This 22-year-old mastered the art of shuffling cards
You may know of a few simple card shuffles but they are probably not quite close to what Galvin can do.
Card tricks are usually associated with magic performances. But 22-year-old Galvin Yap is no magician, despite performing ‘tricks’ with playing cards for a hobby.
Card magic largely revolves around misleading viewers through sleight of hand. Whereas for cardistry— which is a portmanteau of ‘card’ and ‘artistry’— it is about the techniques that go into shuffling and card formation.
Galvin has been practising cardistry since he was 13.
“How I got started is how I think 90 per cent of people get started – through card magic. I started learning card magic at 13, but I realised that I was more interested in the techniques than the performances,” he shares.
“The challenge that most people face when starting cardistry is the steep learning curve. It is ridiculously difficult to pick up,” he adds. “You really have to persevere. You’ll drop cards and have to pick them up many times, and you just have to keep trying before you get it.”
When Galvin picked up the hobby, he would practise for hours daily until he was satisfied with his techniques.
“I would sit on my bed and shuffle cards for eight hours straight,” he says, laughing. “Now it’s maybe a day a week, or whenever I’m free. During commutes I’ll just shuffle cards.”
Tricks in cardistry are known as flourishes. While beginners try to pick up established movesets, experienced cardists like Galvin make their own. The process of creating flourishes is what Galvin finds rewarding.
“The process of creating a flourish for me is really like solving a jigsaw puzzle or a maths equation. You have to find all the unknowns along the way and see what fits together.”
Not every cardist has the same process, though. For some, these creations come naturally. But for others, they might adapt from other existing moves.
“There are definitely inspirations from along the way in my personal creations, but I really try not to borrow from other people.
“Sometimes with something like cardistry it’s inevitable because it’s all muscle memory, but I want to try and be original, so that it’ll look unique.”
Galvin admits that he had struggled with originality in the past, as cardistry is such a complex art.
“I felt that I lacked creativity. I would see all my friends making their own flourishes and making up cool new mechanics, and I was just learning other people’s tricks. At some point I wondered if I should even continue doing cardistry at all.”
All these doubts soon went away when Galvin reminded himself why he even started this hobby in the first place. “At the end of the day I wasn’t doing it for anybody else, I was doing it for myself, and I feel like that’s the most important to me,” he says.
Galvin also found support through the community of cardists in Singapore. Prior to the pandemic, they would meet often for “jamming” sessions.
“Before the pandemic started, we would have over 20 people in one spot just shuffling cards together and having fun. Now with COVID-19, a lot of us in the community do cardistry by ourselves or we chat online. It feels like a low tide for us.”
He explains that there are two main online platforms for cardists in Singapore: Telegram and Instagram.
“The main platform is definitely Instagram, because we like to share when we learn something new. But there’s also a Singapore cardistry Telegram group, where we talk more and share about our mechanics.”
Despite the thriving community of cardists in Singapore, a lot of people don’t know about the hobby or how to start.
“One of the biggest myths is that it is expensive to start cardistry,” Galvin says.
“I personally don’t think cardistry is expensive if you’re okay with using standard decks that cost below $10. The barrier for entry is really quite low.
“But if you get into collectors’ playing cards, then the price can go up exponentially,” he adds.
Like any collectible, there are decks of cards that become collectors’ items over time. This can be due to their aesthetics, or because the decks were produced in limited quantities.
Price point aside, Galvin shares that there are certain qualities he looks for in a deck of cards.
“It’s a lot about the feel, I don’t really look at the design unless it stands out to me. I’m looking for cards that don’t warp easily,” he explains.
“The type of flourishes I do really depend on the slipperiness of the cards and how well cut the edges are, so the more slippery the better for me.”
Galvin encourages those interested to give cardistry a try. Through the hobby, he has gained long-lasting friendships and skill sets such as video editing and photography.
“If you do get into cardistry, you’ll gain a lot,” Galvin says. “The core of it is just having fun with your friends, it’s not a competition.”