Maker Spotlight: Mario the Magician

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Maker Spotlight: Mario the Magician

Name: Mario “the Magician” Marchese
Home: Nyack, New York
Makerspace: my dining room, garage, yard, porch, attic… it’s everywhere!
Day Job: Full-time magician. My wife, Katie, and I just celebrated 10 years since quitting our “day jobs” for this magic thing!


How’d you get started making? A love for automata and magic mechanisms of yore sparked my first desires to make, back before I even knew how to solder an LED to a switch. My first iterations of making were wood carving, sewing, and beginning to create (non-electronic) props for my magic show. It wasn’t until I got my hands on an issue of Make: magazine in 2005 or 2006 that I learned about the Arduino, and the course of my learning was forever changed. I spent two years refining my understanding of how to program motors to move. First experiments in creating non-magic-related drawing machines eventually led to fully adapting robotics into my magic show.


What type of maker would you classify yourself as? A “Maker Magician!” My show these days resides fully in the spirit of the Maker Movement, with props made from pizza boxes, tape, 3D printed elements, and Arduino driven robotics. My first big feat was the creation of Marcel the Mechanical Monkey, the first ever autonomous, magic assisting, robotic monkey. I travel the country with my family showcasing Marcel and the rest of my menagerie of robotic props in my live show. There’s Mr. Lamp the lovable robotic lamp, a booty-shaking Card Machine, Mr. Clock the misbehaving time-teller, an interactive suitcase machine, and so much more. I feel so fortunate to have been able to combine my love for making with my career. I live it, and it defines my life. I feel that one of my greatest purposes in life is to show kids that when you buy something, people can take it away from you. But when you learn to MAKE something, no one can ever take that away.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve made? A few years ago I challenged myself to restore and build a 1967 Bradley GT kit car. It’s built on the chassis of a 1967 VW beetle. The body is made of fiberglass, and the doors open like a DeLorean! It’s a powerful symbol for me. I knew nothing about cars when I started this project, and by the time it was completed, I felt a whole new confidence in myself.


Learning about that VW engine led me to another big project, the restoration of our 1971 VW bus, the #littlebluebus. This summer, we packed up the show and our two little kids and took the bus on tour from New York to North Carolina to Tennessee. The #littlebluebus has become our family magic bus, an extension of our dedication to making… to magic… to adventure. And we are documenting these adventures in a series of short videos on YouTube… about family, travel, magic, the Maker Movement, Maker Faires, etc. (#MyMagicFamily on my YouTube channel.) The video below is from that series, and concentrates on what Maker Faire means to me:

YouTube player

What’s something you’d like to make next? I’ve challenged myself this year to build three new robotic machines that do magic with me on stage. Aside from that, I want to continue to learn how to manipulate simple objects like my hat and tie in a funnier, more magical way. And I want to learn to moonwalk like Michael Jackson.

Portraits of Mario the Magician

Any advice for people reading this? Never stop learning! Don’t be afraid to dive into projects, no matter how impossible they may seem. It’s amazing how much you can learn if you spend just 20 minutes a day on a specific goal. I think back to when I learned how to balance a spoon on my nose. It’s ridiculously hard to do! But I spent 20 minutes a day for three weeks, starting with a broom stick and slowly substituting shorter and shorter objects until I finally got down to that spoon. Keep on doing. A mountain is climbed one step at a time.

Who else should we profile?
Scotland Symons, who we met at Seattle Mini Maker Faire, where she was showcasing her hand-built fire guitars!
Peter Ross and his Suitcase of Wonders — he beautifully recreates and performs classic magic effects… in miniature!

Where can people find you on the web?
On my personal site, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Sophia is the managing editor of the Make: blog. When she’s not greasing editorial gears, she likes to run, ride, climb, and lift things, and make lo-tech goods like zines, desserts, and altered clothing. @sophiuhcamille

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