There is a huge difference between creating and exploring. The former consists of creating stuff, and the latter consists of finding new ways to do it. Doing both of these together is called ‘exploring mechanics’.
Exploring mechanics in cardistry is a really important philosophy when it comes to trying out things that you might not be able to visualize within your own comfort zone. By ‘comfort zone’ I’m referring to a deck of cards in the hands, because the majority of cardists limit the deck to just their hands when they create. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone, because doing so will allow you to discover different sides of the art.
So, it’s not about “thinking outside of the box”, but “forgetting about the goddamn box” altogether.
How can you start exploring?
For me, exploring started with observing and learning from a wide variety of styles by fellow cardists. Doing this helps you to familiarize yourself with various types of concepts, motions, and flow, all of which will be helpful to you when it comes to creating your own material.
After seeing some cool ‘interlock’ ideas like Mailbox by Chase Duncan:
…I became a huge fan of the interlock genre. It always used to surprise me that despite how complex and complicated these moves were, everything still fell into place at the end. So I started working on some of these ideas and came up with a few awesome interlock moves like Eloquent:
These results were satisfying, but to me this was just creativity, not exploration. Later on, I became tired of so-called “clashes” in cardistry. By clashes, what I mean is that sometimes a thing you think you created and worked hard on may be similar to someone else’s creation, or that perhaps someone might steal your own idea as there are no copyright grounds in the art (yet). That always bothered me. So I tried moving on to something different. For example, there is a move I created called “Array”. This move was really different from all others because it only consists of a setup and a display, without much regard for flow:
Continuing this idea, “Array 2” was created:
As you can see, this was a part of exploring a new way to flourish and then applying creativity on top of said exploration. This changed my perspective on cardistry, and also reduced the ‘clashes’ that I mentioned above.
“No one can steal your material if they cannot do it.” – Brian Tudor
Exploring new mechanics then became my forte. On top of that, it was also really fun to do! So I slowly started moving the cards out of my hands because I thought they were limiting me. Later I came up with some concepts/ideas which could only be done on a flat surface. These pieces mainly comprised of a small setup and then a little motion which gave them an intriguing look. They did not have a set start or a particular way of ending like most conventional flourishes did; these were just simple, yet eye-catching concepts. Sometimes I would draw rough diagrams for these types of ideas that I have in mind. I’d sketch the possibilities of the idea, and then try to put them in action. Obviously, not all went exactly like the pictures in the diagrams, but nonetheless designing gives you good-enough idea of what will work; after that, the rest is just trial and error. This is helpful for when you don’t have a deck with you, or to try an idea later that you just had in your mind. To paraphrase a common fitness adage, “Trust in your ideas enough to admire them, study them, perfect them, breathe them. Never stop getting better at them until you are satisfied with the results.” Below are several tabled pieces that I created using the principles above. These ideas pushed the limitations of what I thought was achievable with a deck of cards, and opened the door to a wide range of possibilities and moves:
Let’s move on to another important factor: observing. This basically involves observing the things around you and incorporating these observations into cardistry. For example, I always loved machines. They constantly kept me surprised as to how they worked, and I was always curious about what was going on inside and what unique motions they followed. So the first step was learning the motions from them, and secondly to incorporate these ideas into cardistry.
As you can see, the first move in the video below was inspired by gears. Ever since I saw gears, it was cool to think about having a move which worked similarly to how gears did. So I just decided to put that thought in motion. Again, all we need to do is keep experimenting until satisfying results come around and, most of all, have patience. Good things take time.
(By the way, if you want to give this idea a shot you can learn a mini version of the gear move called ‘5th Gear’ here.)
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
So once you’ve started exploring new ways, they will continue to inspire you to explore more. Anyway, I began playing with the exterior motions of certain machines, and started mixing them with cardistry as well. These are all motions that you can execute with your bare hands, but by adding that mechanical touch it really changes the way the flourish looks and feels.
Of course, machines are just an example of what you can incorporate with cardistry; it could be anything. Anything you can think of.
I was fortunate enough to meet the Singapore cardistry community on my trip to Singapore. There, I met Kevin Ho who showed me an old but a really cool concept of interlocking cards together (not to be confused with the ‘interlock’ genre mentioned earlier). It was just an arrangement to join cards together, but it was really fun to experiment with that concept and so here are some of the ideas we came up with:
Now this is just an extension of the art of cardistry that hasn’t been explored much yet, so it became pretty obvious to me to add that machine touch to it. As you saw above in the video using machines, I used the camera lens motion to make the interlocked cards appear to move on their own. Lastly, I’d like to touch on the most recent concept I’ve been actively developing:
CARDESTROY (Cards+ Destroy)
What is Cardestroy? The idea behind this was to find a use for the ‘poop decks’ which I felt like throwing away. So I decided to do something weird with them. I bent the cards in such a way that they would follow some unique motions/mechanics. Now this was something that unlocked a new door for creativity. It was like “Dude! I’m not dealing with just rectangles anymore.” All moves were based on an arrangement done on a flat surface and put in motion, pretty much similar to the process of discovering those tabled moves I talked about before. Pablo Picasso once said, “Every act of Creation is first an act of Destruction.” But here I would rather say, “Every act of Destruction is first an act of Creation.” Folds Folding the cards is an important factor here. It is not something to be overlooked, as everything depends upon it. So I started folding the cards in the simplest ways : horizontally, vertically and diagonally. I also begin to sub-categorize them, as some folds would differ in measurements from the edge. The folds are the skeleton for your move: the better the folds the better the results. Creating Creating a Cardestroy move was a really different experience. As you keep on experimenting, the fun also increases proportionally because there is no more limiting yourself while creating . The first step, like I said earlier, was to bend a card in a specific way and think about what I could do with it. For example, take a look at the first move in the video below (this was my very first Cardestroy creation):
|DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME| So today I just decided to do something weird with cards, so I just bent them, played around with them and came up with some weird but mechanical concepts. Moral: You can do any goddamn thing with a deck. Stop limiting yourself ;P #cardestroy #cardistry #cardporn #whoshuffleslikethat
What I did was place a card (folded horizontally) on a flat surface, with part of the folded card sticking up. When I pushed the folded part down, it caused the card to rise up. Here what I had was a ‘concept’. I found other possible ways to add more to it until it felt more like a move. Then I decided to put a non-destroyed card on the top of the folded one and repeated the earlier motion, causing the card on the top to drop on the back of my hand. By experimenting further I also added a card (folded vertically) on the side, which led to the sequence you just saw above. Everything is connected in some way.
So alI I have is a concept at first, and then I add to or modify it until a move is created. This isn’t something easy to visualize, so it helps to actually just do it with actual playing cards. Just make any kind of folds, and start from anywhere. I’ve discovered some concepts in Cardestroy that could only be found through trial and error, failures, or sometimes even doing something totally random. Some of my moves were actually a clear accident that were then polished and developed into an actual sequence. Take the last move in the video above, for example. If you watch that video and then move on to the ones below you will see that I initially just used the same kind of fold (lengthwise) and then later I discovered new folds and ways to use them:
It is rightly said that old is gold because not all the old things expire, some just turn into antiques. So let me introduce to Cardestroy (cards + destroy). I've come up with some concepts which will make you value your poop decks which you feel are of no use. If you come up with a cardestory concept #cardestroy It soo I can see, have fun! #cardestroy #cardistry #whoshuffleslikethat #9gagtvepic
As you can see above, the move near the end where two triangles pop up was the concept that I used in the ‘table stuff collaboration‘ video. So again my earlier explorations helped me here. I also started incorporating pre-existing ideas with Cardestroy, like just ribbon spreading the cards or doing the tabled version of the automatic flower fan, both of which you can see in the video below:
So that’s all about creating. Though there is lot more to be done/worked upon in cardestroy.
Creating and experimenting along with some failures is all you need!
Sometimes, working different is better than working harder. These days, people seem to be obsessed with only following certain trends in cardistry — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I feel that it has made people complacent and unwilling to venture outside of their comfort zones, like I mentioned in the intro.
By exploring mechanics, you are able to choose from a variety of surfaces and motions to tinker with, whereas limiting a deck of cards to just your hands might frustrate you after a while. Changing paths and approaches will keep you interested, and will help you fight the ‘creative blocks’ that can happen to even the best of us sometimes.
So have patience, stay open-minded, observe things around you and their unique motions and incorporate them into cardistry. Keep trying until you get satisfying results. Never lose faith and keep working hard; you’ll find a way for everything. Lastly, remind yourself that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Keep exploring! Keep flourishing!