About Artefact Cards


Artefact Cards are a brilliant tool for anyone who works with ideas.

The cards and pen are designed for a perfect, subtle balance of quality and usability. People are more inclined to craft better ideas on Artefact Cards, because the cards feel that they should have something great on them.

Once you have ideas on the cards, you can keep moving, shuffling, stacking, dealing and matching them. You can continually create new context and combinations for your different ideas and elements. People understand intuitively how to play with ideas like this, as it's just like a deck of playing cards.

Finally, once you're ready to go, you can pack the ideas away in the unique Artefact Cards box, and carry around your work in something the size of a pack of cards. When you're ready to unpack the project again, it's ready to spring back out onto a table, your desk, in a coffee shop, on a train, in an airport... wherever you happen to be.

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Artefact Cards have been created after more than a decade working in brainstorms and workshops, creating games and systems to get the best ideas out on a table. In a former life, I was Chief Innovation Officer at an agency in London. As part of that, I would run a fair number of creative sessions for teams and clients.  Or, to put it another way, I was Captain Workshop. I ran more workshops than I had hot dinners. Including several workshops on hot dinners. 

This meant that I witnessed first-hand the obvious value in getting people creating ideas quickly in groups, sketching out nascent ideas with pen and paper to solve tricky problems.  Yet something bothered me about the materials we tended to use in these sessions. 

It was whatever appeared in the supply cupboard that we could quickly grab; sticky notes, flip-chart pens, biros.  A rag-tag bunch of items brought together in a room, scribbled on and crumpled, then left behind for some poor soul to write up.  Even raids on the nearby flagship store of a stationery empire left me uninspired.

When I started Smithery, I wanted to make something better to use.  A fitting home for ideas that were crafted, loved, brought to life with intent, design, passion and skill, not casually thrown away on a curled up square of pastel paper. 

Ideas people had worked hard on.  Ideas built to last.

I started thinking about what might fit the bill, and begin to play around with blank playing cards; testing them out myself at first, then with a small group, then some friends, strangers and clients. 

The working name stuck; Artefact Cards.  Ideas that as you created them, became artefacts, permanent encapsulations of ethereal, fleeting moments.

As we created ideas on the Artefact Cards, we discovered something else really interesting; ideas that play hard, work hard.

Not only did the playfulness in using the cards mean that they held your full attention, but the constant interplay of having ideas and elements on cards meant you could continually find new combinations, new patterns and new directions.  Every time you shuffled and dealt out the ideas again, you see new possibility, and new ways to look at existing ideas are vital in any creative business. 

As Burroughs put it, “when you cut into the present, the future leaks out”.

Now Artefact Cards have become a go-to tool for those who play with the ideas they take seriously.  Whether you’re working up your own ideas, doing it as a group, or remixing existing ideas into something new, the harder your ideas play, the harder they’ll work.

 John V Willshire
Founder of Smithery, Creator of Artefact Cards


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Artefact Cards are designed and developed by John V Willshire of Smithery, produced by Tim Milne of ARTOMATIC, and manufactured & shipped by Keith Rockett of the Axminster Printing Company in Devon.  Every box and card is manufactured in Britain, the only thing we ship in is the custom Sharpies from the USA.  And we're working on something to solve that too...