Speed cutting secrets

The thing which most struck me after the “Off With Your Head!” speed-cutting contest was just how entertaining it had all been. With Cindi Rose and I cutting back-to-back, silhouettes began filling the room within minutes. Everybody went away with at least one portrait and most got two. Wherever I looked there were people laughing, joking and comparing profiles. I had approached the event with a certain dread, the numbers seemed so impossibly high. When clients ask how many silhouettes I can cut in one hour my usual answer is “about 30”, yet after cutting nearly 150 my main feeling was that I wanted another go! That got me wondering: speed cutting is a lot of fun! Could there be an application for this in the corporate events market?

Is speed cutting simply about cutting faster?

The secret to such huge numbers is not in the cutting, but in the way the event is organised. Working as a mix-and-mingle entertainer most of my time is not spent cutting silhouettes at all. For every minute spent cutting I may spend another two talking to guests, mounting silhouettes on card, posing for photographs and finding the next volunteer. This is not laziness on my part but an inevitable and integral part of the process. At the Audi showroom in Houston I stood at a table with a queue of willing subjects, a trained assistant whom I knew could keep up with me and an MC telling people to get in line. The result was that for every minute spent cutting I probably waited just 2 or 3 seconds for people to change places. 

Could such an arrangement work at a conference reception here in the UK? Even without trying to set any world records I now realise that two artists placed in the middle of a room, cutting 30-second one-line silhouettes, with a team of assistants to help in crowd control and mounting, can cut their way through 200 to 250 guests in a single hour – all done before the bell tolls for dinner! If this is something which might work at an event you are organising please do get in touch. It would be great to chat and talk through what’s involved, it is a radically different way to approach the art. Who knows, we might even bring an unofficial world record to your next event…

 

Back-to-back they faced each other

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13 comments on “Speed cutting secrets

  1. Cutting your way through 200 to 250 guests in a single hour – all done before the bell tolls for dinner is very impressive indeed and a very interesting idea for one of our events in London.

    • Charles Burns says:

      The key to this is organisation. It’s impossible to work at this speed as a mix-and-mingle act, we need ushers to create a properly-organised queue as well as assistants to mount the silhouettes on card.

  2. Andrew Krajewski says:

    Interesting that it’s the organisation of the event rather than the actual cutting that’s the secret. I’m looking forward to the next attempt

  3. Victoria says:

    Charles performed at our 1920’s Christmas Party. Not only was he fast and incredibly accurate (down to eyelashes) but Charles also incorporated the theme into his silhouettes by cutting a top hat for example. He was incredible and very well received by all our guests. He did a fantastic cut out of me and my sister that sits nicely on the fridge.
    Amazing job. Thank you Charles.

  4. Ian Moyse says:

    Having used you for our Wedding in 2013 we saw the speed and accuracy of your work 1st hand. The challenge always I guess is getting the balance between speed and people feeling its of quality and their moneys worth. I used to haev my hair cut by Trevor Mitchell in Southampton, Guiness World Record Holder for fastest haircut and most in an hour and remember him saying he could do it and train others to, but customers want to feel value and sometimes too fast is just too fast ! We treasure the Silhouette we had done of us and our little one at the wedding.

    • Charles Burns says:

      Yes this is exactly right. Most of the time I work at nothing like this speed for precisely that reason: accuracy is always more important than speed.

  5. Annie Martin says:

    Charles is an extraordinary man, with a beautiful talent. We had him come and draw silhouettes at a corporate event, I have never experienced someone that invoked so much chatter and excitement around him. Truly one of the most astonishing and charming experiences ever. I will keep my silhouette forever.

  6. I first met Charles at Confex a few years ago and found his work fascinating! As a result, my company booked him to attend the reception of our gala dinner during our annual conference. Our delegates found having their silhouettes created by Charles to be great fun and were incredibly interested. One of my colleagues still has her silhouette as her LinkedIn photo!

  7. Trisha Ward says:

    I came across Charles quite a few years ago at a charity event and then remembered him for my father’s 90th birthday when we wanted something special to entertain the guests – we had about 120 family and friends join us and it is amazing how often I still go into various homes and see Charles’ wonderful art on display in pride of place – and everyone commented on what fun it was to see him in action. I have to admit that the two he has done of me over time, have indicated just how much my profile has changed (euphemism for ‘aged’!) A great addition to an event.

  8. Josh King says:

    emc3 have used Charles for years at our events. The reason being?

    He is consistently a hit!

    Charles has mastered his art and when you see him in action you cannot help but be amazed. We have had several clients request Charles be at a series of their events which speaks volumes about his talent and professionalism.

  9. Keith Havelock says:

    I’ve been to two events at which Charles cut lots of silhouettes for guests, one a big conference and the second a small family party. At the second, where time was not of the essence, the biggest delight was that there was time for conversation and “variations on a theme”, namely silhouettes of pairs of children, husbands and wives, a pair of twins and three friends together (in whose honour the party was being held). Altogether a warm and delightful experience.

  10. Kevin says:

    Thank you for an interesting read and for your unique perspective. Interesting that it’s the organization of the event rather than the actual cutting that’s the secret. Yes this is exactly right. The secret to such huge numbers is not in the cutting, but in the way the event is organized. Working as a mix-and-mingle entertainer most of my time is not spent cutting silhouettes at all.

  11. Renee Danielle says:

    I was at this silhouette event do you remember me? I am silhouette artist Cindi Rose’s webmaster well I just saw this and I am reminded that I have not yet framed yours or hers silhouettes of me I am so embarrassed! Congratulations on all your success for winning every award in the world for your documentary film also on your new website – we are currently updating Cindi’s website too – ours is almost ready to launch! ok well thanks for your email keep in touch!!!

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