Hi, I'm James Milaras. Let me tell you how I developed my love for all things playing cards.
In my first year of highschool, I began practicing magic tricks, although quickly lost interest when I discovered the art of Cardistry. It differed from magic tricks because it was a visual display of skill, rather than invisible sleight of hand. If you've ever seen cardistry, you'll know that there is something unbelievably satisfying and mesmerising Cardistry. I loved this art so much that I would sneak in practice sessions during class and lunch breaks at school!
My passion didn't stop at Cardistry though. Since I was a kid, I was in love with design and story telling. So what fascinated me even more than Cardistry was the objects we used to practice it - decks of playing cards.
Joker and the Thief was founded by James in 2015. He realised that the vast majority of playing cards on the market were mediocre. Playing cards generally featured underwhelming designs, often coupled with sub-par manufacturing quality.
So why not create a brand that strictly produced the best of the best? After reviewing hundreds of different products, very few examples stood out. So James took matters into his own hands to create something new. The vision was clear - each deck had to have a unique and compelling design, it had to be luxurious, and had to be produced at to the highest standards possible.
In 2015, the very first Joker and the Thief deck of playing cards was born!
The deck featured the very best aspects of what a deck of playing cards could be. It prioritised a killer custom design, brought to life thanks to our friend and collaborator, Pedro Oyarbide.
In between finishing his last years of high school, James worked a job at a local restaurant to fund the design. The entire process of illustrating our first deck took well over 11 months!
We knew we were onto something special. And our mission to elevate the humble playing card from an ordinary day-to-day item into an extraordinary item, was starting to realise itself.
"What fascinated me more than Cardistry were the objects I used to practice it - decks of playing cards."
From the beginning, James knew that the key to an incredible deck of playing cards is a compelling story coupled with world class artwork. We take a custom approach to all of our products, and everything is illustrated from scratch, by hand. From the Ace of Spades to the Court Cards, all the way down to the numbers. Everything is bespoke.
Story is what sets us apart. In collaboration with our talented in-house illustrators, we start with a meaningful theme and a robust concept. From there, during the draft sketch phase, we weave symbolism and metaphors into the design, linking all of the deck’s thematic elements. These initial stages are crucial for fleshing out a final product that feels cohesive and meaningful. And steers us away from something that feels devoid of substance.
"The key to an incredible deck of playing cards is a compelling story coupled with world class artwork."
The basis of a quality deck of playing cards is the casino-grade paper stock. Each card is formed by two sheets of FSC certified paper, sandwiching a black glue. This glue is a security feature that ensures each card remains opaque when held up to bright light. The marriage of the paper stock and glue core offers an undeniably crisp, tactile feel in the hands, while providing superior durability to other decks on the market. This means that our cards go the distance. Round after round, game after game.
Coupled with our premium card stock is a specialised finish that is applied to paper's surface by linen rollers. This creates dimples on the card surface, forming air pockets. Which allows your our playing cards to glide to and spread with absolute ease.
Our packaging is expertly crafted with antique Heidelberg printing presses that date back to the 1930s. These machines allow for incredible control over the packaging features and its quality. Utilising premium stocks from European paper mills, we employ special techniques such as foil stamping and embossing. As you run your fingers over the textured surfaces for the first time, it will be clear how luxurious a deck of playing cards can actually be.