When Magicians Do This, They Create Art

THIS IS ART: my hands are dirty, my knuckles hurt, and the sweat in my eyes stings. I love every minute of it.

When you purchase a DVD from a magic shop, an exact copy of the original is taken off the shelf, and shipped to your address. Even if it is an amazing DVD, the transaction itself is not spectacular.

It is not art.

Yet the opposite is true for other items. For instance, when a magician purchases an Old World Cannibal Facemask, they have commissioned custom art.

The transaction is immediately different from an off-the-shelf DVD. The comments box from checkout might be filled with special requests and eager questions that will factor into the finished piece.

The DVD order is void of this energy.
And the process diverges even more from there.

First, I visit the magician’s website, Facebook page or Twitter. I research their previous orders from The Magic Depot. Does he wear a suit when he performs, or jeans and a t-shirt? Is this for a woman, and if so, what is distinctive in her style?

I might take the whole day to think about this person. Testimonials on their webpage let me know more about the performer than I can gleam from a cold invoice. Videos allow me to see the performer in their natural element.

Next—this will sound cheesy—I run my hands over the cold steel panels from my metalstock until I find one that “feels” right for the project. Perhaps there is a bump or tarnish I can enhance. I analyze the metal’s individual characteristics, and match it to the performer.

A photo of me wearing the first Facemask. I liked the picture so much, I turned it into the cover image.

Time and wear are impossible to truly duplicate.

I visit local tack shops, thrift stores, and flea markets for secondhand leathers and buckles to make the straps. The benefit of secondhand leathers—other than my own abstinence of animal products—is authentic aging.

Again, this will sound silly, but each component calls out to me individually. All the while, I picture the magician who will wear or display the mask. Their spirit, for lack of a better term, becomes an ingredient of the final design.

It takes about three days to make a Facemask.

Turnaround is scheduled based on workshop flow and the weather, as the finish requires strict conditions, and the forged parts of the mask are done in our outdoor furnace.

A big part of the journey for me is hiking out in the woods to find the wood needed to smoke the metal. It has taken me years to know what to gather. The “wild” wood isn’t burned solo, but rather combined with my seasoned supply of oaks and hickories gathered years ago.

I cut the metal to shape based on pictures of the performer, and the necessities of the mask’s overall design. I grind, chisel, file, hammer, and sand the edges several times. I strategically soften areas of the metal where I plan to work the steel—hundreds of hammer strikes, with a half-dozen different hammers.

After I get the sheet prepped, and the slits cut for the straps, I hammer the first bend. Then the next. I look again at the magician’s profile picture to factor in the curves of their face, where their cheekbones set, and how the length of their skull fits the mask.

“What’s in the box?!?!?!” This is how your Old World Facemask arrives in the mail.

At this point, I am about fifteen hours into fabrication. Already, this mask is unique. It is imagined. It did not exist before the magician commissioned it, and if I were to die, it would never be finished.

The mask is art we create together.

The example DVD I mentioned earlier—while still a valuable tool—does not manifest the same shared experience. It just isn’t the same when you open the box.

When a magician commissions art—a custom prop of any kind—the transaction not only provides that performer with a unique addition to their show, it reinvigorates the craftsman. It gives purpose to raw goods.

It turns time into an experience.


Click HERE to commission your own, unique Old World Facemask.

Add a hand painted/etched logo or graphic starting at $70 (ask in the order comments).


 

 

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About Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith, owner of The Magic Depot, is a writer, illustrator, and magic creator. Follow Best Kept Secrets and The Magic Depot @magicdepot on Twitter.

  • Tom

    That was a really cool post, Aaron. Awesome that you put so much time and thought into the craft.

    • Thanks for the comment and compliments, Tom! Much appreciated.