Close up mats sell very well in magic shops, but are they a waste of money? Let’s look at the reasons for using close up mats, and if it’s actually doing more harm than good.
Close up mats come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from the small circle pads through to table hopping strips and ending in huge display mats. How you use your close up mat and the types of magic you perform will determine the size of the mat that’s right for you. The purpose of most close up mats can be grouped into two basic types:
- Walk-around temporary surfaces
- Stages areas for a fixes show.
The Close Up Mat SurfaceThere are two main types of close up mat surfaces. The traditional surface is made of felt, similar to the fabric used on a pool table. This looks great, but can attract dust and dirt quickly. Felt close up mats can wear out quickly and don’t take well to being washed.
The alternative to felt is a close up mat which is made of the material used for mouse mats. It’s a tighter weave than felt, and had a thicker rubber backing. These mats are more hard wearing, and easier to clean so have started to become much more popular than the traditional felt mats.
For most magicians, the surface material is mainly a cosmetic choice. The most important aspects of a good close up mat is the tension of the surface, the resistance it gives to an item being presses against it, and it’s ability to grip the surface it is placed on.
Advantages of a close up mat for table hopping.
As a magician, you may like to carry a small close up mat with you when you table hop. Close up mats can define an area of the table as ‘your turf’ which can help reduce grabbing of props by spectators.
Close up mats can also create a frame in which the magic is presented. It moves the action away from the cutlery, glasses, and other items on a table.
You may find that using a close up mat can help with many of the moves and techniques requires for sleight of hand. The springy surface of the mat can be a core part of the mechanicals of a magic trick. This is especially the case with many coin magic tricks.
If you perform your magic tricks in a set area, and draw a crowd, a close up mat looks great. It’s a professional surface, sets a tone and helps the action on the table to be visible and clear.
Disadvantages of a close up mat for table hopping.
For close up magicians that table hop, a close up mat is a strange item to pull out and add to your guests table. Using even a small mat, requires you to move guests items and make a space. This can be seen as rude by some people, as you not an invited member of the group, when you first approach a table.
Using a close up mat can make you dependent on a specific surface for your magic to work effectively. Over time, you develop your technique to work with that specific surface and become dependent on it.
Close up mats encourage magicians to perform magic at table level. This has huge viability issues, and unless you are seated behind the mat, the background to your magic is your crotch, nice.
Dinner tables are messy places. They have wet patches, food stuck to them and drinks get spilled on a regular basis. If you are going to use a close up mat, it’s vital that it looks clean and new if you are putting it down on someones dinner table. That can be very hard to control, unless you carry a spare. Your ability to judge if the mat looks good, fades with time due to familiarity.
Close up mats at home.
There are several good reasons to have a close up mat set up in its own space in your home:
1) Using a close up mat at home is fine and establishes an area in your room set aside for practice. Noticing the mat, set up and ready to go, can spur you on to practice.
2) Guests that visit you, will notice the area, and may ask to see some magic.
3) Your family won’t be tempted to move your magic props if they are on a close up mat.
4) It looks awesome.
Using a close up mat for a formal display.
If you have a special table set up to present your magic, then a good quality magicians close up mat is a wise choice. It finishes the look of the stand.
Street performers often use a table as a focal point for their act. If it’s not already felt covered, like a card table, then a close up mat creates a perfect surface for the table.
If you are positioned in an area to perform your magic tricks. Perhaps doing magic at a bar, or on a trade show stand. A large close up mat advertises that ‘magic happens here’ and gives your area an official feel.
Not using a close up mat.
It’s important that you learn to perform your magic on a wide range of surfaces. This may just require practice, or it may mean a tweak or adjustment to the method of the magic trick. Learn to perform on glass, table cloths and wooden surfaces. It’s OK to use a mat as you work on a difficult move and need to focus on the sets involved. However, once you have gotten an understanding of the move, work to remove any dependence on the mat. Make sure that using a magicians close up mat doesn’t become a crutch.
Do you really need a close up mat?
No, not really. They can help in the early stage of learning a magic trick, but developing or adapting a magic tricks method to work anywhere is a much better approach.
Look at Close up mats as dressing and useful for creating a staged area for magic shows. It shouldn’t be vital to your performance.