Have you ever really considered what exactly style is? What does it feel like? Where does it come from? How do you find your own style? What role does style play in becoming a recognized artist?
Style, put shortly, is your way of doing something.
Style is a distinct appearance, representative of how something is designed or interpreted. In the cardistry community, style typically presents itself in the forms of presentational style and performance style.
An old cardist once said, “think inside the box, everyone else is too busy trying to think outside of it.” At first read, this may seem like an attempt to stifle creativity since “out of the box” thinking is equated with creativity and is encouraged. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that “in the box” thinking can’t be creative. The quote could be interpreted as inhibiting. Indeed, if you know the quoted cardist, that interpretation may seem like the correct one, but another more useful (and more correct) interpretation is this: look inside the box for things that are neglected. Whatever the meaning of the quote, it leads into the focus of this article, which is to explore, exploit, and employ basic moves as an engine of creativity.
Regarding Basic Moves
Before continuing, the definition of “basic moves” (for the purposes of this article) will be clarified. Basic moves are easy and simple, and uniqueness is a plus.
So, outside of cardistry, I’m a designer, and I’m finishing up my third year of study in design. Design may appear to some people to be a very random discipline, but it actually isn’t quite like that.
Design is partly about feeling and intuition, but it also has clear rules, which is what separates graphic design from just random scribblings of a three-year-old. Visual design has theory.
So what about music? What transforms random frequencies into an actual song? If you’ve ever sat down at a piano with no training, you will quickly notice there’s many places to go wrong. How come your random blabbering doesn’t sound like actual music? Enter music theory. As soon as you start to play in key, acquire a sense of rhythm, and learn about those things called chords, your blabbering might start to sound musical. Then after a few years of studying the other 14 musical principles, you should be sounding like actual music. Music has theory.
So what about say, writing? What separates actual, solid, riveting novels from Twilight fanfiction? Well, writing has so many theories I won’t even list them all… you might’ve learnt about a few figures of speech at school, maybe metaphors, onomatopoeia? Well, Wikipedia lists 204. What about narrative technique, such as foreshadowing? There’s another 64! And thats just looking at story writing. So without a doubt, writing has theory.
So what about Cardistry?
I am not a cardist, but I understand that cardistry is an art focused on the beautiful motion of playing cards in our hands. In a skilled cardist’s hands, an ordinary deck of playing cards can take on a multitude of dazzling forms, with cards flying, flipping, and spinning around gracefully and sometimes ferociously.
In this article, I will focus on aerial moves – to be specific, the physics of aerial moves. Aerial moves, as the name suggests, are all about cards flying and moving freely in the air. From small moves like the T.G. Murphy Deck Flip, to larger scale aerials like Flicker Shot, aerial moves are some of the most eye-catching and impressive card flourishes you can do.
If I mention the word ‘Cardistry’ to you and ask what names are at the forefront of Cardistry, you might say Dan and Dave, Tobias, Oliver, Nikolaj, Zach, Franky, Chase or any of the other Cardistry-Con headliners. You would not be wrong — these people are indeed at the forefront of the art. But they all have something in common. They are all from the West, and I began to wonder why this was.
I have always wanted to create good cuts. Obviously my first creations were not so good, so around a year ago I tried to step my game up. This is when I started to put a lot of thinking into my creative process. Below you will find some ideas I keep in mind while I create — ideas I developed during the past year.
I believe a cut should be seen as a whole. A cut should make sense, which is why everything going on during the move should have a purpose during the cut. All the packets should be important, and none are less important than the others. By designing a cut this way, your first impression is that you get the feeling that the flourish is well-balanced. It feels like all the packets are interconnected and if you remove any one of them, the whole cut will not work anymore.
Conversely, if you add an extra packet, it will just lay there and add nothing to the move. I’ve seen lots of cuts where people like to add as many packets as possible so their cut looks more complicated, but complexity doesn’t necessary mean beauty, nor do I think adding a packet only for this purpose will end up with a good cut. Of course, creating a cut where every packet has the same importance is really difficult. As such, I try to make sure that every packet has at least something to bring at one point in the cut.
I want to start off by saying that this is not a complete guide to Blue Seal playing cards or the entire history of them. This is my knowledge and the knowledge of my fellow card collectors and magicians that have helped me bring this information to you. With over a decade of card handling, and having used thousands of decks with dozens of different finishes and stocks, let me try to explain the mystery that is the Blue Seal.
In April of 2015 I filmed and released a jam video titled We Shuffle Like That. Filmed in New York during the days leading up to – and following – Cardistry-Con 2015, it was a jam video full of familiar faces. I don’t think there’s ever been that amount of cardists in one video at the same time – ever. It was also a video that seemed to resonate really well with the community, whether it was inspiring the new generation or bringing a sense of nostalgia to the old schoolers and those who were there.
It got me thinking about how important I think jam videos are to this artform and this community, so that’s why I’m going to share some of my thoughts with you on jam videos. I’m choosing to use my own work as examples because I’m very familiar with them, and because I’ve made many more jam videos than I’ve made performance videos. So while I might seem to focus only on my videos – please keep in mind that some of my favorite jam videos of all time were made by others – and I’ll get back to that later! But, before we venture deeper into the jam video genre, I want to show you what I’ve actually made over the past ten years.
There are a lot of aspects to the art of card flourishing: speed, flow, visual appearance, and the list goes on.
When creating an original card flourish, a lot of thinking goes into making those aspects cooperate in order to form a flourish that looks appealing to the eye.
If I asked you, “what is the most important thing about an original card flourish?” the answer is obvious: “the look of the flourish!” Cardistry is a visual art form whose purpose is to impress, so of course the visual expression of the flourish is key!
Since 2013, I’ve been focusing on another aspect, though.
Some 2,500 years ago, Confucius said, "if you want to define the future, you have to study the past".
So, before looking forward, let's take a step back to see where and what we've come from. This should be a fitting theme for the opening article of this blog.
My humble goal in writing this is to grant you some insight into how this art of ours has evolved since I last was involved in the scene. My hope is that this will inspire us to propel the art even further.
After five years of intense studies and a couple of internships in a few of the “big law” companies in Norway, I found myself facing a four-month vacation. Poor me, what was I supposed to do with all that spare time?
Feeling I had reached my big goal in Cardistry (or card flourishing, as we used to call it) with the production of Papercuts in 2010, my interest for the art slowly faded to nothing. Sure, I would bust out the casual Bullet Time, Pandora or Molecule 2 every now and then. I also lurked about and viewed a few of the more popular Cardistry videos to spawn during this period, but the spark was gone. I would pick up a deck and sit with it for five minutes until it bored me or life got in the way. I would also meet up with my good friend Allan Hagen every now and again, and we would film a short performance video – but the creativity and inspiration was long gone. I couldn’t come up with something new and interesting even if my life depended on it. Somewhere along the road I figured “this is it, I’m done…”