craftslesson1 solomon

When the creative urge is flowing and I mean really coursing through the veins, a trip to the flea market or the local antique store can uncover many mundane items, which all of a sudden look like magic. It may be an ornate box or a bottle or a jar that catches the eye and starts the creative juices surging. I need that box because it looks like it might be Victorian enough to pass as a relic from that bygone age.

The junk from the 1920 and 1930 era, which can be described as art deco, means nothing to the average buyer but for the storyteller it might be just the prop needed add interest to a story from that time period even if it is just to hold a pack of old playing cards or for me a pack of Tarot cards.

Crusin’ and perusin’ the shops and marketplaces become a habit or a hobby depending on how much time you spend doing it. Garage sales and church rummage sales are another source for nick knacks and boxes and odd pieces of jewelry to cannibalize for a packet of gemstones to produce from an empty box in a pirate story. You get the idea I’m sure.

One example is what I call the twin transformation canisters. From the local flea market I found two tins boxes. You can call them cans or containers or what ever. They had contained a commercial cleaning rag or rags and the case may be and the product was called Merlin’s polishing cloth and the hook was “It cleans like magic.” I paid a couple of bucks apiece for them and knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. In the instant I saw them the wheels started turning and this idea was born.

“The canisters were to be shown empty and a red silk handkerchief would be placed in the canister. The other would be shown empty and the lid replaced. A little boogie there and a zap there and now in the empty canister was the red silk and the other was empty.” Boom. First idea.

“A white silk handkerchief was placed in one canister and a red one in the other. The lids replaced and presto chango or whatever and the handkerchiefs. Boom. Idea two.

Two handkerchiefs change back and forth. Naaaah, More is less. How about each can is filled with confetti and the lid placed on each. Hocus Mocus keep in Focus and the confetti vanishes and is replaced by colored scarves. Boom. Idea three.

A red handkerchief is placed in the canister and a small amount of water poured in on top of it. Okie Dokie Mr. Smokey and the handkerchief is removed and it has turned white. The water is poured out and it has turned red. Boom. Idea four.

Merlin Works Like Magic.

Now the purists reading this are saying, “ What a bunch of hokum this guy’s smoking.”  Your are probably right, it didn’t have any double lifts, no smoke and mirrors, no near naked assistants and not once did I have to gesture or prance across the stage. But this is how creativity works for me and I will share some ideas now and tell you that each and every vignette suggested can be and has been done with this utility device made from somebody’s junk.

Let’s begin with the lids. I used two drawer pulls and mounted them in the center of each lid. I used a circle of cardboard the size of the inside diameter of the lid and covered the cardboard with self adhesive black felt into which I had punched two holes before removing the backing. This was to accommodate two rare earth magnets that were glued in place after the lid was complete. The thickness of the felt matched the thickness of the tiny magnets.

The next step was to make from two tin can lids the gimmicks with the confetti glued to the top of each disk. The centers of the arched ever so slightly so that the confetti appears to be heaped in the canister. More black felt was attached to the bottom of each faked disk. At this point the disks can be held in place by the magnets in each canister top to cause the disappearance of the confetti from the canisters. The black felt on the bottom of the disk looks just the same as the inside of the lid.  By setting the lid slightly off center the confetti disk is not attracted to the magnets but when set smartly on the canisters the confetti disk is picked up effectively causing the vanish of the supposed confetti.

Now we can examine the canisters. Two 35-MM film canisters are glued side by side to the inside of the tin canister. They are about an inch below the edge of the rim. They are held in place by strips of epoxy putty (my favorite medium) and are secured when the putty has been smoothed and hardens. At the same time three little shelves of this material are placed around the inside circumference just below the rim to accommodate the confetti disks and keep them from falling down into the canister. When all these preparations are completed the interior is painted flat black and the multifaceted presentation can begin.

f you want to use the confetti disks, the canisters are dipped into a big box of confetti and away your go.

If you want to do a single handkerchief transposition there and back, load matching handkerchiefs into the film canisters and Go for it.

If you want to do two colors load both film canisters.

If you want to do the liquid business place a drop or two of red food coloring into a wineglass and let it dry. The tin canisters will hold several ounces of liquid so pour enough into each to fill a wineglass and add one more facet to the presentation. 

Depending on your imagination and the time and setting where you are performing there are many avenues to travel. I always take the one less traveled.


Ed Solomon ++++ Collector of the weird and maker of messes.

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All the material in this lecture is copyrighted with all rights reserved to Ed Solomon, 2002.