Rolando Medina. Born to Make Magic.

Rolando Medina was born in Mexico City in the late 70s and was quickly intrigued by the world of magic with childhood experiences of seeing magicians on TV and magical performances at birthday parties. When Medina was lucky enough to see David Copperfield performing live in the early 80s in Mexico City, it made a big impression on him and solidified his interest. Rolando’s other interests while growing up were art and crafts; there were many wonderful opportunities to watch artisans and craftsmen demonstrate their skills in Mexico City, and this sowed seeds that were to bear fruit in his future life as a creator of magic and magical props. 

At the age of 13 Medina moved to the United States with his parents, when his father accepted a position as a professor at the University of Texas in beautiful San Antonio. It was here that the influence and accessibility of magic became even more prominent in his life. One of Rolando’s first actions upon learning to drive was visiting the various magic shops in his new hometown. He quickly acquired his first job in the magic world and began working at the Elbee Magic Company. This thriving magic store was owned and run by Louis Berkowitz aka 

El Bebo or Berkie, who was something of a legend in the world of magical dealers, launching quite a few magical careers from his store. Berkowitz became a magic mentor to Rolando and introduced him to the various local magicians and San Antonio’s magic clubs. Berkowitz was also known as the King of Wooden Nickels, but that is another, rather fascinating, story.

Medina became interested in the business side of running a magic shop while working in Elbee Magic, and he started to learn about the manufacturing of magic products.  Within a few years, Rolando would open a magic store of his own and start the journey to becoming the maker of the high-end precision props that he is now celebrated for. I asked Rolo what it was that initially intrigued him about the nature of the props he was selling. “I became fascinated by the ‘cleverness’ of the props,” says Medina, “and the nature of the mechanics involved in them. For example the cigarette through coin, and items of that sort.” Rolando not only learned how to sell magic from behind the counter but got a taste of how magic props were constructed and the ways they could be improved. When not working in the magic store, Rolando was also learning how to perform and entertain real audiences with his magic. 

Medina became a strong and seasoned magical performer during these years presenting his sleight of hand magic show whenever he had the opportunity. By the mid-2000s he became a very successful “Cafe Busker,” which is akin to working in restaurants, but based on the concept of having access to a lot of different establishments side by side and barnstorming your way from one to another performing your magic. The performers weren’t under contract to any one venue, but were free to come and go at will plying their trade. This was an ideal situation in San Antonio with its famous River Walk area, and in a couple of years, Medina successfully honed his performance skills. Rolando also took his magic from the cafes and onto the street quickly mastering to art of Street Magic. During this time Medina enjoyed interacting with other local Texas magicians including, Paul Mims, Bro. John Hamman, Alex Gutierrez, and Jeff Gifford all of whom became very influential to him. Medina’s ever-increasing sleight of hand skills also won him first place in the T.A.O.M. close-up magic contest.

Rolando’s performing career took something of a different path now and his deep interest in street magic branched into the rather specialized area of Carnival Magic. I asked him how he progressed from doing a Bro. John Hamman card trick to walking up a ladder of swords. Medina responded, “I had the opportunity of working at a thriving local haunted house for several seasons, where the operators had installed a small carnival area outside to accommodate the waiting crowds. I also had access to the Haunted House workshop where I was able to build various performance props. In this way, I was able to master some Sideshow Magic to entertain the lines of people waiting to enter the haunted house. At the time Sideshow Magic was not nearly as mainstream as it is now.” This opportunity lasted for five or six years and left him able to build and perform some of the more esoteric peripheries in the “Carnival Magic” arsenal.

One thing that both Medina’s street performing and his limited, but very work intensive, 28-day Haunted House seasons had in common was that they were both in effect “grind shows” or non-stop performing events. This is a grueling pace to work, but a superb way to learn and develop your performance. I asked Rolando what the top secret to becoming a good street performer was and he instantly replied, “ Being fearless, tenacious, and not being dissuaded.” This seems to me to be a fine roadmap for any kind of career in show business, but existentially more so in the field of Street Magic. “When you busk,” added Medina, “there is something very tangible at stake; your livelihood and making money from your performance. The priority of things changes quite a bit, and you have to get good when you need to pay your bills and buy food to eat. ” Amen to that!

Street Magic is an art that Rolando has certainly mastered and to this day he can hit the crowded streets of San Antonio for a few hours and return with more cash than other performers might make doing two-set shows. One other factor Medina stresses about Street Performing is the need for fearless experimentation in one’s performance material and the physical props you need to utilize to achieve your goals. Having fully honed his performance skills, Rolando redirected his vision and in time went on to achieve success in an area that every magician relies on, but very few master. Medina became a superb creator and manufacturer of high-precision props and a specialist in the design and creation of custom props. I would now like to turn my attention to Rolando the maker of remarkable magic props and devices.

Medina has built up an impressive workshop filled with highly specialized and customized equipment. I asked him what was the very first major piece of equipment he acquired. He responded instantly, “A precision metal lathe that allowed me to dive into a process that few people attempt–the coin gaff. The very first things that I made that were real winners were coin bites and folding coins for the coin in bottle.” As someone who spends more than his fair share of time putting coins inside bottles, I can affirm that Rolando makes the finest folding coin on the market. Rolo added, “As makers, we soon become collectors of equipment that is utilized in different ways, often in ways for which it was not intended, including all the new technologies such as 3D printing for prototypes and development. The sky is the limit!”

I asked Medina to elaborate on the process of creating new magic. He replied, “The manufacturing and creation process breaks down into two basic forms; there is both the subtractive manufacturing and the additive manufacturing process. Each field gives one the ability to make anything. The possibility is there to make your goal or idea into a reality. The way my process works is that I have an idea for a prop, figure out in my head how that device would function in a performance environment, and then begin to reverse engineer the prototype from there. Next, I make one and test it as much as possible before going back to the drawing board. It is a repetitive process.”

I asked Rolando about some of the items he currently creates, “I manufacture a line of Studare eggs that I am very pleased with, a Voodoo Stick Man, and a state-of-the-art Three Shell Game. In addition of course to the line of gaffed coins which I am most identified with.” I asked him to tell me more about the rather unique Studare eggs that he makes utilizing a real egg. “To me, the legitimacy of the real-life object is very important when applied to magic. Why would you use a plastic egg, when you could use a real egg?” Medina recently collaborated with Bizzaro to make an item called“Overstuffed” for Theory 11. This saw him constructing a stash of over 1000 molded plastic Oreo cookies that were so realistic that anyone with a sweet tooth might be tempted to chip a molar by taking a bite.

I enquired about the various coins that Rolando constructs, “I make a swizzle stack of coins, a Ramsey Coins and Cylinders, Scotch and Soda sets, and shell coins of every kind,“ said Medina. “I also make specialty wands, which is another item I create that is reverse engineered for real performance environments. The wands you buy nowadays are mostly decorative or ornate and they do not last very long. I now make a busker wand based on the one I have used for many years. It is made from one solid piece of material to withstand wear and tear.”

One of my favorite Medina’s creations is his woven “Monkey Fist” leather balls for the “Cups and Balls.” This is yet another prop that combines a delightful visual aesthetic with a practical hidden purpose. Rolando’s performing skills have tempered and informed his vision of design in their manufacturing process. Anyone performing this classic of magic knows that for viewing by larger crowds it is necessary to perform the routine on a raked table to afford maximum visibility. With the textured surface of the “Monkey Fist” balls, you will not find yourself breaking the flow of your show by scrabbling for balls that have rolled onto the ground. The intricacy of construction of these balls appears to a lay audience as a pleasing artistic choice, but it also conceals the practical nature of the magical design.

What is upcoming in the future for Rolando Medina? Well, like all good innovators, Medina is a little tight-lipped on his upcoming releases. However, the one thing that Rolando keeps as a constant goal in his plans is maintaining the high standard of his line of props. Medina’s work has become the gold standard for discerning magicians around the world and that is something that he plans to keep center stage as his work expands and as he explores new territories and horizons. I strongly suggest you take a look at

Rolando’s online retail store at www.rolandomedinamagic.com  He makes some amazing products!

~ by Nick Lewin on August 17, 2022.

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