Archive for May, 2013

Ollie Mealing’s Control: Perfect mix of beautiful card handling, natural magic

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

From the moment we first saw Ollie Mealing’s work, we knew we were watching pure magic. We’re thrilled to share that magic with you.

This is Control.

Mealing was a highlight in the U.K. festival circuit. Relatively underground, he stayed a secret until a series of his videos were released on YouTube. We posted several of those on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and got all kinds of crazy feedback.

Control was filmed in Toronto weeks before Mealing was hired by Derren Brown to consult for his “Infamous” tour. That should tell you all you need to know about Ollie.

Working with the flair of a mentalist, Mealing’s cardwork is organic and beautiful. No chunky, fast moves, here. Just slow, natural sleights that let a card worker show proficiency and confidence. It’s an eye-catching, perfect mix of flourishing and magic that is so rare to find. Control is packed with 11 of his working controls that Ollie uses every time he works a gig.

Control is one of a host of new releases available from Ellusionist today. Also available:

Bebel: Another underground legend comes to the surface. Bebel’s card handling is simply incredible. Filmed after midnight in an off-path cafe, Bebel teaches three flawless utility moves that cement his underground reputation.

Fallen Spade Ring: Similar to the Black Club ring, this distressed silver ring wears its damage with pride. Available in two sizes.

Artifice Stainless Steel card clip: Similar to our other card clips, the Artifice clip wraps your Artifice deck in a metal embrace, protecting it from damage. The engraving perfectly matches the ace and back of your Artifice deck, no matter which color you use.

New worldwide shipping option eliminates hidden fees, adds tracking

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

One of the things that causes us plenty of frustration is shipping internationally — only because it causes our international customers so much frustration.

The costs are generally higher. Customers get charged customs, duties or whatever a country decides to call “taxes.” And in some cases, customers wouldn’t find out about these charges until they tried to pick up their item. The whole process made us want to bang our heads against walls, because our customers would get rubbed the wrong way, and there was nothing we could do about it.

Until now. Ellusionist is now working with for international shipping.

All costs paid up front. Automatic tracking. Faster arrival.

i-Parcel gives us a better way to serve our non-U.S. customers, and the prices are comparable to services we used from UPS and U.S. Postal Service. We have always tried to keep international shipping as affordable as possible, and this new affiliation lets us do exactly that. We are thrilled to be working with the company, and strongly encourage our international customers to choose that option.

Got questions? We got answers. (more…)

FOUR POINTS: Reasons magicians get more mileage from practice

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

We’re pretty sure Allen Iverson has never been, or will be, a magician. His legendary rant spells out exactly why.

And yes. We talkin’ ’bout practice.

We don’t know a single magician who doesn’t like to train. Unlike musicians, athletes, artists, writers, gamers or anyone else who pursues some sort of art or skill, magicians have no problem with the discipline of practice.

In fact, magicians seem to embrace the art of practice more than any performer we’ve encountered — and we’ve encountered a lot. All the magicians we’ve worked with, every one of them is always picking something up, working a move, even when we’re talking in business meetings. As every magician grows, they learn the joys of performance AND of practice, to the point that the practice becomes just as important as the performance.

As it turns out, there are four things about magic that gives us a better chance for successful, productive practice. These things help us plow through setbacks, deal with failures and conquer practice fatigue. People could learn a lot about practice from us, but our art gives us an advantage.

We practice techniques unknown to many. Considering the fingering pattern of a guitar piece, or the position of the heel in a martial arts kick. The method is just as known as the end result. But not in magic. The things we do lead to surprisingly different things that laymen would never know about. That thrill of the arcance fuels us. The knowledge of knowing how to do something filled with ruse and subterfuge charges us up to take action and do those things over and over — even if it’s just in front of a mirror.

Progress in failure is easier to see. Though magicians are artists of subtle moves, our mistakes are much more glaring to us. That means we reap many more benefits than the keyboardist does from hitting the wrong key, or the basketball player gets from a proper follow-through with the wrist. That further hones our ability to self-critique and analyze. And because magic is all about details, practice helps us hone our ability to be thorough.

Our methods unlock many more creative options. An actor who plays around with material might discover a new insight to a character. An artist might discover a new sort of mark with a pencil, and utilize it to draw something completely different. But a magician, when playing around, might discover something that unlocks a whole new effect. And that benefit comes during many more times than practice sessions — the act of shopping at a flea market might lead to an incredible new effect or presentation.

The payoff is much bigger. As practitioners of the only art form that challenges an audience to maintain disbelief, our reward is the perfect reaction, where someone goes crazy from having seen something impossible. Every magician craves that moment when they really blow someone away. That moment is so valuable — it goes beyond the thrill of simple appreciation of a performance. It reaches deep into people and affects them profoundly, and so affects us. That’s why we do what we do; why we practice our passes, our palms, our cuts and clips.

What did we miss? Think there’s another way magicians get more out of practicing than other artists? Let us know in the comments.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to

INSIDE THE CARDS: King of Hearts may not be so suicidal, after all

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

A deck of playing cards is filled with enigmas and mysteries. One of the most enduring features a man with no mustache. The King of Hearts is one of the most iconic cards in the deck, mainly because of his awkwardly placed sword. Because of that, he’s earned the nickname of “suicide king.”

But that may be somewhat inaccurate.

A little history:

  • ~ Modern playing cards — spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds — are French in origin. The shapes were easier to stencil than the detail-laden bells, hearts, leaves and acorns of German decks.
  • ~ The designs seen in a deck from the U.S. Playing Card Company, Gemaco, Carta Mundi and other modern publishers descend from models produced by Pierre Marechal in Rouen around 1565, according to World of Playing Cards.
  • ~ Near the end of that century, French publishers started naming the court cards after heroes, legends or historical figures. Names were printed on them until about the 18th century.
  • ~ Originally, the court cards were portrayed as fully standing figures, complete with stockinged feet.
  • ~ The simplistic graphics of today’s modern court cards can be traced back to those Rouen designs. Elements of those designs, including the flowers held by the queens, the King of Diamonds’ axe and the positions of the courts’ faces (namely, the one-eyed royals) have been incorporated in modern-era decks from numerous publishers.

The King of Hearts was dubbed Charles, presumably after Charlemagne. He’s the only king without a mustache, the only king doing something active with his weapon. The mystery deepens with an examination of that weapon, however: According to Wikipedia, it’s been suggested that because Charlemagne’s sword does not exactly match the weapons held by the other kings, perhaps he is not killing himself, but recovering from an attempt on his life.

Or maybe he’s just raising his sword, ready to attack. It’d be easy enough to speculate that –because the Rouen designs featured flat crowns on each court card flush against the border of the art, there wasn’t a lot of room left over to depict Charles in charge, ready to slice some heathens.

And conquering is what he’s known for: Charlemagne is remembered in history for a humongous expansion of his kingdom, including overtaking the Roman empire. Pope Leo III declared him emperor of the Romans, after he and his armies helped defeat a rebellion. Charlemagne died in 813 of an infection in his lungs.

Not exactly the kind of guy who would jab a sword in his skull. 

But the myth of the suicide king endures. He was a character in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” There are a few plays named after the card, and a Roy Orbison album, released after the singer’s death, was named “King of Hearts.” And we’ve read some reports from Christian magicians who say the king’s apparent act of sacrifice make the card perfect for representing either God or Jesus.

Yet of all the iconography in a deck of playing cards, the suicide king remains one of the most often repeated designs, as critical to a complete deck as two one-eyed jacks. The reason for his apparent sacrifice is probably one of the biggest mysteries in a modern pack of playing cards.

INSIDE THE CARDS is an occasional feature that dives into the history of a single card. Know any good legends behind cards? Let us know. Comment below or e-mail