Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Profile: Tim Mack, fire spinner

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 3:14 PM

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A concept designer for a video game company by day, Atlanta’s Tim Mack performs death-defying acts by night. Mack is a “fire artist” — but his scariest endeavor to date has been working as an animator on a low-budget film for the late Anna Nicole Smith

How did you begin working with fire?

I actually started from going to a lot of raves when I was a kid. At these parties, there were people with strings with glow sticks on the end, and I started being one of those people at the raves for a while. Then I went to Italy for a couple of months, and while I was there I met a gentleman who worked with fire. Of course, glow sticks aren’t boring — but fire is much more exciting.

Are you ever afraid?

It is in some ways intimidating, because it's a ball of fire around you. But if you give into that fear, then you can’t really do anything. When you just go with it, the fear melts away.

What goes through your mind when you’re surrounded by a ball of fire?

It’s very much so a Zen moment. It’s quite an experience because of the sound. There’s a roaring noise all around you, and you can feel the heat all over your body. All you can see are a blur of faces. The only thing you can focus on is the five or six-foot area around you.

What’s your favorite stunt to do?

I enjoy working with the poi, which is the dual fire spinning. That's what I do best. For the poi, my favorite move that I do is a one-handed cartwheel while spinning the fire in between my legs. The crowd loves that one.

In addition to fire spinning, you eat fire. Tell me more about that.

Well, eating fire is very warm — but seriously, it’s a lot about breath control and creating a funnel of air around the fire when you’re eating it. There are several different ways you can eat it, like you’re eating spaghetti or something. Or you can actually put it on your tongue. Once you choose a technique, you wrap your mouth around it and it pretty quickly eats all the air out of your mouth.

Have you ever been seriously injured?

I have lit myself on fire a few times. I’ve gotten used to the sensation of being burned. One time I set my whole eyeball and eyebrows on fire and ended up almost welding my eye shut on one side. A couple months ago I got a really bad injury on my foot. I was doing a performance and I used too much fuel and made a huge fire ball. When I was doing a trick, the fuel brushed on my foot and caught it on fire. I had third-degree burns on my foot for about a month or so.

What motivates you to perform?

The body is meant for movement and exploring. It’s meant to learn different ways it can move, twist and bend. It’s almost like tai chi in a way, because you have to listen to your whole body move. Of course, when a performance is great and people applaud, it’s a bit of an ego boost. Mostly, though, it’s the joy of learning how to move differently.

What is the craziest thing that you’ve done since performing with fire?

Well, I went to an event called Burning Man out in the desert. It happens once a year, around the end of August, and about 50,000 people gather in the desert. The craziest thing was spinning naked with a group of 50 other fire spinners out in the desert. It was a cacophony of performers in the desert with sand and dust blowing and fire spinning — awesome stuff.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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