Deep into Sleepers: Artist Oban Jones talks about how he designs a deck of cards

May 22nd, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Artist Interviews

Art needs to be free. Without borders or bounds. No rules, no regulations. An artist should be free to create whatever they want, in whatever form they believe it should take.

So when it comes to interpreting other works of art, there’s probably nothing more limiting than decks of playing cards. It’s an object that — depending on the buyer — carries a myriad of design expectations, from the colors of suits to the number of eyes on court cards.

But for Oban Jones, those expectations aren’t limiting. They are inspiring.

“I may be wrong in this belief, but to my knowledge, there is no other artifact that is so complex in its design and so quintessentially unchanged for so much of its history,” said Jones, designer of the Sleepers deck. “You could look at a deck of cards from 500 years ago, and yes, there would be differences, but their purpose and essential design would be immediately recognizable.”

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Magician Zack Mirza combines travel, history, performance in new show

May 12th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Artist Interviews

mirza

Magic has worldwide appeal, so it made perfect sense for Zack Mirza to hit the road. Choosing where to go was just as easy.

In “Illusions of Grandeur,” on Canada’s OLN, Zack makes his magic journey the center of the show. In travels to New York City, Detroit, New Orleans, Las Vegas and nine other cities with strong magic connections, he documents his quest to be the next big name.

“That was a competely new experience to me,” Mirza said. “I’d only been to New York and a few other US cities, so being in all of these new places was incredible.”

Because of a surprising abundance of other magic shows, Mirza said he and his crew knew that “Illusions of Grandeur” couldn’t be just another show. The trip at the center of the show was inspired partially by David Blaine’s “Real or Magic” and HBO’s “How to Make It in America.” It pairs the history and stories behind magic with the struggle to make a mark on the world, Mirza said, while showing an honest portrayal of Mirza’s career. Read more

Small videos unlock big magic: Wilber inspired by Instagram

May 1st, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

adamigAdam Wilber, general manager of Ellusionist, has a reputation of being one of magic’s most fearless performers. He’ll show magic to anyone at anytime. Recently, he brought his magic to the cameras of Syfy’s “Wizard Wars.”

These days, he’s performing in front of a much smaller camera in a much shorter window of time — and making an even bigger impact.

Since about February, Adam has almost daily uploaded a new video to his Instagram account. The videos range from simple card tricks to effects with coins, ropes, sponges, red Solo cups, lollipops, Peeps, Lego bricks, iPhones, balloons, anything he can get his hands on. The reaction has been tremendous, Wilber said — the videos have lit his social networks on fire.

So why put so much effort into 15 seconds of grainy video? Read more

Never in E history: One day only, free shipping worldwide

April 21st, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

Worldwide

The following is an opinion by Joe Hadsall, and does not reflect the views of Ellusionist or its artists.

Free shipping worldwide? I’ve never seen anything like this.

Perhaps you’ve heard about our Free Worldwide Shipping Event? All it takes is an order of $75 that includes a shippable item. That, last I checked, is a phenomenally ridiculously good deal. Geriant Clarke has more:

I have been with Ellusionist since 2008. For six years, I’ve seen some pretty interesting stunts, promotions, events and programs. I’ve helped organize fundraising benefit auctions, done interviews with some unforgettable magicians, seen incredible, jaw-dropping magic and written everything from sales copy to contest rules.

But I have never seen free worldwide shipping. Never.  Read more

Why John Scarne, expert card worker, removed sleight of hand for 150 routines

April 6th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

John Scarne is legend for his skill with a deck of cards.

In his heyday, he was called the greatest card manipulator of all time, and renowned as “The World’s Foremost Gambling Authority.” His hands appeared in place of Paul Newman’s in 1973’s “The Sting,” for which he was also a technical advisor. He consulted with U.S. Army bases around the world, warning soldiers about sleight of hand scams and dice cheats. His routine Scarne’s Aces remains an inspirational mystery to card workers. The plot is nothing short of a holy grail: Cut to the aces in a borrowed, shuffled deck; no prep, no setup, no stooge, only skill. Some say Scarne took his secret to the grave as others such as Bill Malone worked out their own methods.

So why did he write a book with nothing but self-working card tricks?

Our last post about the math behind shuffling got us thinking about the math tricks, the self-workers, where a magician just has to run through a set of instructions. No sleight of hand is used, just logic, misdirection and presentation. In 1950 Scarne published “Scarne on Card Tricks,” a compendium of self-workers adapted from presentations by Harlan Tarbell, Dai Vernon, Blackstone, Cardini and more. There’s more than 150 self-working tricks in this book, and none of them use any form of advanced sleight of hand.

Why would Scarne be interested in any of that? And why would anyone who was inspired by Scarne’s skill give any amount of serious thought to that philosophy?

Simple: Scarne was a magician.

“Five years ago, I decided that the card trick enthusiasts deserved a better grade of card tricks than they had been accustomed to performing. On the whole, the tricks performed by the non-sleight of hand card enthusiasts at that time were so simple that the secret was easily discovered by the person or persons they were intended to mystify.”

As mentioned above, he put out the call to other magicians for routines, but the routines he got still used some sleight of hand. So Scarne reworked them to replace it. Replacing moves with new formulas, dodges, subtleties, ruses, psychology, misdirection and feints, he re-created those submissions into routines that still produced the intended effect.

In case that last paragraph didn’t floor you, here’s the recap: A master manipulator reworked more than 150 tricks to be performed without sleight of hand.

The book is filled with advanced deception techniques and subterfuge. There’s no passes, but there are some deadly peeks. There are no sideslips, but there is a great use of salt. And it’s filled with Scarne’s thoughts, wisdom and plans for misdirection. Incredible stuff here.

We don’t hear much scorn or disdain from our customers anymore about self-workers, and that makes us smile. It takes a different kind of skill to successfully perform a self-worker, after all.

Do you have it?