Blake Vogt is one of the top illusionists performing and creating magic today. At only 25 years old, he has already created magic for David Copperfield, David Blaine, Dynamo, and many other top magicians all over the world. Blake has performed his unique brand of magic all over the world for crowds ranging from 20 people to 2,000 people. His style of magic is fun and goofy and he always tries to make you smile whether its with a funny "trick" or a friggin miracle.
Blake currently resides in Los Angeles, CA and is staying busy creatively consulting for live theatre, musicians, television, and movies. He is also regularly performing his brand of off the wall magic for private events and functions all over the world. The only thing you will never see Blake do is pull a rabbit out of a hat... because sadly... he is very allergic to those adorable creatures.
Blake's full story below.
Blake Vogt // Coming to Light // By Jamie D. Grant
Purdue University, 2009
Blake Vogt was trying to hide his face as much as possible. Not so much covering it up, but he was making sure no one he knew saw him. The trees were offering some blocking, but he wished there were more. He was on his way to the Purdue University Career Counselors’ office and he was feeling embarrassed. Was “embarrassed” the right word, he thought? Or was it “shame”? All he knew was that, as he walked along the beautiful paths of his Indiana campus, he didn’t want anyone to know the problems he was having. It just wouldn’t make sense to anyone. On the outside, he seemed to be living the American dream. He was going into his third year at a great school. He was young, handsome, on his way to becoming a dentist, (well, he was supposed to be, he thought) and was even a member of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club. Over 1,000 people had auditioned to be able to sing with the PVGC and only 45 were chosen. He was one of those 45. Maybe it was the group’s crazy schedule that was affecting his schoolwork? Even though he was singing at up to 250 shows a year at the university, he felt like he was still getting the proper time in to study. No, it wasn’t that, he decided. It was just that the dentistry studies weren’t sticking; no matter how much time he spent studying. He was spending hours in those books, but his test scores weren’t improving. If he didn’t do something, he was going to flunk out.
He made it to the office door without incident and was grateful. As he went inside he was introduced to an older lady. She was short, thin, and unassuming. Blake felt his heart sink a little. This was the person who was supposed to help him decide his future, he thought? Being so close to failing out of school, this meeting was supposed to be one of his last hopes and, from the looks of her, he didn’t feel confident that this lady was going to solve his problems. After some introductions, she came straight to the point and asked him one question that, Blake now says, “would change my life forever.” Years later, Blake describes it as: “She dropped so much knowledge on me with a single question. It was alarming.”
“Blake,” she said, “If you woke up tomorrow and money didn’t exist, what would you do from the time you woke up to the time you fell asleep?”
He answered without thinking. It was a spontaneous and pure thought. One that had been in him since he had been eight years old. It wasn’t so much an answer as it was a revelation.
Present Day, 2014
Fast-forward five years and Blake Vogt has worked with the following people:
David Copperfield (consulting)
March 2011 to March 2012
May 2012 to November 2012
David Blaine (consulting)
January 2013 - July 2013
White Magic — television special on the Travel Channel (consulting)
August 2013 to September 2013
Tonight Show with Jay Leno (Performer/Consultant)
Performed three sold out performances for one-man show, Odd Man Out (performer) November 2013
First Wizard Wars pilot (performer)
Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne (consulting)
1 week in November 2013
Band of Magicians — stage show in Australia with Justin Willman, James Galea, Justin Flom, and Nate Staniforth (consulting)
December 2013 to January 2014
Justin Willman Tour (consulting)
2 weeks in February 2014
Wizard Wars (new season) episode (performer)
How does that happen? How does someone go from the chair in a Career Counselor’s office to a résumé that reads like a “who’s who” of the magic industry? Blake remembers it like it was yesterday.
“After I told that counselor ‘Magic,’ she looked at me for a second and simply said, ‘You’re in the wrong major,’” he says laughing. “And she was so right. So I switched to Industrial Design. I knew that Homer Liwag, who works with David Copperfield, had studied Industrial Design so it seemed like a great idea to switch my major to something more in line with that.” He recounts how he has long been fascinated with design and the creation process after spending countless hours in the company of his grandmother, who had always taught him new crafts when he was younger. “So the switch in majors felt right. I remember back in high school, I was performing walkaround at a restaurant called Arni’s and I would always be changing the effects I had purchased. Whether it was the patter or the gimmick itself. It was the altering, the changing of it that I loved. That, combined with my love for everything my grandmother had shown me, made this new Industrial Design path seem like a great way to further those ideas.”
It turned out to be exactly what his grades needed and it showed right away. “An interesting story about my second semester in design was that the professor in this one course, it was a ‘studio’ course where there were only around fifteen of us in the class, asked us to fill out this introduction questionnaire. And on it was the question, ‘Why do you want to be an industrial designer?’ Most people answered that they wanted to design for Apple, or Mattel, or Hasbro, or furniture companies, but I wrote on my sheet ‘I want to design illusions for a Las Vegas magician.’ When the professor read my answer he laughed and claimed that I did not answer the question seriously. When I told him I was very serious he finally dropped it and moved on. He then asked me to stay after class and I thought he was going to apologize, but actually he kept me after to tell me, ‘As your professor it is my responsibility to make sure my students’ dreams and goals are realistic and yours are not. You need to reevaluate your goals because, let’s be honest, you are never going to design illusions for a Las Vegas magician.’”
Blake still has the message he received later. “Of course things turned out differently and this was the letter I received one week after changing my Facebook status online to “Illusion designer for David Copperfield”:
I hope this letter finds you well. I just saw that you changed your Facebook status to illusion designer for David Copperfield in Las Vegas. That is amazing! I am so sorry I told you that you could not do that. I am very embarrassed by this and I hope we can reconnect because I would love to come out to Las Vegas and see the show. Again, I apologize for my ignorance; it is amazing that you followed your dreams. I’m so proud of you.
[The Purdue Professor]
Blake recalls, “It was a great moment for me. And all the courses I took truly did help with my creative process and my magic. An example would be that in one class we were given an assignment to make a box. It had to be a white box. And it had to be a six-sided cube. Everyone walked in the next day and had these beautiful boxes made. It was a 24-hour assignment as well, which I loved. And all my classmates had these incredible boxes made out of foamcore with no seams at all and they were all just so beautiful. And mine was taped and had a hole in the top with some Kleenexes coming out of it,” he says, laughing. “We also had to present our projects. That was a big part of the class. We actually had to go around and put a sticky note on our favorite before the presentations. Mine didn’t get any sticky notes. But mine was what I called a Kleenex-A-Flex Box. It was a working Kleenex box and I described how bulky Kleenex boxes normally were and how they never fit into your bag or pocket, but that mine was collapsible. I had made a shell that came off the box and then the whole thing collapsed perfectly flat. I showed how it worked and then, after our presentations, we had to move our sticky notes to our new favorite. I got all the sticky notes. It was such a great feeling.”
While Blake’s newfound studies were helping him expand his creative output, he was also starting to get involved in the business side of magic. He had already been creating his own effects for years and was now finding that there was a market for them.
“It was during my first year at university that I started selling effects, but I’d been obsessed with magic for as long as I remember. When I was a kid, there was a magician who would perform at my town’s Pizza Hut every third Wednesday of the month. His name was Marc Lehmann, and he would walk around and do magic from table to table. I had to get someone from my family to take me once a month to Pizza Hut until I figured out that he was at a different Pizza Hut in a different town every Wednesday of every month. So I then had to convince a family member to take me to whatever town he was in every Wednesday,” Blake says, with his characteristic laugh. “Basically, I ate Pizza Hut every Wednesday for an entire year and saw so much magic from Marc. Then, on my ninth birthday, my parents hired him to perform for my family and me. I sat in the front row and after watching his miracles for that hour, I was hooked.”
Blake’s dad understood his son’s newfound obsession and encouraged it. “My dad bought me a Change Bag and a copy of Mark Wilson’s Cyclopedia of Magic — the little one; not the big one — and I read it a thousand times. By the time I was fifteen, I was starting to create my own material. None of it was very good, but I was seeing what I could come up with and exploring the creative process. I would also take existing tricks and change the presentations so they would better fit my performing character and personality. I performed a lot, especially in high school. I would perform between classes in the halls, before class started, after class ended, and sometimes even during class. I was always playing with cards or tricks. Like I mentioned earlier, I was hired to do walk-around magic at our local Arni’s every Monday night for two to three hours and I did this for a couple years. There were people who would come in every week to see me and new magic so I was taking my paychecks and buying more magic all the time. I’d have at least one new trick every week to show the regulars. I learned a lot of magic in those couple years and learned invaluable lessons about performing and audience management. By the time university rolled around, I was so busy studying, singing in the group, and everything else, but I still found time to create and practice. It’s never left my side. It was around that time, the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, that I came up with Regeneration. I would go on to sell it a few years later.”
Regeneration, an effect where the corner of a card is torn off, swallowed by the performer, and is then restored in the spectator’s hand, became a big seller for Blake. It also gave him a taste of what the magic community, especially online, can offer with regards to confidence, money, and notoriety. It had gone so well that he decided to start releasing other material he had been working on for years. In a little over a single year, between April 2011 and August 2012, he released a dozen effects:
Ref4m: A torn-and-restored effect using only one card to accomplish a four-piece restoration.
Ringer: A dollar bill and origami ring transposition.
Wave: A gimmicked card with four sectioned-off visual changes on the back of a card.
Window Pain: A three-piece restoration that happens in the spectator’s hands and on the deck.
Rubber Through Hand: A collaboration with Dan Hauss, a visual rubber band through fingers routine.
702 Project: A collaboration DVD with Justin Flom, Rick Lax, Bizzaro, and Kyle Marlett.
High End: A visual impromptu Four Ace routine.
Split Sessions V1 and 2: Downloadable; instructions on how to split cards and assemble them.
Flip Flop Change: A visual color change of a card.
Fuzion: Two signed cards are ripped in half then impossibly fused together, forming a half and half card.
“Those all came out because of the previous couple of years and the awesome experiences I was having performing all of them. I would perform all of these effects for everyone I knew and at all the gigs I had. It was a very powerful and rewarding feeling to walk around performing your very own creations for people. I felt like I was showing people a part of me. It was also because I became confident enough in my material that I was able to go around to conventions and show other magicians what effects I had come up with. I had created everything with laymen in mind, not magicians, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that magicians liked them and were fooled by them as well. As a result, things were going really well, and aside from the great friends I had made in magic, via the online community, I also started going to conventions. In 2009 alone, I went to Magi-Fest, SAM Atlanta, Carolina Close-Up Convention, Motor City Magic Convention, MAGIC Live, and Magic Con. Going to all of these in one year had an impact on me. That was the year people started hearing my name throughout the community, so it all kind of came together. After my third year in university and all those releases, I had a conversation with my parents about giving magic a shot full-time. They were so supportive and told me that I should give it a go.”
At this point, and through a chance meeting with Chris Kenner, Blake was given the opportunity of a lifetime. With Dan White, Robert Smith, Patrick Kun, and Calen Morelli, he began helping work on projects and offering ideas for the man who has sold more tickets than any other solo entertainer in history — David Copperfield. “We revisited old ideas he and his team had, and worked on new ones. It was an amazing time. Something that I really took away from that experience was that David is the hardest-working man I have ever met in my life. It’s not an accident that he’s been on top for over 35 years.” After a full year, Blake’s time in Vegas came to a close. Next came a talk with Daniel Garcia, where Blake was recruited and asked to come on board to consult for Dynamo in London, along with Alex Rangel and Enrico de la Vega.
When asked what exactly a consultant does, specifically, Blake answers, “Consulting is kind of hard thing for me to explain, really. Because it’s not like I come up with a trick and then it’s used on TV or in a show. It’s just not that simple. And I think a lot of people might think they could walk in with these concepts and that’s how it works. But consulting and coming up with effects — and ideas that are great for TV and still true to the art — is such a team effort. For the most part, it’s almost never any one person’s solution. To answer the question of what exactly I do, I can tell you that whenever I’ve had an interview with someone looking for a consultant, I’m usually asked what I have to offer. And I’ve pretty much answered that question the same way every time. I say, ‘I can promise you that I’ll never run out of bad ideas.’”
When it comes to Blake’s ideas, both bad and amazing, it’s whenever he’s asked to explain them that he runs into a very unique dilemma. “I get to do all these things, all these amazing experiences, and work on these cool projects but I’m absolutely not allowed to tell anyone about any of them. And I don’t. I take my non-disclosure agreements very seriously. Not just the importance of my integrity, but I could also be sued.” Blake signs NDAs for every artist he works with and it makes describing what he does extremely difficult. “I even think that me telling you that I could be sued, could get me sued.” he says laughing. “A friend of mine described it really well. They said that I have a way more interesting life than what I reveal on Twitter.”
From Dynamo to David Blaine, Blake continually worked from one job to another, constantly creating, brainstorming, and imagining. “ I can tell you that for every magician I have worked for, the creative process is usually very similar. First, you come up with a monster list of hundreds of pipe-dream ideas. It doesn’t matter if you have a method or not. You don’t let that keep you from writing down an idea. It’s also very important to surround yourself with encouraging people and not negative ones. It’s been amazing sitting in rooms with some of the most creative brains in the world, and they are all so positive and very good at not making you feel stupid for throwing out bad ideas. Because it’s usually the bad ideas that end up leading to the great ones. Whenever all the good ideas have run out, I can keep going with a hundred bad ones,” he says, laughing. “That’s not to say I don’t have great ideas, it’s just I don’t stop if we’re stuck. Once you have your monster list of both good and bad, you can start trimming it down to tricks that you think might be plausible, and possible, allowing for your timeframe and budget and parameters for the specific project. It’s then that you actually make the tricks and try them out. Once you’ve gone through this process a few gems always emerge.”
And it’s these gems that Blake, amongst the magicians who need consultants, is known for coming up with. Whether it’s an effect that makes it onto David Blaine’s latest special or is a thought that helps Blake compete on Wizard Wars, it’s his ideas that are coming to light.
“I’ve been out of school and working for a while now, but there is one thing that has really stuck with me. In science, there is always, for the most part, a single correct answer. One plus one will equal two. Everyone will have the same answer. But in art, it’s the exact opposite. You need to have as different an answer as possible. It’s the person who comes up with something totally new and different that will get the best marks. That is what I strive for.” It was this type of schooling that helped him come up with effects like Ref4m, a torn and restored card plot, that uses only one card, is signed on both sides, can be performed surrounded, and is completely impromptu. “I made a list of all the other methods that had been done before and knew that I wanted a version that used only a single card. And this is what I came up with. I didn’t want to have the same answer as anyone else. I don’t think I ever want to have the same answer as anyone else.”
Living in Los Angeles, Blake now splits his time between creating and consulting for others, and doing performances himself. His one-man show, Odd Man Out debuted in his hometown of Lebanon, Indiana, where he performed three sold-out shows. The show, which Blake claims can play up to 300 people “without the use of a video camera for projection,” consists of one hour of original stage magic, none of which he has released for sale. “I’m keeping it for myself,” he explains. “I’ve done the show over twenty times now and I tell my personal story in an attempt to inspire people in the audience to follow their dreams, even if people have told them they can't.”
It’s nighttime and the theater has filled. Blake is standing in the middle of the audience and holding a basketball that was signed by the entire audience when they first came in. It’s the finale of the show and for a brief second, the lights go out. When they come back on, his hands are empty and the basketball is now onstage. And in a box of three thousand bees. As the lights shine on the box, with the bees swarming inside and around the ball, you can’t help but wonder if stage lights are not, in fact, powered by electricity, but rather by ideas. It’s wondrous how bright they can be.
Jamie D. Grant is a writer, magician, and artist living in Vancouver, Canada with his wife Melissa and dog, Bella. For more information, please visit www.SendWonder.com.