social media here.

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Recommendation

It's not hard to tell that I'm very impressed with the calibre of Alex Chin's work, especially his creativity and ability to explore new territory in the world of custom playing cards. Certainly his decks of playing cards are superbly artistic and beautiful - but such praise can apply to a lot of custom playing cards in the current market. What makes him stand out above the pack, however, is his willingness to innovate in areas such as interactive packaging, and his superb skills in graphic design, with precise and perfect attention to the details that matter. It's these skills and expertise that enable him to take things to the next level when it comes to adding the small touches of luxury that make all the difference, such as exquisite gold embossing and gilding. It's hard to imagine his playing cards being any better than what they are, because it's evident that Alex has carefully given consideration to every last detail.

Alex's expertise and familiarity with the digital world also means that the images and design of his web site is absolutely second-to-none. Alex has also drawn on these abilities to give back to the playing card community with the creation of Portfolio52, an excellent free database for card collectors, and for that alone he deserves our applause and support.

If you like what you see, then consider heading to his website and seeing what he has on offer. The playing card industry needs important contributors like Alex, and he needs every encouragement to continue the fine contributions he has already made, with the hope that the future will continue to bring more good things from Alex Chin and Seasons Playing Cards.

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Want to learn more?
Seasons Playing Cards: www.seasonsplayingcards.com
National Card Collection Day: www.nationalcardcollectionday.com
Portfolio52: www.portfolio52.com
Apothecary Kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/seasonscard......changing

Follow Seasons Playing Cards on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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Direct links for the decks featured in this review series:
- Seasons series: Verana deck, Inverno deck, Primavera deck, Seronda deck (Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall)
- Magna Carta series: Rebels deck, Royals deck (White, Black)
- Apothecary series: Inverno Insights, Primavera Ponderings, Seronda Sentiments , Verana Virtues (Winter, Spring, Fall, Summer)
- NPCCD series: 2016 NPCCD deck, 2017 NPCCD deck (Green/Pink, Pearl/Midnight Gold)

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rboyd
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Very nice. Trouble with decks like this is I would be scared to use them. Just for collections or am I missing something?
EndersGame
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Quote:
On Feb 1, 2018, rboyd wrote:
Very nice. Trouble with decks like this is I would be scared to use them. Just for collections or am I missing something?

The White Label and Black Label versions of these decks would mainly be for collectors.

The standard versions of Inverno Insights and Primavera Ponderings are fine to use for card games, however. You could even use those for card magic, since the suits, indices, and cards overall are very clear and recognizable. Especially the white Inverno deck would be suitable for that, the black Primavera deck perhaps less so.

I use my Inverno Insights deck for playing card games like Cribbage - it looks very classy and elegant.
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