Not too long ago I entered into a close up competition at a local magic club here in Chicago. I won't mention the name, that doesn't matter. This blog post isn't for slamming the club, the magicians that won or the judges. In fact the competition was a huge success. The club did an awesome job with putting the competition together. There must of been around 50, 60 people in the audience. The chairs were set up semi circle, backdrop curtain, and a small card table in the front with a close up pad on it.
The magicians that won did a great job. In fact one young magician who I had met earlier before the contest was quite nervous. This was his first magic competition. I tried to make him less stressed and told him that it gets easier, the more competitions you do. Ya! you still might get a little nervous, but it gets easier. I ended by saying "By the way, the magicians that are the most nervous are usually the ones that win"
Latter that evening that magician ended up taking 3rd place. I smiled at him and said "I told you!"
I'm sure it was a great feeling for him to place in the contest. Especially his first magic competition. Me on the other hand didn't place. That's because the magic I was doing was so different than what people are used to seeing. I was really hesitant to do my act that I was planning on doing. In fact before I even decided on the act that I planned on doing, I talked to one of the young men running the contest. I told him everything that I was planning on doing. I explained to him that I plan on using music, I told him that I was using thimbles, a fan and a light that's maybe the size of a billiard ball. I also told him that I wouldn't need the close up table. I would be standing up doing my magic.
The young man running the contest didn't seem to have a problem with what I was planning on doing. He mostly said. "As long as it's entertaining, that's all that matters." So I decided to go along with my thimble and light act. I actually put together three different acts, just in case I decided that the room layout and angles would be too challenging. I had a plan a, b and c act ready to go. Even though I decided to go with my thimbles and light effect, I knew that I was taking a huge risk with the material I choose.
I wanted to do something different and fresh. Thus I performed my thimble manipulation act along with a new effect I created using light. I call it "Hear and Soul"
Altogether there were 11 people competing. I was set to go 3rd in the second half of the contest.
What I find interesting in the number of claps I received, more than anyone else competing, yet I didn't place. Like I said, I knew going in that I was taking a risk, that my act might not be considered close up magic. In fact shortly after I finished my act, I had one of the men walk up to me and say "Man! we have to get you some cards or something. I already had a few people come up and say to me that they thought this was a close up contest." I looked at him and said "I did do it close up! There were people about 3 feet away from me." he looked at me and said "Touche!" and walked away.
Keep in mind that I knew that what I was performing may not be considered close up. In fact several months before the competition, I decided to try out my material at the restaurant I work at. I wanted to see if the magic that I was actually planning on doing could be performed in such extreme conditions. It turns out that it could. Which motivated me to proceed with my act. One thing about myself is that I tend to go against the grain. I don't want to do what everyone else is doing.
I guess my philosophy is that if I keep being different, unique, pushing the envelope and not following the rules or norm of what everyone else is doing, I will one day hit something and my unique style of magic will take off.
After the contest, I had several people come up to me and compliment me on the light. They said they never saw anything like it. One magician wanted one, but I told him that my creation is not for sale at this time. I thought in my head "Mission Accomplished!" Your probably thinking "What! you didn't win!" Yes! I didn't win, but I generated interest and something people aren't used to seeing. It made me wonder that out of all the acts they seen that night, would my light be the effect that they remember the most?
After the contest, the magicians were able to talk to the judges about their act. I pretty much got the same response from all the judges. "I liked your act, but I really didn't consider it close up" I was like "Really! I was performing my magic to people from 3 feet away. Another judge said " I really liked your act. I get so tired of the same card tricks, but yours, yours was different, but..... " here we go! the "BUT" word. You know what I'm talking about. People tend to give you the compliments first so that they can prepare the "Let down" more easier. The judge said "When I see close up magic, I think of street magic, magic on tv. You know the type where you go up to someone, pull some cards out and say hey check this out, or how about magic with coins? I didn't see anyone do any coin magic here. There is some great coin magic out there. You can take a coin out of you pocket and make it disappear or vanish."
I looked at him and in the first time in my life I was actually challenging a judge. In the past when listening to judges. I would just listen to what they are saying about my act and I would be all mousy and walk away in a whisper, "Okay, well thank you." and I would walk away with my head down and have to take in everything they told me that was wrong or they didn't like. Please don't get me wrong. I have heard and learned some great feedback from judges. My argument is that not all judges are good judges. Eugene Burger said it best. "Who judges the judges?"
So when I was taking to the judge and he was telling me about his opinion of what close up magic is and that I could do magic with things that are in my pocket and blow people away, I said. "Yea! kind of like that silk handkerchief that I made appear from nowhere, and that light that appeared from nowhere, both are small and can fit into my pocket." he kind of shrugged off what I said and then he went into how my light effect was nice, but too slow. He said.. "I am a disk jokey and I like things kind of fast paced and energetic!" I said.. "Ya! that's the thing that stinks. We as magicians are at the mercy and the taste of other judges." He said, "I just thought it was too slow for my taste." I explained to him that the light effect is supposed to be an emotional piece, not fast paced throw away act. I kindly said I like the music I use and I'm going to keep it. I thanked him and went on my way.
I started to realize where people minds are in magic.
The next judge I spoke to, pretty much the same thing but much more nice and professional. She actually gave me some great positive feedback and she also liked the music for my light effect, but thought that it was more stage. Here we go again. The material I was doing was close up and I was performing it to people 3 feet away. . For those of you that don't know me. I love thimbles. That is my passion. I've tried doing magic with cards and coins, but I wasn't good at them. I discovered thimbles about 10 years back and found that I'm quite good at them. In fact I'm know here in Chicago for my thimble manipulation work. People call me the "Master of Thimbles." I have entered my thimble act into many stage competitions. I have won a few contest, but for the most part, people say they can't see the thimbles from far away.
So when I discovered that there was going to be a close up competition, I thought that maybe my thimble act would stand a better chance. I did my thimble manipulation act at the close up contest and now people are telling me that It's better off for stage and that the material I was doing is considered stage magic. "ARHHHHHH!" I just want to bang my head into a fist full of thimbles. That's just my luck! I find something that I'm finally good at and I can't even do what I'm passionate about. What gets me is that a hundred years ago or so, this is the type of magic that magicians would do. They would pack the house in a huge theater where they are performing cards and thimbles for thousands of people. Why has it changed now? How did that style of magic and history get lost? I knew ahead of time that I was taking a risk with the type of magic I was doing. At the same time, I'm so passionate about my thimbles that I don't care if I place. I just want to share and educate people on a piece of history and keep it alive!
My goal is also to challenge people on what Close-Up Magic is. Just because you see street magic on TV and how they go up to strangers and talk to them in poor mumbled English "Um hey man, check dis out! you see dees cards. Dey all diforent rite?"
I think people, magicians have been conditioned into thinking what is close up magic. Don't let TV dictate what Close - Up Magic is. Be your own person. You decide! Was the magic entertaining? did the magician do it Close - UP? if a magician can pull out a elephant from his pants in front of people that are 2 feet away. Is that considered stage, because of the size? Or should we expand our horizons and appreciate that the magician could pull off such a great feat in close up conditions?
So for the people that think that my act was considered more for stage. Lets take a look at the magic props I was using.
|4 thimbles stacked = 4 inches|
A single Vernet thimble stands about 1 inch tall. That would make a stack of 4 thimble about 4 inches tall.
|1 inch thimble|
When you stack 4 thimbles together, they add up to about on inch. If you place those thimbles next to a playing card that is about 2.5 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall. You will notice that there is about 1 inch left of free space from where the top of the thimble is to where the bicycle plating card is. making the thimbles even smaller that a playing card.
With my hands spread and the four thimbles on top of the 4 fingers. I create a hand wing span of about 8 inches compared to the playing card that takes about 3.5 inches.
The thimbles pack small and play big. They gain almost 6 inches of visual space than a playing card.
Now lets look at the oriental fan that I used in my act. As you can see. I placed a standard magic sized wand, a little over 12" To get an idea of the length of the fan. I placed the wand on top of the fan. As you can see, the fan is about a inch shorter, yet when expanded or opened, it's space that it creates is about 27.25" WOW! talk about pack small play big!
When you spread the playing cards on top of a fan. You can see how much more the fan creates more visual space than the spread of playing cards. Even though the fan is 27.25"when opened. It still fits into my coat jacket, just like a wand.
The reason that I went into such great time and detail with this is because I think there is a lot to be said and thought of here. Just because we are used to a certain style and size of magic doesn't mean that any other size ir a different object such as my light, thimbles or fan means that it's a write off and no good. It is good magic.Magic that packs small and plays big. All of these items can fit into my pocket abd I can perform at a moments notice. I don't have to make sure my cards are in order. I take out my fan from my pocket, show both hands empty, flick the fan in the air and magically have thimbles on my hand. The light trick, I can perform in front of people 2 feet away and it's magical.
In order to grow in the art. We need to grow with our openness to change and being different. . I'm bringing a different style of magic to the magic community and I'm calling it "Close - Up Performance Art"I will not follow the trend of what everyone else is doing. When we look outside of the box and open out mind to new ideas. We allow our gift to expand and grow into other undiscovered gifts of magic that know one has ever thought of. I strive to be different no matter what the consequences. The most important thing is that I enjoy what I'm doing. Despite people questioning me and the magic I decide to do. I still decide to go to the beat of my own drum. Otherwise I'm just playing the same instrument as everyone else.
Thanks for your time reading this article and I hope I have touched you or made you think and challenge you on what you think close up magic should and shouldn't be. ho sets the rules and dictates what close up magic is. If I did my act on TV and they called it close up magic, would it suddenly be acceptable form of magic? Just because it was on TV? We need to not follow, but create our own style of magic.
It's time to load my pockets with a fan, thimble scarf and make a light appear from nowhere. I'm the "Thimble Master" and I have a close up show to do.