The Art of Illusion

The art of illusion is a fascinating subject, and one that I have been drawn to throughout my life. The fact that the experiences provided by automata, sleight of hand, holograms, and magic lanterns all activate the same cognitive mental processes in the brain is remarkable. In between engine turning classes earlier this month, David and I were able to pay a visit to the Magician’s Magician – John Gaughan – a maker of magical wonders. John’s work is a staple in the magic realm. He started in his youth designing and making tricks for a magician, who later relocated to LA and brought John with him. Since then he has acquired and created an incredible body of work of magical artifacts, including Balsamo the famous chattering skull by Joseffy. Among his collection one will see more simple tricks – such as the vanishing ball and vase – to a mechanical marvel clockwork organ clarinet player. And if you’ve ever read my about page – I refer to a mechanical peacock that can pull an ace from a deck of cards – you’ll see said peacock, Philippe in the photos below. He was made by John.

In this video interview with John below, he takes us through some of the most wonderful illusions in history.

Between our visits to The Museum of Jurassic Technology and the respective workshops of John Gaughan, Tristan Duke, and Al Collins, we had the pleasure of checking out two extraordinary venues. If you find yourself in LA – we highly recommend patronizing The Edison, where one can watch Thomas Edison’s silent movies and have a cocktail, and Clifton’s Cafeteria. Both have an incredible story and are the work of visionary designer Andrew Meieran. From the Clifton’s Cafeteria website: “Eighty years after Clifford Clinton revolutionized dining with the mythical Clifton’s Brookdale, Clifton’s is once again poised to re-define the dining experience. Dedicated to conservation, preservation and education, the legendary establishment is now prepared for the next eighty years. We invite you to join us to explore the new world of Clifton’s – a world of adventure, imagination and magic. ” From experience I can say – it’s all true. The place is absolutely magical – from hidden dioramas to private tiny sanctuaries with forest scenes built into the walls.

 

So with that, go out and explore the magic created by visionaries of the past and present!