Burn baby burn. Flash string inferno!

Every gig I attend I endeavour to try out new material. Why? In order to build up new sets of close up magic and why not, it is more fun that way.

After performing at Sentec’s Christmas party in Cambridge England I had a bit of trauma to deal with.

With only seventy people attending I realised I would need two sets of close up magic. One for the drinks reception and a different set for around the tables.

The Queen of Close up

My unofficial mentor and good friend, Fay Presto kindly allowed me to shadow her at her residencies in London. This is probably the most joyous thing to witness being a girl in magic.

Fay has supported and gave me the huge push to delve into performing close up to adults.

If you wish to hear more about Fay’s influence on my career and other fun, you can listen to my first ever Podcast.

Vanishing Inc’s Damien Jennings interviews me for The Insider. Follow the link below and click on Nikola Arkane.


I decided to try out two of the effects from her lecture notes FAY PRESTO: Performers Workshop Manual. “Take Charge” and her “Burnt and Restored Napkin.”. Both of these effects require the use of fire.

I was slightly apprehensive in using fire for the first time. Fay advised me that the only way to work with flame is to do it. You will burn yourself. It’s inevitable. After you do a few times you’ll learn quickly how to avoid it.

Go out in a blaze of glory…

I arrived at the event and the group were absolutely lovely. A mixture of ages and they were all up for fun.

My performance at the drinks reception went down well. Feeling relaxed I decided to to try a brand new set at the tables. Opening with the “Take Charge” effect; where a piece of string magically changes into a piece of jewellery .

The new set was going rather well. Fay’s production was getting an amazing response – as Fay says “they pay attention.”

I arrived early at my next table noticing the group were finishing their meal. Loitering around a bit I patiently waited to perform.

Unbeknownst to myself I began playing around with the flash string in my hand between my fingers.

Arriving at the table, I lit the flash string and WOOSH! Up it went, so did my fingers. In the interim period waiting to perform I had managed to wrap the string right around my middle finger.

The reaction was astounding! The flame appeared twice the normal size. Due to the heat engulfing my skin . The immediate pain was unbearable!

Attempting to be a professional. I put out the flame, ripped the remainder of the encrusted string off my fingertips and continued my performance. Dr theatre and my acting skills kicked in big time.

“The Magician is an actor playing the role of a magician.”

David Devant

Close up Damage Control

Upon leaving this table I went straight to the bathroom to access the damage. I’d taken the skin completely off one finger and gave myself a massive under the skin blister on the other.

My small second degree burn from using flash string!!!

In order to continue the gig I needed to get the wound covered up, fast.

The venue had no first aid kit – TYPICAL!

They did however find a long plaster strip. Hurrah!

But they had no scissors.

Using a knife we cut off enough mesh to cover the wound.

I continued the event in a lot of pain.

Unprepared for working with fire.

Arriving back to my hotel – at midnight – the only thing I could do was douse toilet paper with cold water and cover the wound completely. Hoping that I slept the night through with the pain.

Do you want to build a bandage?

Slowly I came to the realisation that I was abroad with no pain relief, plasters or anything to treat myself. I felt kind of stupid and it could have been a lot worse.

Working with flash products and flames is a serious thing. We should treat fire with respect and be prepared for all outcomes.

A Pyrotechnician to the rescue.

Luckily, my trustee proof reader of Becoming Magic and friend, Ottar Kraemer, is a professional Pyrotechnician. He works with fire on a regular basis in Stockholm, Sweden. Upon discovering that I had burnt myself he was on the case. He gave me great advice on what I needed and how to assist the healing process.

Ottar’s Burn First Aid Kit

Growing up and learning from mistakes

The big lesson I have learnt is if you work with fire, you need to carry a burn kit. In fact working with our hands it is probably a good idea to carry plasters with you just incase. If anything happens and you need some first aid you simply cannot rely on venues to provide this for you.

With our unsocial working hours, shops may not be open when you need them to be. Or in my case have what you need in stock.

Some advice from the burn expert

  • Normal plasters are not good for burns as they are designed to dry wounds out I.e stop bleeding.
  • A burn is completely different, you need to keep the wound hydrated for it to heel.

Here are a few items Ottar gifted me on my birthday as a “please never burn yourself again! Or at least if you do I know you are equipped to help yourself!”

My mini first aid kit that will be coming to all future Close up events.
  1. Burn gel – for minor burns. Relieves pain and cools the wound.
  2. Burn plasters or hydrogel plasters – these keep burn wounds moist and relieves pain. Can be kept on a wound for 48 hours. This plaster was my saviour and helped my wound to heal faster with little scarring.
  3. Non-woven skin friendly adhesive dressing strip – to cover everything up and allow movement.
  4. Ibuprofen – (not in this picture) but trust me when you burn yourself as I did pain relief is essential.

The moral of this Arkane blog post is don’t play with fire! If you do be prepared for drama if you are as accident prone as I am.


  1. Nikola, if I see you at a UK convention at any point I’ll tell you my horror story involving flash string.

    1. I’d love to hear it so that I do not feel like I’m the only one doing stuff like this hehe 🙂 I’ll be at the Session and Blackpool 2020 so if you are at either of these and see me please come over and say hi!

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