Professional Whip Artistry Training & Entertainment

Professional Whip Artistry Training & Entertainment

  • Tag Archives bullwhip cracking
  • Tripple candle snuff explained

    The Whip Artistry Studio: April 15, 2014 – While candle snuffing might seem cliche to many whip artists, studio director, Gery L. Deer, has made it into an art form. His multi-candle snuffs may not be noticed by Guinness Book, but they take skill and practice.

    “The first time I did what we call the ‘candle whippers ™’ routine on national television, I was inundated with questions about which popper I used, or how to glue the candle to the holder, or some other nonsense,” Deer remembers. “The simple fact is, there is no trick to candle snuffing. Anyone can scoop the flame off by splashing the popper into the wax, but to gently snuff the candle out with the wind of the crack takes far more time and patience to learn.”

    In the video shown on this page, Gery is being filmed by videographer Rich Hoffman in a continues, one-shot. Rich is sitting just beyond the stool on which the triple candle setup is arranged.

    Gery set up three, ordinary candles in a triangle configuration, about 4 inches apart from each other. The two votive candles are left over from a world-record attempt by Gery’s friend Robert Dante at the 2013 Annie Oakley Western Arts Showcase.  One of them is sitting on a tin root beer mug and the other flat on the mat that’s covering the top of the wooden stool on which the candles are resting. The third candle is a stick-type, utility candle sitting in a cheap, sterling silver holder.

    Arranged in a triangle, shortest to tallest, the candles are not secured to the surface or holder in any way. The goal was to snuff each candle, one at a time, smoothly, and carefully, regardless of their position or height.

    “It doesn’t matter what kind of popper or whip you use for candle snuffing,” Gery says. “Your level of skill is what matters and how much time you’re willing to put in on it. You also have to keep in mind that the whip should never touch the wax or wick of the candle. Only moving air is necessary to achieve the proper results.”

    The whip being used here is a 6-foot, Indiana Jones style, natural tan (turned brown with age) bullwhip made by Joe Strain around 2001. It’s a rough and rugged piece of equipment and Gery’s favorite whip. It’s his “go to” for just about everything. There’s nothing special about the whip at all. It’s got about a 24-inch fall on it (white hide) and about a 5-inch popper made of upholstery nylon.

    Whip candle snuffing was first done on film in the 1920s by actor Douglas Fairbanks. In “Don Q: Son of Zorro,” Fairbanks snuffed a single flame from a candle held by a bystander. In 1998, Anthony Hopkins appeared to leisurely snuff out candles on a candelabra with a relaxed, practiced hand. Unlike Fairbanks, however, Hopkins’ candles were tricked out by the prop masters with air tubes so all he had to do with crack the whip and the prop guys did the rest, off camera. For this demonstration, the video is unedited and there were students, professionals and bystanders at the studio watching as it was shot.


  • Bullwhip Lesson with Gery L. Deer: Candle Snuffing

    April 2014 – For many years, The Whip Artistry Studio director, Gery L. Deer, has been asked to produce some “how to” videos and here is the first of those. Here, Gery teaches whip student, Hollie Bradley, how to snuff out a candle with a whip. This is one of the most common whip tricks, dating back (on film) to Douglas Fairbanks in “Don Q: Son of Zorro” (1925).

    Here, Gery teaches Hollie the art of the direct candle snuff, using basic, vertical utility candles and a 5 1/2 foot, 8-plait, single-belly kangaroo whip with an ordinary nylon popper (not polypropylene). The direct candle snuff uses the circus crack (cattleman’s crack) to blow the candle out straight across, rather than the easier ‘scoop vacuum’ version, using a variation of the sidearm crack. This was the very first time Hollie ever tried the candle snuff. Great job, Hollie! (Our thanks to Rich Hoffman for the video clip!)

  • Wild West artists descend on The Whip Artistry Studio

    Filming some demo material for Richard and Donna Best.

    Filming some demo material for Richard and Donna Best.

    Saturday, April 12, 2014 – The Whip Artistry Studio played host to a half-dozen Wild West arts practitioners who met up to enjoy the company, the arts and the preservation of their crafts. Studio director, whip artist Gery L. Deer was joined by nylon whip maker David Crain of Heartbeat Artistry, who arranged the gathering for the benefit of Richard Best, of the Black Lightning Wild West Show.

    Richard and his wife Donna traveled down from northern Ohio. They’ve known Gery Deer for more than a decade and have worked with him for many years at the Annie Oakley Festival in Greenville, Ohio. Originally, Crain and Best chose the Studio simply as a meeting point but managed to arrange for some video to be taken by another patron of the studio, Rich Hoffman of Middletown, Ohio.

    Hoffman is a whip practitioner himself and the author of the books, “The Symposium of Justice,” and “Tail of the Dragon.” In 2009, he and Gery produced a film short that won them Best Experimental Micro Film at the Indy Gathering film festival in Cleveland. They’ve worked on several projects together and have discussed a new film project in the near future.

    “The Whip Artistry Studio” – with Gery L. Deer and David Crain. Video by Rich Hoffman:

    Also in attendance was roper, musician Doug Smith, of Medway, Ohio. Doug was one of the founders of the Annie Oakley event, running the roping activities for several years. He attended this particular meeting of the Western arts to catch up with one of his roping students, Hollie Bradley. Hollie is just getting started as an up-and-coming trick roper and recently started whip lessons under Gery L. Deer at The Whip Artistry Studio.

    Here are some photos and video from the day’s activities. Thanks to Debra Bays, Rich Hoffman and all who participated in a great day! Watch for information on other Wild West activities from The Whip Artistry Studio and GLD Enterprises.

  • Don’t underestimate the value of the swivel-handled cowhide bullwhip.

    By Gery L. Deer

    Director, The Whip Artistry Studio

    Three of the Gery Deer's original cowhide, swivel-handled American bullwhips. (From Left) 10 foot, hand-dyed black with 1/2 inch flat latigo fall; 24-foot, brown with modified "Australian styled" fall and popper; 6-foot, brown with modified fall and popper.

    Three of the Gery Deer’s original cowhide, swivel-handled American bullwhips. (From Left) 10 foot, hand-dyed black with 1/2 inch flat latigo fall; 24-foot, brown with modified “Australian styled” fall and popper; 6-foot, brown with modified fall and popper.

    I started working with whips when I was very young, but didn’t get too serious about it until my college years. Back then, the best whip I could hope for was a cowhide, swivel handled number with a plastic grip and a rope or twine core.

    One of the first whips I actually paid for was a 20-foot, swivel handled American bullwhip with what looked to me like a bailing twine core. It was bulky, heavy and awkward. Even so, I think I learned more from that than any of the fancy Australian whips I use to teach and perform with today.

    Most of my original cowhide models came from Schutz Bros. leather products in Arizona. That 20-footer was a major purchase for me back then, it was $55.00 USD and cost $5 to ship it. So for a whopping $60 I  had acquired what most professional whip artists would call the worst whip ever – with the possible exception of those five-dollar, India-made paper leather whips from eBay.

    Over time, I bought a few more of this style, all various lengths and shades of brown cowhide. There were no black ones at that time. Anything you wanted black had to be hand-dyed. Whatever the look, I got used to them and learned most of what I know now on that style of bullwhip.

    As a professional performer and competitor in the whip arts arena, I would never choose my old swivels over my Joe Strain or Paul Nolan Aussie styles. They’re superior in nearly every way. But I do get frustrated when I hear whip practitioners complain about the fallibility of their equipment. Naturally, as with any mechanical activity, like sports, learning the violin or racing a car, the better the equipment, the lower the learning curve. You’ll advance and learn faster with a better whip. Why?

    Put simply, you’re spending more time on learning to handle the whip instead of, at the same time, having to adjust to its deficiencies. For example, a swivel handle requires a different pitch and wrist motion to put the tip where you want it for targeting. A whip with no plaited belly or rope in the center is virtually impossible to throw ‘slowly’ and requires an excessive amount of energy.

    Even so, if you get too accustomed to one style of whip, no matter what kind, you’re cheating yourself out of the ultimate goal – to be a true whip artist, not just someone who crack one and make a big noise. The best whip handlers can maneuver virtually any kind of whip to do mostly what they want it to, even if it takes more effort or some adjustment. One whip may be more accurate or ‘prettier’ in motion than another, but they all can achieve the same tasks.

    I can honestly say that there is very little I can do with my Indiana Jones copies that I can’t do with my old swivels. Naturally, I prefer my professional whips, but it’s fun to give the old cowhides a run in the sun now and again, just to stay sharp.

    A few years ago, Chris “The Whip Guy’ Camp and I were doing some targeting at the Annie Oakley Western Arts Showcase in Greenville, Ohio. We were really just goofing off with our long whips, cutting spaghetti and Styrofoam from our contest stands. Chris was using a 25-foot Australian whip recently made for him by Joe Strain. It is a beautiful piece of work, as most of Joe’s whips are, double-bellied, 12-plait (thought it might have been 16, I don’t recall), and incredibly accurate considering its length. Of course, a large part of that depends on the skill – not to mention the eyesight – of the user.

    As Chris worked his targeting skills with the whip he now calls, “Big Momma,” I jumped in at the stand next to him with my 24-foot, cowhide swivel-handled whip. Over the years, I’d modified the fall to something that more closely resembled and functioned like an its Australian cousin. After a few minutes of acclamation to the older style, I found myself performing nearly as accurately as Chris at a similar distance and using the same materials for targets. We were each taking an inch or so from the spaghetti sticks with each cut.

    We were both surprised at how accurate I could be with the old cowhide, even at that distance and within the space – considering we were standing only a few feet from each other, side by side. Though I tired out faster, because of the excessive energy required for the belly-less swivel, I was able to keep up with Chris’s targeting level for the majority of our experiment.

    Over time, I decided to use the longer cowhide whip for more and more, wherever space allowed. It’s impressive to watch and makes a pretty nice “bang” indoors, depending on the popper material. Plus it’s virtually indestructible. Since that time I’ve created a candle snuffing routine around this 24-foot beast, I’ve done basic targeting with it and also re-created one of Chris’s signature routines, just to see if I could get it to work.

    Chris has one stunt he calls “Jumpin Jack Daniels” where he places a tin cup of water on top of a small paper Dixie-style cup, a wax-paper cup about two inches in height. The goal is to crack the paper cup from beneath the tin cup, letting it fall to the table without spilling any of the water. It’s not particularly hard with an average size whip but the size of the paper cup adds to the difficulty, requiring a respectable level of precision and talent from the handler. But it looks far more impressive when it’s done using a long whip like Chris’s “Big Momma.”

    Chris Camp’s version …

    With no ‘Dixie’ cups available, I tested it out using a 12-oz. Styrofoam cup below and an aluminum metal cup (about 1/3 full of water) above. After a few tries, I figured out the physics behind using the big cowhide swivel in such an accurate side-arm throw. It’s actually most functional in a side-arm or overhand flick because you’re using the weight of the whip to help build the momentum automatically granted by the bellies of other styles. In short, it’s not only possible but a crowd-pleaser. People seemed to marvel at the whip’s sheer length and power. Makes the performance side a snap (pun intended).

    In any case, the point to all this is my personal advice not to get too hung up on the type of whip you’re working with but to try to learn what you can from any and all styles you come across, provided they’re somewhat functional. You will be a better whip handler by the experience of diversity when it comes to your equipment and when you use your favorites, you’ll find you learn faster and with greater precision. Good luck and keep the knots out of your popper!

    Here’s the first and only video of Gery Deer’s version …

    Learn more about handling all types of whips!

    Schedule your lessons today at The Whip Artistry Studio!


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