A Windemere Wedding
14.09.2011 by Charles Burns
A couple of weeks ago I was cutting silhouettes at a wedding in Windermere. It was cold, wet and windy, as you would expect from the Lake District in late summer. The hotel in use for the reception had a couple of interesting early-Victorian full-length silhouettes on the wall. One of the teenage guests asked me about them as I did her own silhouette, so I told her they were first cut from paper and then embellished with gold paint, and to judge by the look of them they probably dated from about the 1840’s. Without a moment’s hesitation she replied:
“Oh, did you do them then?”
I’ve never felt so old!
My interest in historical silhouettes has been given a great boost this year while researching projects for my book ‘Mastering Silhouettes’. This book (which will be published early next year) features a series of D-I-Y silhouettes projects, each of which is based on the work of a historical silhouettist. This is one reason I was able to sound so knowledgeable about the Windermere silhouettes.
One of the historical techniques which has attracted me is known as ‘hollow cutting’. In this technique the silhouette is defined by the ‘negative’ empty space inside a piece of white paper, rather than a ‘positive’ silhouette cut from black. It’s one of many varieties I’ve learned while cutting silhouettes.
While playing around with this concept I realised it might help me solve the problem of the ‘half silhouette’. Half silhouettes are cut of just the face, leaving out the back of the head. The attraction is that they can be made really fast, in well under a minute per person. I’ve made a number of experiments with them over the years, but they have always seemed problematic. Hollow cutting negates the problems, and seems both a fun and intuitive way of working. I can now announce that these half silhouettes are available to book for events, alongside my more traditional silhouettes. The photo above shows the sequence of how I make them. This couple took just over 60 seconds to cut out and present.
I envisage half silhouettes as being suitable for the kind of event where there might be 120-150 guests and everybody needs to get a souvenir. I recently cut over 200 of these in one afternoon at an office party to celebrate the launch of the good ship ‘Silhouette’ (yes, it seems I’ve even had a ship named after me now!)
SGFA Draw 11 Poster: could this be a space for cutting silhouettes?
In a different vein altogether, I was reliantly invited to be an Associate of the Society of Graphic Fine Arts. It means I get to put ‘ASGFA’ after my name, should I feel the need. I am exhibiting two ‘hollow cut’ life studies at their annual exhibition this year, so if you are in London at all during the first two weeks in October you might like to pop in and see it. Information below.
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