Guest Blogger: Tim Sutton

I’m a composer and musical director, with a serious passion for magic. I’ve always been interested in magic, growing up watching the Paul Daniels show, and buying some of the famous marketed tricks at that time. But my Damascene moment occurred while I was travelling in my gap year. I was staying with relatives in Alberta, Canada, and had learned some card tricks from a Bob Longe book to show my young cousins. On my way back home I stopped in Toronto with another cousin, and showed his wife some of my proudly-acquired sleight-of-hand. She said that I might be interested to meet her brother. We went to see him performing at a downtown comedy club later that week, and afterwards he proceeded to fry my brain with some insane close-up magic of a standard I’d never seen in the flesh before. His name was Jay Sankey. 

I then began to study properly, beginning with Expert Card Technique, which Jay sent me out to buy. Many people mistakenly believe this is the graduation-course follow-up to Royal Road to Card Magic. In fact it came first, and packs an enormous punch. By the time I was nineteen, I had a pretty flawless pass. Throughout University, I performed a lot, and when I started working as a professional theatre musician, and met a new cast every few months, I had plenty of opportunity to refine my performance technique. I also learned (sometimes the hard way) when not to perform magic, which I think is an art in itself. I joined the Magic Circle about five years ago, and have had a wonderful time there learning about the many branches of the art. 

Question 1: What are your top 3 effects in magic and why?
1. Dai Vernon’s Triumph. A great example of the Professor’s genius at story-telling. The plot of this trick is direct and linear, and its potency is evidenced by the countless variations it has spawned. Two such progeny are Jay Sankey’s Back in Time, an in-the-hands version with its own very clear plot (and which can be performed with any old beaten up deck), and James Swain’s Perfect Triumph, which has a beautiful elegance to it, and which I used to close my act when I competed in the Magic Circle Close-Up Competition in 2009. 

2. John Shryock’s Ring in Walnut. My first love is card magic, but occasionally non-card effects will blow me away and make me want to learn them. John’s effect was released a couple of years ago, but he has been performing and refining it for many years. Again, a wonderfully direct effect. What I love about it is the multiple layers within the methodology. How the ring arrives in the walnut is achieved in a totally different fashion from how the walnut ends up in the egg, and the egg in the lemon, leaving the spectator unable to construct a viable hypothesis and opening the door to wonder. 

3. Carlyle’s Homing Card. A beautiful effect with which to learn the science of misdirection. Roberto Giobbi’s series Card College was another great discovery for me, and I fell in love with Giobbi’s version, Homing Card Plus.

Question 2: What is your intention and goal with every performance you give?
These days my focus is on establishing a real connection with my spectators. An audience will respond with genuine warmth if they feel you take an interest in them. It’s not possible to establish a rapport with every member of a parlour audience, but one should do the best one can. For me, this involves slowing the magic down, having conversations, remembering names, acknowledging people who aren’t sitting in the front row, using the information they share in a respectful way. Audiences don’t want to feel they are interchangeable, or that you’re doing the magic at them. I hear so many magicians using stock lines, “No magnets, no trap doors, no hidden assistants” and pat jokes, and wonder if they can really be present for those they are performing with in those moments, or ever. One’s technique must of course be the best it can be, but my current goal is to be truly present.

Question 3: What are you currently doing to leave the craft of magic a little better than you found it?
I am reading, and thinking. I’ve just bought Darwin Ortiz’s latest book, Lessons in Card Mastery, which I am hugely excited to start into. Darwin is a formidable thinker about and designer of magic, and I feel privileged to be able to learn him, and other masters such as Juan Tamariz, Simon Aronson, Barrie Richardson and Tommy Wonder. 

There’s a popular weekly video review of the latest magic releases, in which a trick is judged to be a success if it can be performed within thirty minutes of opening the packet, or watching the DVD. The fact the presenters even go so far as to perform the tricks in this time frame, usually indifferently, seems to be overlooked. The currency seems to be, if I can do this in my walkaround set the same night, it’s a hit. Magic becomes, cheap, throwaway and pat. Deep thinking and study are deemed old hat. This is a sad state of affairs. I can’t believe how lucky I was to meet Jay Sankey, who told me at the age of eighteen to go out and buy Expert Card Technique.

My website is www.timsutton.net

You can see me performing my own routine Hopping Henry at one of Mike Vincent’s Magic Circle evenings here:

Mike’s Guest Blog Commentary

I would like to thank Tim for his terrific contribution especially as has become my very first guest on this exciting weekly feature.  

Tim has proven that we are all connected by several degrees of separation, if not six. It must have been quite exciting to be connected to Jay Sankey at the formative time in his magical development. Jay Sankey has become an outstanding voice in the craft of magic and I was delighted to read of his contribution to Tim’s progress by referring one of the most influential books in card magic, Expert Card Technique.

In answering my three questions, I can see Tim’s appreciation for strong direct effects supported by an elegant methodology and plot for engaging presentations. “Triumph”, “The Ring in Walnut” and “The Homing Card” represents what I call memorable magic with strong meaning and possibility for a powerful audience experience.

His desire to connect powerfully with his audience reveals a strong intention for connection, person to person. The effects he has chosen as his top three provide a lot of opportunities to initiate, build and consolidate a powerful rapport and relationship with members of his audience.

In his final comments Tim has touched on something very close to my heart an issue that frustrates me. We now live in a time now where magic as a craft has been reduce to a cheap commodity, something that can be bought. You cannot buy the experience of magic and then go out and offer it to a paying client. The craft of magic, like music is a craft and the mastery of that craft is earned, the hard way, through graft, sweat and in many cases tears.  The final analysis of that time well spent will be heard in the approval and applause of your audience.

I want to end my evaluation by also thanking Jay Sankey for his generosity of spirit in inspiring Tim to invest time and money in Expert Card Technique.

Thank you Tim for your great contribution, you have set the benchmark for future guest bloggers

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