Close up magic, is an entertaining and rewarding hobby for individuals of all ages. As it involves small props such as playing cards and everyday objects such as coins, paper, pens and elastic bands, it’s also a very cost effective hobby to get started in. Although, it’s worth noting that as with many other hobbies, the costs can spiral if you become a collector!
The main skills include sleight-of-hand and performance, but don’t let that put you off. This isn’t about standing on stage in a theatre, which involves a very different skill set. Instead, much of close up magic is conversational, so it’s easy to get started with, but also has great depth to it if you wish to explore further and improve.
I’m now a full time professional magician, (and you can find out more about me at the bottom of this page) but I also consider myself a hobbyist in the sense that I enjoy performing magic. I guess you could say, I do my hobby as a job, which is a wonderful thing to be able to say. In this article, I’ll explore the allure of close up magic, discuss its unique advantages, and offer tips for getting started on your magical journey.
The Charm of close up magic
The appeal of close up magic lies in its ability to create a personal connection between the magician and their audience. As I often say in my magicians’ podcast, “People are more interested in people than things!”
Unlike stage magic, which often relies on grand illusions and large scale tricks, close up magic is an intimate form of magic that allows spectators to experience the enchantment of seemingly impossible feats right before their eyes, and often in their own hands.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of close up magic is its versatility. The tricks can be performed in a variety of settings, from casual gatherings with friends and family to formal events and parties. Whether you’re entertaining a small group of friends at a party or wowing strangers in a coffee shop or bar, close-up magic offers endless opportunities for amusement and wonder.
Close up magic for All Ages
One aspect of close up magic that appeals to many is that it transcends age and background. Magic is an enjoyable hobby for individuals of all ages.
For younger magicians in particular, close up magic can be a powerful tool for building self-confidence and fostering a sense of accomplishment. As young people master new tricks and techniques, they experience the thrill of overcoming challenges and delight in the reactions they receive from their audience. This can and often does inspire a lifelong love for the art, nurturing a sense of curiosity and wonder that persists into adulthood. I know that was certainly the case for me.
Adults, too, can find great satisfaction in close up magic. The hobby offers a unique form of mental stimulation, as magicians must constantly think on their feet and adapt to the unexpected.
Incorporating close up magic into family gatherings, game nights, or simply spending time together learning magic or sharing tricks can create lasting memories and foster a shared passion. Many parents or grandparents love to share magic with the children in their family. By introducing this captivating hobby, you’re not only providing entertainment but also creating opportunities for personal growth, mental stimulation, and social engagement.
To begin your journey into the world of close up magic, it’s important to start with a solid foundation. Focus on mastering basic techniques first and then start to look for simple tricks. Later you could explore writing a script that is unique and has personal meaning to you, or even start stringing a few tricks together into a routine, or a short show.
Books are an excellent resource for learning close up magic. Renowned magicians such as Dai Vernon, Mark Wilson, Juan Tamariz, and Roberto Giobbi have written extensively on the subject, providing valuable insights and step-by-step instructions for various tricks. I would recommend that your first magic purchase be a quality book, or if you are not sure you will stick with magic, then the library should be your first stop. If you ask the librarians, they will help you find some good general magic books.
A further blog post that might help you to get started is 5 Best Books for Beginner Magicians
A word of warning: YouTube has a wealth of magic tutorials but often these are simply an exposure of the secret, rather than an education in how to actually perform the trick. As you start to learn magic, you will hopefully realise that it’s not just what you do, but how you do it. Without giving too much away, there are a lot of subtleties that go on in the background.
Joining a Magic Club
One of the most rewarding aspects of close up magic as a hobby is the opportunity to connect with others who share your interest. Joining a local magic club or participating in online magic communities can provide invaluable benefits, from improving your skills to forming lasting friendships. Magic clubs offer a supportive environment where hobbyist magicians can learn from one another, exchange ideas, and collaborate on new routines. Nowadays, I learn most of my new tricks simply by chatting with friends over a coffee or beer.
As well as regular magic club nights, members often attend magic conventions and shows together, further enriching their experience of the hobby. The main magic conventions in the UK are The Session (January) and Blackpool Magic Convention (February)
Of course, I couldn’t end this section without also mentioning The Magic Circle (and its youth initiative – The Young Magicians’ Club). Joining this prestigious magic society requires a performance exam, so it’s perhaps not one to go for straight away, but it is a goal that many beginner magicians aim for and see as a proud achievement. Fun fact: King Charles III is a Member of the Magic Circle.
Practice Makes Perfect
As with any skill based hobby, practice is essential for becoming proficient in close up magic. Regularly practising your techniques and routines will help you develop muscle memory, improve your timing, and refine your overall performance. Set aside time each day to practice, and be patient with yourself. It’s amazing what you can achieve with just fifteen minutes per day, and that’s much better than trying to do several hours all at once.
It’s also helpful to perform as often as you can for friends and family members, as their feedback can be invaluable in identifying areas for improvement. As you become more comfortable with your skills, consider performing for strangers to further hone your abilities and learn how to adapt your magic to different responses.
Invest in Quality Props
As mentioned many close up magic tricks can be performed with everyday objects, however investing in high quality props can enhance your performance and make your routines more polished. Consider purchasing a quality deck of playing cards, such as the Bicycle or Tally-Ho brand, find or purchase a set of coins (most magicians use half dollars and old English pennies), and/or purchase well crafted gimmicks for specific tricks (a magic shop will be able to help with more specific questions about what might be a good first purchase). As you progress in your magic journey, you’ll likely find that having reliable, well made props will make a significant difference in your performance.
Close up magic offers a unique and engaging hobby that allows you to connect with others through the art of illusion and sleight of hand. By learning the basics, practising regularly, and investing in quality props, you’ll be well on your way to mesmerising your audience and creating unforgettable moments of wonder. It’s a fantastic hobby, that as I’ve mentioned has given me a wealth of incredible experiences and helped me to make friends around the world.
Good luck on your journey, and who knows, maybe one day our paths will cross at a show, club night or magic convention.
About the author of this post
Ed Sumner is a full time professional magician in the UK. He provides magic close up or on stage for a range of private and commercial events across the UK and Europe.
Find out more about him at: https://edsumner.com
An inspiring read by Ed. A fantastic starting point for new magicians with practical steps. Thank you for writing for Hobbyism!
– Sarah (editor of Hobbyism)
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